Friday, July 20, 2012
3 up, 3 down: Angels 6, Rangers 1
By Mark Saxon
ANAHEIM -- After two years of being dominated in head-to-head games with the Texas Rangers, the Angels seem to have gotten a handle on competing with their primary division rivals.
Behind a hard-working effort by ace Jered Weaver and more power from Mark Trumbo and Mike Trout, the Angels beat the Rangers 6-1 Friday night to cut Texas' AL West lead down to five games. The Angels have won three of their last four games against Texas.
His house. Let's assume the Rangers hold onto their lead in the AL West and the Angels qualify for the playoffs as a wild card. They had better hope they get home-field advantage in the one-game playoff and they had better hope they can line Weaver up to start it. He has been the perfect fit for Angel Stadium this season, going 7-0 with a 0.67 ERA in this stadium. He's confident everywhere, but in this stadium, he must feel unbeatable.
Raw strength. Trumbo occasionally hits a towering home run, but many of his shots seem to be still on the rise when they finally hit something solid. He hit a screaming line drive over the left-center field wall in the sixth inning, his 27th home run of the season. He's on pace for 47, which would tie the team record set by Troy Glaus in 2000. If he leads the league in home runs this year, it would be an extraordinary feat given the dimensions and conditions at Angel Stadium.
Touching home. It seems as if every time you look up, Trout is setting some new statistical milestone. This one is kind of cool: If he scores a run Saturday, he will have scored at least one run in 13 straight games. That would tie an American League rookie record. He scored twice Friday, after a first-inning single and with a seventh-inning solo home run. Can you wrap up Rookie of the Year in July?
Problem looming. For a while, the Angels could ignore it, because Vernon Wells was out of sight and out of mind. But he's now recovered from a torn tendon in his thumb and went 1-for-3 with a double at a rehab start for Triple-A Salt Lake on Friday night. Wells is probably a week or less away from returning and the Angels will have to accommodate him with occasional playing time, at least. The worry isn't that he'll take time away from Trumbo or Trout. Those guys will play every day. It's that he'll take it away from Peter Bourjos, who brings so much more to the table in virtually every department other than power.
Don't look now... The Angels have been in either first or second place in the AL West for 627 days since 2008. That's the second-longest such streak in the AL behind the Rangers. But the Oakland A's just kept hanging around and, now, a hot streak has put them into contention as the trade deadline looms. That might convince their general manager Billy Beane, who normally swaps veterans for cheaper prospects at this time of year, to go for it. Oakland was just 2 1/2 games behind the Angels going into Friday. Yet more competition in the wild-card race.
Torii's night. A nagging groin injury may have thrown off Torii Hunter's timing a bit. He had a four-hit game Monday, but has otherwise struggled since getting back in the lineup. Hunter lined out, hit into a double play and took a called third strike in an 0-for-4 night and is hitless in his last nine at-bats.