Sunday, June 17, 2012
3 Up, 3 Down: Angels 2, Diamondbacks 0
By Mark Saxon
ANAHEIM -- The Los Angeles Angels lately have been the hitless wonders, struggling to score but winning virtually every series.
They beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 2-0 for the second day in a row on Sunday and have shut out teams nine times this season, most in the majors. They got just two clutch hits -- an Albert Pujols home run and Mike Trout double -- but rookie Garrett Richards and closer Ernesto Frieri did the rest to get the win.
The Angels have won seven of the past eight series they have played.
Point proven: Whether or not there is a spot for him in the Angels' rotation, Garrett Richards (2-0) is ready to be a major league pitcher. He all but proved that over the past three weeks while filling in for Jered Weaver. Sunday's outing -- eight scoreless innings, just four hits -- was the best of his career, but all three were good. Weaver will be back next week and Ervin Santana may have staved off his challenge with Saturday's dominant outing, so Richards might be ticketed for Salt Lake. But his day will be here sooner or later.
No. 10. Albert Pujols' first six weeks were awful. He caught fire for the three weeks after that. Lately, he has just been OK. But his 10th home run of the season (455th of his career) snapped an 0-for-11 streak in the fourth inning and broke up the scoreless tie. Pujols is batting .327 with nine home runs since May 15. He also had a strong day in the field, starting a tough double play in the fifth and reaching into the camera well to snag the final out of the eighth inning and wipe out a two-on rally for Arizona.
He's back: Don't look now, but the Angels' uber-rookie, Mike Trout, had been scuffling. He had one hit in his 20 previous at-bats going into the seventh inning. But he hammered an Ian Kennedy pitch off the low wall in left field to drive in Peter Bourjos and give the Angels a 2-0 lead. Pujols, Trout and Mark Trumbo have been the engine of this thing for weeks, so keeping them going is crucial.
Sluggish start: Erick Aybar had a nice day at the plate. He bunted for a hit, had a line-drive single. But he took an out for granted when he hit a lazy fly ball to right field in the seventh inning, jogging his way to first. Meanwhile, Justin Upton couldn't find the ball in the sun. After he retrieved it from the turf, Aybar was just rounding first. Had he been running the whole way, with his speed, he easily could have had a leadoff triple.
Designated sitter: Six straight games at National League parks appear to have taken Angels designated hitter Kendrys Morales out of his rhythm. He has two hits in his past 19 at-bats. He hit a little dribbler up the first-base line Sunday. Kennedy fielded it and threw a changeup to first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, who bobbled it for an error. That was his only offensive contribution.
Last two: A couple of players who could make the Angels a better team if they can get on the field, Hank Conger and Peter Bourjos, need to distinguish themselves every time they play to gain more playing time, it seems. Neither player had a hit Sunday, though they each contributed to the effort (Bourjos was hit by a pitch and Conger got down a bunt that led to a run). They're both talented young players, but seemingly caught in situations in which they can't break through.