Sunday, July 8, 2012
How did this team start out 6-14?
By Mark Saxon
Angels manager Mike Scioscia has taken to calling his team's first half a Jekyll and Hyde act.
But it's hard to know which team was Dr. Henry Jekyll, the mild-mannered scientist, and which was Edward Hyde, his cruel alter ego. It kind of depends on your perspective.
In April, the Angels were punchless and anxious as they waited for Albert Pujols to get settled, and they were a much more pleasant team to be around for opponents. Lately, with Mike Trout setting an MVP-caliber tone at the leadoff spot, Pujols in something like a groove and power sprouting up all over the place, they're no fun at all to face.
It's that blundering 6-14 start that seems more the anomaly than this torrid stretch of .636 baseball since then.
"With all the talent in here, now you're seeing what everyone's capable of. It's just kind of bizarre that it wasn't there," Mark Trumbo said. "It happens, you know? I think we've definitely put that chapter to rest and this is the team we knew we had."
With each game that goes by, those glacial three weeks in April start to fade a bit farther from view.
And with a few key hitters, including Torii Hunter, Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar, still performing at a level below their career norms, the Angels might not even have maxed out their potential just yet. Trumbo said he "absolutely" thinks this team can play better than it has been.
"The sky's the limit," Trumbo said.
Not that there aren't variables, including some trouble spots. Starting pitching was the team's only strength for that first month, but now it's a bit of a worry due to underproduction and injuries. But Brad Mills calmed a few frayed nerves by contributing some surprising depth for five scoreless innings Sunday.
And the offense is showing signs of doing what the pitching did for weeks, if not months: carrying the team. That's what good teams do. They have so many dimensions, opponents can't keep up.
After Sunday's four-homer performance -- with Trumbo hitting his 22nd, Trout hitting his 12th and Pujols hitting his 14th -- the Angels have gone deep 24 times in their past 18 games. The Angels are fifth in the AL in slugging percentage, a meteoric rise from their standing a month ago. Every team ranked above them plays its home games in a bandbox, while the Angels play in cavernous Angel Stadium.
In other words, there are a lot of things to like as you look ahead, and one mysterious thing to ponder as you look back.