Saturday, June 2, 2012
3 up, 3 down: Angels 3, Rangers 2
By Mark Saxon
ANAHEIM -- The Angels continued to put pressure on the first-place Texas Rangers, most of it applied by their youngest player.
Mike Trout was on base three times and scored the decisive run in a 3-2 win at Angel Stadium on Saturday night that trimmed Texas' lead to 3 1/2 games. The Angels, who have won 10 of their last 11 games, took a series from Texas for the first time since July 19-21 of last season. They had lost 10 of their previous 13 head-to-head matchups coming into this weekend's series.
Guess who? Trout is already starting to get into opponents' heads. Team are well aware of his speed and it has been causing them to make mistakes. Elvis Andrus, perhaps speeding up unnecessarily, threw high for an error on a Trout grounder in the first and never even attempted a throw in the seventh on an infield hit. Nelson Cruz made a great throw to the plate, but Trout slid around Yorvit Torrealba's tag according to umpire Tim McClelland. There aren't many players with game-changing speed. Trout has it.
Crowd control.C.J. Wilson was as much a traffic cop as a pitcher Friday night. He kept crowds from gathering. Somehow, he got through six innings while allowing five hits and three walks. How? He got ground balls when he needed them and the Angels infield did the rest. They turned a couple of challenging double plays and one easy one in the first three innings. The law firm of Wilson and Wilson -- C.J. and Bobby -- took care of things in the fourth with a strike-'em-out, throw-'em out double play.
Still a relief. Scott Downs has made the most dangerous hitter in baseball, Josh Hamilton, look silly two nights in a row. Actually, he made him look dangerous in a different way. While striking out in the eighth inning, Hamilton lost hold of his bat and sent it helicoptering over Adrian Beltre's head in the on-deck circle. If not for an overly aggressive Torii Hunter throwing error, Downs and Ernesto Frieri would have combined for yet more scoreless work in the final two innings. It got dicey in the ninth, but Frieri picked up his fourth save.
Walden wobbles. If things continue this way, Jordan Walden might gain a reputation as a pitcher who thrives pitching in low-pressure roles and flounders under the bright lights. Since losing his closer job, Walden has pitched great. But thrust back into a pressure situation -- one-run lead in the seventh -- Walden walked two batters and gave up a hit to Cruz.
Texas 'D.' I thought the Cowboys were the Dallas-area team that couldn't stop the aerial game. Mike Napoli dropped a sinking liner and a routine pop-up. Andrus and Beltre booted grounders. An underrated part of this Texas team last year was its fielding, but lately it's been an issue. The Rangers were charged with three errors, but they made five bad plays in the field.
Balance. The Angels continue to make all their noise in the upper third of the lineup, followed by long lulls. The bottom five batters went 2-for-18 and one of the hits was on Erick Aybar's bunt. Howie Kendrick doesn't look like himself lately and Bobby Wilson, a very capable defensive catcher, is struggling to make contact.