Los Angeles Angels: Baltimore Orioles

Time not on the Angels' side

September, 21, 2012
Time is definitely not on the Angels' side. They trail the Athletics and Orioles by five games in the loss column with just 12 games left to play, and have no more head-to-head games left with either team.

In other words, they need a ton of help.

Ervin Santana might provide some

Ervin Santana is on the mound for the Halos Friday. After being dreadful early on this season, Santana has been one of the Angels' better starters lately.

He has allowed five or fewer hits in nine straight starts. The only starting pitcher with a longer such streak this season is Francisco Liriano (11 straight). Prior to this stretch, the right-hander had never even had a four-start streak of five-or-fewer hits in his career.

But things could get dicey if they need Frieri to close out a win

Thursday marked another ugly outing for Ernesto Frieri. He took the loss after giving up a tie-breaking two-run shot to Adrian Beltre on a hanging curveball right over the heart of the plate. That’s simply a mistake you can’t make to one of the hottest hitters in baseball.

Since giving up just eight hits in 26 1/3 innings to start his Angels career, Frieri has looked extremely human. In his last 23 outings, spanning 21 2/3 innings, he’s given up 14 ER, blown three saves and taken two losses.

Fatigue doesn’t seem to be the issue. Frieri’s average fastball velocity is 95.0 MPH since the All-Star Break, which is up from the 93.5 MPH he averaged prior to the break.

The problem is right-handed hitters have figured out his fastball. After hitting just .089 with no homers against Frieri’s fastball prior to the break, they are hitting .333 with five homers since.

Righties aren’t chasing Frieri’s fastball out of the zone as much as they were in the first half of the season (35.8 chase pct before the break; 25.6 pct since).

And don't look now but Mike Trout may be hitting the wall

It’s difficult to find fault with Mike Trout, but the Angels' MVP candidate has definitely slowed down in the last couple of months of the season. Trout finished July hitting .353 and slugging .608, but is hitting .274 and slugging .452 since the start of August.

After going 0-4 with two strikeouts in Thursday’s loss, Trout is just 1-14 in the Angels' last four games.

Angels relegated to scoreboard watchers

September, 18, 2012
Mike TroutJeff Gross/Getty ImagesMike Trout scores a run during an eight-run fourth inning Tuesday in a victory over the Texas Rangers.

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Angels kept up their end of the bargain in their search for a playoff berth with an 11-3 victory over the Texas Rangers on Tuesday night at Angel Stadium, but the reality is that winning out the rest of the season might not be enough.

The Angels need help.

It's a reality no competitor likes to hear, but the Angels entered Tuesday three games behind the Baltimore Orioles and 4 1/2 behind the Oakland Athletics for the two wild-card spots, and the Angels don't play either of those teams head to head in their remaining 14 games this season.

"We're probably going to need some teams to stub their toe a little bit," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.

The Angels got the first bit of help Tuesday in the form of an A's loss to the Detroit Tigers and pulled to within 3 1/2 games of Oakland. The Orioles also looked to be lending a helping hand before they scored two runs in the ninth against the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday and sent the game to extra innings. Scioscia said his club is pretty aware of what is happening on the out-of-town scoreboard.

"There is a time when it's relevant and a time when it's not relevant," Scioscia said. "It's relevant now."

Oakland has a remaining schedule that gives the Angels some semblance of hope. The A's began a 10-game trip Tuesday that includes two more games at second-place Detroit, three games at the first-place New York Yankees and four games at first-place Texas.

Baltimore is at the last-place Seattle Mariners, then goes to the fourth-place Boston Red Sox before a homestand against the last-place Toronto Blue Jays and three more against the Red Sox.

Scioscia acknowledged he has taken a peek at the schedules of the teams in front of his.

"Not every team has got an easy road," Scioscia said. "The teams that we're trying to catch, they're going to have to earn it, too. They have to go out there and win."

Angels pitcher Jered Weaver said there are almost always games on TV in the clubhouse, and that it's to the point now that the Angels' players have taken to rooting against Baltimore and Oakland.

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How did this team start out 6-14?

July, 8, 2012

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.

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3 Up, 3 Down: Angels 6, Orioles 0

July, 8, 2012
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.

The Good:

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.

The Bad:

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.

Angels All-Stars have grassroots feel

July, 8, 2012
One of the more gratifying moments for a team is to see its homegrown players develop into All-Stars.

In the Angels' case, three of the four players headed to Kansas City for Tuesday's game -- Jered Weaver, Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo -- were drafted by the Angels and worked their way through the minor leagues with them. C.J. Wilson was the only Angels free agent selected for the game.

It would be a good time to gloat, except for one thing: Virtually nobody is around who had anything to do with acquiring those players. The Angels fired the scouting director who drafted them, Eddie Bane, after the 2010 season and the general manager who oversaw their development, Tony Reagins, after last season.

And there's this:

"God is going to take credit for Mike Trout, not anything we've done," manager Mike Scioscia.

Here are lineups for Sunday's game:
Robert Andino 2B
J.J. Hardy SS
Matt Wieters DH
Adam Jones CF
Mark Reynolds 1B
Chris Davis RF
Steve Pearce LF
Steve Tolleson 3B
Ronny Paulino C

Mike Trout LF
Torii Hunter RF
Albert Pujols DH
Mark Trumbo 1B
Howie Kendrick 2B
Erick Aybar SS
Peter Bourjos CF
Maicer Izturis 3B
John Hester C

Jered Weaver truly masters his domain

July, 7, 2012
Jered Weaver Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesIn the past two seasons, Jered Weaver has pitched nearly 200 innings at Angel Stadium and lost just twice.

ANAHEIM -- In the fourth inning of Saturday's game, Baltimore's powerful young catcher, Matt Wieters, swung at a Jered Weaver curveball and sent it soaring toward those rock things out in center field.

Mike Trout retreated.

Then, he retreated a little bit more.

He poked out his right hand to get a sense for the wall, then cradled the ball a couple of feet in front of the 400-foot sign.

At roughly 90 percent of the stadiums in the major leagues, in places where temperatures are spiking as we creep into mid-July, that ball clears the fence. Everything might have been different had it gone over. Baltimore would have had a quick 2-0 lead and it might have had some confidence it could get to one of the best pitchers in the game, particularly with its ace, Jason Hammel, cruising early.

But at Angel Stadium, where the temperature by then was in the mid-60s, it was just one of the 24 outs Weaver piled up in another dominant performance in a 3-0 Angels win.

If you're an American League hitter, there's never a good time or place to face Weaver, but when he's wearing a white jersey, with his parents seated 20 rows behind home plate, you're in a truly tough spot. In the past two seasons, Weaver has pitched nearly 200 innings at Angel Stadium and lost just twice. This year, he is 6-0 with a 0.58 ERA, including a no-hitter. Unless your pitcher is prepared to throw a shutout, you're almost defeated before you hit the dugout's top step. And the Angels feed on that.

It's a successful marriage, and the team and Weaver renewed vows when he agreed to a five-year, $85 million contract extension last August. Weaver, an extreme flyball pitcher with pinpoint command, knows every nook and cranny of this place by now.

"Obviously, it's a pitcher's park, there's no question about that, and it's easier to let some pitches go instead of trying to be too fine here," Weaver said. "It's a great place to pitch and that's one of the main reasons why I stayed."

None of which should obscure the fact that Weaver would be one of the best pitchers in the game whether he was pitching at Angel Stadium, Camden Yards or the elementary school near your house. He did just wrap up a first half in which he went 10-1 with a 1.96 ERA, after all. He just might be in line for a second straight starting assignment for the American League All-Stars.

And the last pitcher to put up back-to-back first halves in which he won 10 or more games with a sub-2.00 ERA did it roughly 30 miles south of where Weaver grew up in Simi Valley: Sandy Koufax. So, yeah, it's not as if this Angel Stadium dominance is an anomaly. It just takes Weaver's dominance to a new dimension.

"I think you do pitch to your conditions, and ballparks are part of that," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "But I don't think he has ever drastically changed his game or what he does."

And why should he?

3 up, 3 down: Angels 3, Orioles 0

July, 7, 2012

ANAHEIM -- Jered Weaver continued to pad his case to start Tuesday's All-Star Game and the Angels rode it to a 3-0 victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday night at Angel Stadium.

The Angels seemed to be sleepwalking toward the All-Star break in recent games, losing three of the last four, but a lot of that was due to sub-par starting pitching. Weaver tidied things up with eight shutout innings, in which he allowed just three hits.

The Good:

Weaver's front yard. Beating Weaver in Anaheim isn't impossible, but then again neither is soloing K2 or circumnavigating the globe in a 16th century wooden ship. It isn't easy. Weaver has made seven starts here this season, including his no-hitter, and he is 6-0 with a 0.58 ERA. The Orioles put a little pressure on him in the first few innings, but after that, Weaver settled in and he just didn't look fallible. He's 10-1, has a 1.96 ERA and looks like a good bet to make his next start in Kansas City on Tuesday night.

Leather work. Suggestion for 41-year olds: Don't run on Torii Hunter. Jim Thome didn't get it and tried to reach second after smacking a line drive off the right-field wall in the seventh inning. Hunter made an on-target throw and Thome was out narrowly. Erick Aybar made a diving stop on Chris Davis' grounder up the middle, another play that should make Baseball Tonight's Web gems.

Unexpected source. Bobby Wilson has a strong, accurate arm and a knack for helping pitchers work their way through an opposing lineup. You don't, however, have to be a SABR-metrics professor to see that he's not the world's greatest hitter. Wilson came into Saturday batting .181. He picked up two hits (just his fourth multi-hit game of the season) and was on base three times to stoke what little offense the Angels mustered. Good step forward for a player who could be a very solid backup catcher if he can hit.

The Bad:

Decisions, decisions. On the one hand, you have to appreciate Aybar's hustle and aggressiveness. On the other hand, you have to wonder what he's thinking sometimes. Jason Hammel had walked a batter and hit a batter in the second inning right before Aybar swung at the first pitch he saw and popped it up to end the inning. Later, on a routine single to left field, he tried to go from first to third (with two outs). Xavier Avery made a terrible throw or Aybar would have been out easily. An old-school manager might have pulled Aybar from the game.

Main men. What are the odds Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Mark Trumbo would combine to go 1-for-10 and the Angels would still win fairly easily? Not sure, but probably not great. Those three have been the fuel, the drive shaft and the piston of the Angels' offense this season, but they weren't firing in sync for one of the few times in recent weeks. It's a good sign that the rest of the lineup picked them up for one of the few times in 2012.

Matchups. You can't criticize Mike Scioscia for going with Scott Downs in the ninth inning, because Baltimore didn't sniff a rally, going down feebly on 10 pitches. But you can wonder why he didn't go with Ernesto Frieri with a couple of right-handed hitters leading things off (after Steve Pearce pinch-hit for Avery). Maybe the point of this is: How can you go wrong when two relievers are pitching this well? Those guys are better at thwarting second guessers than anything Scioscia can say.

Pitching problems are adding up

July, 7, 2012
ANAHEIM -- The fact that lefty Brad Mills will be recalled from Triple-A Salt Lake to start Sunday's game against the Baltimore Orioles clues you in quickly to the state of the Angels' rotation.

Mills, the 27-year old the Angels acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays for catcher Jeff Mathis, isn't exactly on fire: He's 1-2 with a 7.66 ERA in his past five outings and he has battled some tendinitis in the last month.

But with Dan Haren and Jerome Williams on the disabled list, the Angels didn't have many places to turn short of the trade market, where the price for starting pitchers can be exorbitant. The situation is only slightly sunnier for after the All-Star break. It could be hold-your-breath time when anyone other than Jered Weaver or C.J. Wilson is starting.

Scioscia says Williams will return to the rotation after the break. He will have missed more than three weeks after having to be hospitalized for difficulty breathing after his June 18 start. He made two rehab starts for Triple-A Salt Lake and was hit on the right forearm by a line drive in one of them, but came back to pitch six solid innings Friday night.

He said he didn't have any further problems with his breathing or with excessive anxiety.

"They told me to know where my heart rate is, to work on my breathing and not panic," Williams said. "I just have to monitor that and do a job."

The Angels also will need a fifth starter after the break since their next off day isn't until July 26. That spot figures to go to either Mills or Garrett Richards.

Here are lineups for Saturday night's game vs. the Baltimore Orioles, a rematch between aces Weaver and Jason Hammel:

Xavier Avery LF
J.J. Hardy SS
Chris Davis RF
Adam Jones CF
Jim Thome DH
Matt Wieters C
Wilson Betemit 3B
Joe Mahoney 1B
Robert Andino 2B

Mike Trout CF
Torii Hunter RF
Albert Pujols DH
Kendrys Morales 1B
Mark Trumbo LF
Alberto Callaspo 3B
Howie Kendrick 2B
Erick Aybar SS
Bobby Wilson C

3 up, 3 down: Angels 7, Orioles 3

June, 26, 2012

Baltimore's Camden Yards is always a good place to hit and the Angels offense is settling into a dangerous groove. Combine the two and you have perhaps the most prolific display Angels hitters have put on this season.

The Angels had a season-high 17 hits in a 7-3 win over the Baltimore Orioles Tuesday, including four home runs. They just keep on trucking, having won 12 of their last 13 road games, though it was interrupted by a lengthy homestand.

The Good:

Another victim. Albert Pujols added Orioles youngster Brian Matusz to a ridiculously long list of pitchers he has homered off of. Pujols connected for a two-run shot off the lefty, the 282nd pitcher Pujols has taken deep. He also added Camden Yards to his list of 33 different ballparks he has homered in, several of them now no longer standing. Pujols didn't have a great homestand, but the overall trend has been clear: up. He has 11 homers and 34 RBIs in 38 games since May 15.

All-Star lefty? C.J. Wilson has gotten himself into an unbelievable amount of trouble in his last few starts and gotten himself out of virtually all of it. Can it continue? Probably not -- the law of averages suggests it's a dangerous way to live -- but his escape artistry is helping him motor through a great first half. Wilson (9-4) is 5-0 in his seven starts since May 18, over which he has a 1.30 ERA over that span.

Power to the ninth. John Hester has developed into Wilson's personal catcher. That and a surprisingly robust bat could make him the Angels' backup catcher when Chris Iannetta returns from the disabled list, a development that could put Bobby Wilson in danger of being designated for assignment. Hester, batting ninth, homered along with two other hits. His only out was a drive to the base of the left-field wall. His defense appears flawed, but he's making up for it by chipping in when he's at bat.

The Bad:

Why Erick? Why? Why did Erick Aybar try to score from first on Hester's two-out single to center in the fourth inning? He was, predictably, thrown out easily. Aybar isn't the only Angels hitter to look unnecessarily aggressive on the bases this season. He wasn't the only guy in this game (Torii Hunter). Would it kill this team to settle in and play for a big inning every once in a while. It's kind of how things are done in this league, especially in cozy little stadiums like Baltimore's.

LOB passes. It's amazing how many chances the Angels actually blew in this game and still won easily. That tells you all you need to know about Matusz's season. It tells you all you need to know about how this team's hitters are feeling at the plate lately. The Angels went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position, left nine men on base and still scored seven. It was largely much ado about nothing, but it somehow added up to something.

Snub patrol. It's great when fans and managers and coaches criticize the baseball writers for how they vote in the award races and then butcher the Gold Glove and All-Star voting respectively. The Angels two most deserving All-Stars aren't even visible in the voting. Mark Trumbo, hitting .320 with 18 home runs and 50 RBIs, is listed as a third baseman and getting virtually no support. Mike Trout, who was leading the league in hitting going into Tuesday, isn't even on the ballot. Both guys will be there -- I'd be shocked if they're not -- but it's yet more evidence that this stuff is harder than it looks.

When will this team finally show up?

April, 22, 2012



Games keep going by, weeks are now passing, and the Angels are on hold, waiting for the team they thought they had to show up.

They figured they had massive doses of power after adding Albert Pujols and getting Kendrys Morales back. After Sunday's 3-2 loss to the Baltimore Orioles, not only are they still waiting for Pujols' first home run, they're still waiting for their second home run from any No. 3 or 4 hitter. They're last in the AL in home runs and seven of the nine guys in the lineup Sunday started the game with either zero or one.

They figured they had the kind of starting pitching to chew through stretches of the schedule. Half of the Big Four -- Dan Haren and Ervin Santana -- has yet to win a game yet, though Haren deserved to on Sunday.

They didn't have massive amounts of confidence in the bullpen, but they also didn't expect it to blow virtually every close game it inherited.

The only thing the Angels (6-10) really have on their side right now is time and, given baseball's endless schedule, that's not a bad ally to have. But at what point does it start to betray you?

"We don't want to dig ourselves too deep a hole, but the track records and the talent, it's going to take over at some point," Haren said. "We've just got to go out and just win that one game. We're not trying to win 10 games in a row here. We're just trying to win the next game."

Maybe that's the problem. After a winter of hype and a sizzling spring, maybe the Angels thought they could strut into a soft early schedule and pile up wins on cruise control. They've played five series so far, only one against a team that had a winning record last year, and lost all but one of them.

Sixteen games into the season, they have yet to win three games in a row. They hadn't won consecutive games until Saturday night and, going for No. 3, they played a virtually silent game on Sunday. Other than Vernon Wells' double and Howie Kendrick's home run, they barely hit a ball hard against Taiwanese pitcher Wei-Yin Chen and a Baltimore bullpen that was 13th in the league in ERA last year.

"We didn't pressure them at all," manager Mike Scioscia said.

No, they didn't. But if things keep up like this, there will be plenty of pressure to go around.

3 Up, 3 Down: Orioles 3, Angels 2 (10)

April, 22, 2012
ANAHEIM -- The Angels continued lurching through the early part of their schedule with a punchless 3-2 loss to the Baltimore Orioles in 10 innings Sunday.

Even after adding superstar Albert Pujols, the Angels are last in the American League in home runs (11) and 12th in slugging percentage.

The Good:

Haren is Haren. The most encouraging thing to come out of Sunday -- and there weren't that many -- was the arrival of Dan Haren's stuff. After a hot spring, he had struggled through his first three starts. Even in his last start against Oakland, in which he allowed only one run, Haren said he felt far from dominant. On Sunday, he used pinpoint command and his off-speed stuff against an aggressive Baltimore lineup to get nine strikeouts and carry the ball into the eighth inning.

Bouncing back. Going into Sunday, Alberto Callaspo was batting .161. With Mark Trumbo struggling to learn third base, it looks like the Angels again will rely on Callaspo -- their leading hitter last year -- as a frequent contributor once again. Callaspo broke out of his slump with a couple of hits, including the only RBI through seven innings, and got on base three times.

Step forward. No Angel has been more maligned over the past year or so than Vernon Wells, primarily because he has performed so poorly. But when the Angels were baffled by Taiwanese lefty Wei-Yin Chen Sunday, Wells gave them their only real action -- a two-out double in the fourth, which turned into the Angels' first run. He also made a nice catch in the seventh. Mark Renolds' pop-up looked destined to fall as a bloop hit, but Wells came charging in and made a nice basket catch on the move.

The Bad:

Albert the slumping. Just when it looked like Albert Pujols was about to bust out of his sluggish start with Thursday's three-double game, this happens. Pujols went hitless (11 at-bats) in the Baltimore series and is now batting .246 with zero home runs and four RBIs. No matter what anyone says, Pujols' inability to get in an early groove has been the biggest anchor on the offense.

Hunter the hunting. While we're on the topic of power outages in the middle of the order, where has Torii Hunter's power gone? Not only has he yet to homer this season, he didn't hit one all spring. It's a bit puzzling why Mike Scioscia continues to run him out as the cleanup hitter against left-handed pitching. Does he still think it would be too much pressure on Mark Trumbo? Hunter generally has been contributing with hits and walks, but he had a rough day Sunday, going 0-for-3 with a couple of strikeouts.

Inheritance tax. Scott Downs has been one of the few reliable relievers, but he came into a difficult spot -- two on, one out -- and made it worse by giving up a pair of hits, one bloop, one solid line drive. That let in both of Haren's runners. Angels relievers have inherited 26 runners and allowed 12 of them to score. That's part of the reason Angels starters had a 4.23 ERA entering Sunday, ninth in the AL.

Angels 11, Orioles 2: Three Up, Three Down

September, 18, 2011
The Angels' offense snapped out of its funk and erupted in Baltimore, giving Jered Weaver all the support he needed to pick up his 18th win on short rest, as the Angels won 11-2 Sunday to keep their faint playoff hopes alive.

The win got the Angels to within four games of the Boston Red Sox in the wild-card race and to within four of the Texas Rangers in the AL West pending the outcome of Texas' game in Seattle.

The Good:

Career day. Erick Aybar has been a force at the top (or bottom) of the Angels' lineup since he emerged from his August funk, but Sunday was in an entirely different category. Aybar, a defensive whiz at shortstop, had never done anything like this. He went 4-for-4 with two home runs, five runs and four RBIs. He already has doubled his career high for home runs (10) and is making up for a down offensive season last year.

Weaver can cruise. This was the perfect game for Weaver to pitch on three days' rest, because he was able to wrap up a fairly efficient afternoon after six innings and 97 pitches without Mike Scioscia worrying about a bullpen implosion. Now, Weaver can make two more starts on regular rest, the final of which would be at home against Texas in the season finale. In a normal season, Weaver would be at the front of the pack in Cy Young talk, but Justin Verlander looks like he's running away with it.

Wells respite. When this season is over, Vernon Wells is going to have to answer some difficult questions about why he played so far below his career norms in his first season with a new team, but Sunday was a break from all that angst. He hit his 22nd home run, one of two hits, and got his average "up" to .219.

The Bad:

Beanings. It's always hard to discern a pitcher's intent when he throws up and in to a batter, but Baltimore's Mark Reynolds guessed that Ervin Santana had bad intentions when he hit him in Saturday's game. That led to a bit of hostility Sunday, with umpires warning both teams, but reliever Brad Bergesen looked distraught after he hit Jeff Mathis in the helmet (and umpire Laz Diaz elected not to eject him). It was a scary moment and, thankfully, Mathis was OK.

Schedule. The Angels probably wished the Orioles well after Sunday's game, because Baltimore could open a back door to the playoffs -- though it's quite a longshot. The Red Sox are reeling, but their diehard fans have this to fall back on: Seven of their final 10 games are against last-place Baltimore. Maybe Buck Showalter can get his team to play with as much passion in those games as they did against the Angels over the weekend. Tampa Bay, the second-place team in the wild card, has six left against the best team in the league, the New York Yankees.

Schedule II. The Angels would love to be alive for a playoff spot entering that Sept. 26-28 series at home against Texas, but that's going to be tough to pull off. The Angels have gone 10-12 against their intervening opponents while Texas has gone 22-9 against the Seattle Mariners and Oakland A's. Anything is possible, but the wild card could be a more likely avenue, tricky as that route seems.

Orioles 6, Angels 2: Three Up, Three Down

September, 17, 2011
Ervin SantanaPatrick Smith/Getty ImagesErvin Santana had a disastrous first inning and the Angles couldn't climb out of the hole.

Two of the Angels' best pitchers let them down in Baltimore and the offense continued to struggle, putting their playoff hopes on the verge of flickering out.

Ervin Santana gave up five first-inning runs on a couple of Baltimore home runs and the Angels lost 6-2, leaving them 4 1/2 games behind the first-place Texas Rangers after the Rangers defeated the Mariners, 7-6, later Saturday. The Angels have only 11 games left on their schedule.

The Good:

Catcher indifference. An Angels catcher managed to go an entire game without making an unproductive out. Bobby Wilson started and walked and hit a sacrifice fly before the perfunctory pinch-hitting appearance took him out of the game. That's 0-for-0, wildly productive for an Angels catcher this year.

Triple threat. Vernon Wells had an RBI triple, albeit too late to help prevent a crushing loss. That kind of says it all about Wells' season. Maybe he can get hot and build a little momentum for next April.

Baltimore's fight. You've got to give Baltimore some credit for playing hard in these games and, frankly, dominating them. The Orioles went 6-0 vs. the Angels last year, by the way.

The Bad:

Santana's first. Ervin Santana pitched well from the second inning through the seventh, but the damage had already been done. Mark Reynolds did some serious damage to the Angels this season, including his three-run blast off Santana in the first.

Hitting. The struggling starters were a surprise. The lack of offense wasn't. But still, the Angels managed four hits, not exactly the effort you're looking for in the heat of a race. It kind of speaks for itself.

Top four. You're not going to win many games when the first four batters in your lineup combine to go 0-for-14 with four strikeouts. This offense fell back into one of its swoons, something it could cover up when the pitching was stout but that has now been exposed. It could get ugly if the Angels don't hit in Toronto next week, because that team figures to score.

Orioles 8, Angels 3: Three Up, Three Down

September, 16, 2011
It may have been the last straw in the Angels' playoff push.

Dan Haren struggled and the Angels dropped a game they might not be able to overcome, 8-3 against the last-place Baltimore Orioles Friday night. The Angels have just 12 games left, six on this road trip, and trailed the first-place Texas Rangers by four games entering Texas' night game in Seattle.

If the Angels were to charge back at this point, it would be the greatest comeback in American League history.

The Good:

Bunt-fest. The Angels don't walk a lot, but they are capable of getting on base without swinging the bats. Bobby Abreu and Erick Aybar each bunted their way on for base hits. The Angels lead the majors in both infield hits and bunt hits. That's the kind of offense this is.

Conger clout. Any time a catcher produces offensively, it's a shocking development on this team. Youngster Hank Conger has had an uneven season, especially defensively. But he clearly is the only catcher on the roster capable of doing damage with his bat. He provided two-thirds of the Angels' offense with a two-run ninth inning home run. It was Conger's sixth home run.

Torii's pace. It wasn't long ago that Torii Hunter was batting .232 and he looked like a lock to have his worst full season in the majors. But his consistency since then has been startling. After two more hits, Hunter now is batting .262. He hit .423 in August and he's batting .389 this month.

The Bad:

Haren reverts. That shutout against the New York Yankees last start now looks like an anomaly. Haren has not been at his best in the past couple of months. He tends to struggle in the second half and you wonder whether teams just burden him with too many innings, because of his history of durability. In a big spot, Haren couldn't get his pitches in good spots and the Orioles teed off on him for seven runs in five innings.

Frustration unbounded. After strikeouts nowadays, Vernon Wells looks like he doesn't know what to do with himself. After one Friday, he looked like he wanted to slam the bat off the plate, but thought better of it and recoiled at the last minute. This guy could just never get out of the early hole he dug himself and his abysmal season has gone a long way toward explaining why the Angels came up short.

Easy outs. If you're going to play small ball, it helps to do it well. After Abreu reached base in the fourth inning, Torii Hunter swung through a hit-and-run and Abreu was out by 10 feet at second base. It was a fairly pivotal momentum swing, as the Angels were trying to fight back from a 2-0 hole.

Jered Weaver fighting diminishing stuff

September, 16, 2011
One of the most impressive aspects of what Jered Weaver, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana are doing lately has been its degree of difficulty. All three at times have pitched dominant games with far-from-dominant stuff.

Anybody can win a race when he’s riding Secretariat, but how does he perform on an aging mare?

Weaver, in particular, has learned to pitch with a fastball that is 8-10 mph slower than his college days and nearly 3 mph slower than it was in April. According to ESPN Stats and Info, Weaver’s average fastball velocity during that scathing March and April was 90.2 mph. In September, with 3,532 pitches under his belt, it’s 87.7.

Only one AL pitcher, Justin Verlander, has thrown more pitches than Weaver this season and Verlander the other day touched 101 mph on the radar gun. His dominance has been an entirely different phenomenon.

Weaver shut down the Oakland A’s Wednesday to keep the Angels alive in this race and afterward, Angels manager Mike Scioscia said, “He didn’t have his best stuff, but he pitched with it and got it done.”

That may be as good a statement of Weaver’s elite status as anything, his adaptability to changing, sometimes adverse conditions. Now, Scioscia has to figure out when to best take advantage of his one edge in this race – his three starters – while being perfectly aware they have physical limitations. He’ll decide in the next couple of days whether Weaver will pitch on three days’ rest Sunday in Baltimore, which would line him up to pitch the season finale vs. the Texas Rangers.

“Anything he wants me to do, I’m here for and everyone feels the same way,” Weaver said. “We’ve got a tight one going and right now, anything I can do to help the club win some ballgames, I’m all for it.”



Jered Weaver
18 3.59 169 213
BAH. Kendrick .293
HRM. Trout 36
RBIM. Trout 111
RM. Trout 115
OPSM. Trout .939
ERAG. Richards 2.61
SOJ. Weaver 169