Sunday, July 29, 2012
3 Up, 3 Down: Rays 2, Angels 0
By Mark Saxon
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- If it's going to be like this pitching in Anaheim, Zack Greinke might want to head back to the Midwest.
Greinke's 19-game home winning streak ended in his first start in Anaheim. Greinke pitched seven strong innings Sunday in his Angels debut, but took the loss in a 2-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. The Angels managed just four hits off Jeremy Hellickson and three Tampa relievers.
The Angels go into their biggest series of the year -- four games in Texas -- in a sudden cold spell. They managed just nine hits in the past two games against the Rays, both shutout losses.
Fast start. Greinke looked like the guy the Angels thought they were getting. He combined a lively, 93 mph fastball with tough breaking stuff and the ability to get ground balls in key spots. From the end of the second through the sixth inning, he didn't allow a base runner. He struck out eight batters in seven innings and walked just one batter. A little fatigue and the burden of pitching without run support seemed to catch up to him at the end. The sixth and seventh innings got messy, with some bunched hits and a run-scoring wild pitch. Otherwise, it was an encouraging start to Greinke's Angels career, however long it lasts.
Possible upgrade. For a guy hitting .203, Chris Iannetta looks like he could be a significant boost to the bottom of the Angels' order. He takes pitches and works walks, unlike most Angels hitters, and he has more pop than virtually anyone who will hit in the bottom third of the lineup. After missing 10 weeks with a wrist injury, Iannetta had some encouraging at-bats in his return. He hit a deep fly ball to center, a towering shot to left and singled sharply off the second baseman's glove. It wasn't all that much, but did you see the rest of the hitters' lines?
Salty relief. If Jason Isringhausen and LaTroy Hawkins had known as much about pitching when they were younger -- and still had mid-90s fastballs -- they might have given Mariano Rivera a run for his money. The Angels' two 39-year-old relievers are putting up impressive numbers even though they're closer in age to the coaches than to most of their teammates. They each pitched a stress-free, scoreless inning to keep the Angels in range for a rally that never came. Both relievers have sub-3.00 ERAS.
Trout's knee. The Texas Rangers must feel a little bit of relief knowing they open their crucial four-game series against the Angels on Monday against the Angels' worst starter, Ervin Santana, and with their best hitter, Mike Trout, questionable because of a left knee bruise. Trout, the league's leading hitter, slammed his knee into the center-field wall Saturday and, while he figures to play soon, the Angels will see how he feels Monday before making a determination.
Flashbacks. These guys looked a lot like the April Angels. Vernon Wells started his second straight game, Albert Pujols struggled and hitter after hitter went down feebly against 2011 Rookie of the Year Jeremy Hellickson. For most of July, the Angels were the hottest offense in baseball, but the past two games they have hit the skids dramatically. They managed just seven hits in the two games. Maybe Tampa's good young pitching was the reason. But without Trout, the Sunday lineup looked susceptible even before the game started.
Wells. With Trout out and Torii Hunter getting a scheduled day off, Mike Scioscia gave Wells a second straight start. Wells hit a sharp grounder that Ryan Roberts made a nice play on, but he went hitless again and still looks a lot like the guy who batted .218 -- with a historically awful on-base percentage -- in 2011. Absent Trout and Hunter, the Angels' lineup lacked energy and nothing about Wells' play suggests he's going to inject much life into things.