Friday, July 27, 2012
3 up, 3 down: Angels 3, Rays 1
By Mark Saxon
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The Angels got a boost before Friday's game by the trade that brought them Milwaukee Brewers ace Zack Greinke.
That, plus a stalwart outing from Dan Haren, good relief and a couple of key hits, propelled them to a 3-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Angels, who have won five of the seven games in this homestand, gained a game on the first-place Texas Rangers and now trail by four.
Back to form.Haren didn't look happy when Mike Scioscia came to get the ball when the first two batters reached base in the seventh inning. That's probably a good thing, a reflection that Haren feels good again. For all the buzz created by Greinke, a healthy Haren could be of equal value to the Angels. In the two starts since he came off the disabled list, Haren has looked like the rotation stabilizer he has always been. In the 12 innings since he came back from lower-back inflammation, Haren has allowed just eight hits and three runs. Once again, the Angels could have the rotation everyone thought they had.
Energy. Torii Hunter was clearly excited before the game by the Greinke addition and he played like he was 20 years old again. Hunter had hits in his first two at-bats and he played spirited right field. In fact, he lost count of the outs in the sixth inning and fired the ball into the infield after Matt Joyce flew out to end the inning. Hunter is in the final year of his contract with the Angels and nobody wants to reach the World Series more than he does.
Production. Albert Pujols has a way with numbers. Since early May, his have been steadily improving. Angels fans had some reason to worry after Pujols missed Wednesday's game after taking a pitch off his right forearm in Tuesday's game. It was only the second time out of the lineup for Pujols this year. Friday, he bounced back just fine, going 3-for-4 and driving in two runs on a missile of a double to left field in the third inning. Pujols is as hot as he has been all year, with seven multi-hit games in his last 13 starts.
Crowding. Vernon Wells, who was activated before Friday's game, has handled his demotion to the bench about as well as a veteran player can. He understands he has no chance to start ahead of any of the current outfielders and he said he'll do everything he can to learn how to be an effective reserve. Still, you have to wonder whether just having another player Scioscia needs to find at-bats for could be an issue. Early in the season, with Bobby Abreu still around, Scioscia admitted it was a "dysfunctional" situation. What's different about this one?
Quiet bat. Kendrys Morales looks like he's just trying to serve the ball into play these days. He's swinging at virtually every pitch and making only scant contact. He struck out and hit a couple of harmless grounders Friday and has been on base just three times since July 19, without a walk since then. The Angels have a hot offense, but questionably not a deep one. Getting him clicking finally could fix that.
Unnecessary roughness. Veteran pitchers almost seem to be taking Mike Trout's success personally lately. Matt Harrison brushed him back a couple of times. Kyle Farnsworth threw one up and in that nearly hit Trout in the eighth inning. The book is clearly to pitch Trout inside so he can't extend his arms, but these guys have better command than to miss by that much. They'd be better served figuring out how to get him out rather than trying to send a message.