Sunday, July 8, 2012
3 Up, 3 Down: Angels 6, Orioles 0
By Mark Saxon
ANAHEIM -- The Angels wrapped up a furious charge entering the All-Star break with a 6-0 win over the Baltimore Orioles Sunday, their 13th shutout of the season.
The Angels are 10 games over .500, the high-water mark of 2012, and have played .697 baseball in their last 43 games.
Mills fills in. Brad Mills was operating under challenging circumstances, to say the least. He was pitching on three-days' rest and had been struggling at Triple-A. But with the Angels' rotation a bit tattered around the edges, he came up to give the Angels a big lift. The lefty, whose fastball barely touches 85 mph, breezed through five innings, allowing just three hits and striking out six batters. He should at least get some consideration for the fifth spot in the rotation in the second half.
Power play. For the Angels to be in the top five in the AL in slugging is impressive considering each of the teams ahead of them plays in a much smaller ballpark. And they've been coming on lately, sometimes overpowering teams. In their last 18 games, the Angels have hit 27 home runs. It's coming at a good time, with some issues starting to arise on the pitching side.
Albert. It still doesn't feel like the Angels have seen vintage Albert Pujols yet. He has been swinging a productive bat for two months, but a return to MVP form in the second half could make the Angels the team to beat in this league. He leads AL first basemen in home runs since May 15, so that's a good start. Pujols reached and eked a two-run shot over the left-field wall in the third inning, his 14th of the season. He still has some catching up to do to reach last year's home run total of 37, which was his lowest output since 2007.
Howie. The All-Star break probably comes at a good time for Howie Kendrick. He's been getting some hits to fall here and there, but he hasn't been driving the ball as he did in the past. He has two extra-base hits since June 20 and Sunday he reached another low point, going 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. Kendrick is the epitome of the Angels' offensive depth. If he's swinging it well batting sixth or seventh, the Angels can slug with anybody.
Walden. Is Jordan Walden trade bait? Teams would figure to line up to acquire a 24-year old with a 95-mph-and-up fastball. Meanwhile, his career with the Angels appears to be drifting sideways. The Orioles seemed to be thinking about the All-Star break before Walden got into a jam in the eighth inning, walking a batter and giving up a hit. He got out of it, but he has been scored on in three of his past five outings.
Focus. There was an entertaining moment in the second inning after Peter Bourjos popped out to end the inning. The Orioles stayed on the field, all nine guys. It was probably entertaining to just about everybody in the stadium with the possible exception of Orioles manager Buck Showalter.