Los Angeles Angels: Detroit Tigers

Mike Trout continues his MVP push

September, 19, 2012

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland fired the opening salvo two days ago while his team was in Chicago.

When asked about Miguel Cabrera's season and the chances the Tigers third baseman could win the American League MVP, Leyland said "it would blow my mind" if Cabrera did not win MVP.

[+] EnlargeMike Trout
Gary A. Vasquez/US PresswireMike Trout is the first rookie with at least 25 home runs and 45 stolen bases and is the youngest to steal 40 bases since Ty Cobb in 1907.
"In this case, I'm not being partial," Leyland told reporters. "Sometimes we are. And I think you should be if it's your player; you're going to stick up for him more than somebody else's player, first. But this time, I'm not even being partial toward Cabrera."

Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia wasn't about to return serve Wednesday night when he was asked about the MVP candidacy of his rookie center fielder, Mike Trout.

"I think there's a lot of variables that go into what makes up an MVP," Scioscia said. "For the guys that are voting, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Some guys are going to put more weight on how a team finishes and some guys are going to put more weight on pure stats and some guys are going to have a combination of both. They're both putting up extraordinary numbers in certain areas. If you look at the whole body of Mike's work, there's no doubt that it compares to [Cabrera] and it will be interesting to see how it works out."

Scioscia sounded like a voter, trying to be politically correct, as he listed criteria for an MVP season before stopping with what he ultimately felt would decide the race, well, at least if he had a vote.

"There are some things that remain to be seen," Scioscia said. "Personally, I do put weight on where a team finishes unless a guy's stats are so far off the charts that no one is even near him. But I think the value to a team would have to influence in a positive way where a team would finish; I think it still remains to be seen. So I think in the last couple of weeks here, there's going to be something that will happen that will separate one guy from the other."

Sure, Scioscia could have easily lauded his player and said "it would blow his mind" if Trout doesn't win the MVP, but he knows better than that. After watching dozens of tight MVP races that came down to the final weeks of the season, he knows that the award will ultimately be decided by the team they play on, not necessarily by the numbers they put up during that time.

Then again, putting up numbers hasn't been an issue for Trout or Cabrera this season. It has been about getting the players around them to be as consistent as they've been. Cabrera leads the AL in batting average (.333) and RBIs (130) and he's second in home runs (41). Trout, who turned 21 last month and was called up on April 28, leads the league with 116 runs scored and 45 stolen bases. He is second in batting average (.327) and has 27 home runs. Trout is the first MLB rookie with at least 25 home runs and 45 stolen bases and is the youngest player to steal 40 bases since Ty Cobb in 1907.

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3 Up, 3 Down: Tigers 5, Angels 1

July, 19, 2012

Heading into their most important home series of 2012, the Angels don't exactly have a head of steam.

They lost 5-1 to the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park on Thursday afternoon and have dropped five of their seven games since the All-Star break. The Angels play the first-place Texas Rangers this weekend in Anaheim.

The Good:

Adjustments. One of the reasons Mike Trout is such a dazzling young talent is that he's able to figure out what pitchers are trying to do to him and do something about it. Trout didn't look good striking out in his first two at-bats, but he looked for a slider against Max Scherzer, got it and golfed it deep into the stands in left field. That was kind of it for the offense. Sometimes Trout is a one-man show, and those are the bad days for this team. Trout has scored at least a run in each of the past 11 games, two short of a team record.

Help coming. Dan Haren didn't look dominant in a rehab start at Class A earlier this week, but after a full-effort bullpen session in Detroit on Wednesday, he told reporters he's ready to go for this weekend. Haren also sounds keen to prove to people that he's still one of the best starters in the game. A highly motivated Haren could provide the boost this rotation needs.

Bullpen. He hasn't been the most efficient pitcher in the league this season, but Hisanori Takahashi kind of kept the Angels in the game by getting out of a jam in the seventh inning and striking out a very tough right-handed hitter, Miguel Cabrera. Ernesto Frieri looked dominant again after a rough outing in his previous game. It was a good day for the bullpen.

The Bad:

Production problem. Some hitters can afford to have days like Peter Bourjos had. He's not one of them. Bourjos struck out with a runner at third and one out in the seventh inning, just as the Angels were trying to claw back into the game. Because of his glove, the Angels would like to play Bourjos more, but he does sometimes look overmatched at the plate.

Power problem. Jerome Williams looked a lot more effective when he was facing teams such as Seattle, Oakland and the Dodgers. He has struggled to keep a couple of brawnier teams inside their stadiums. Williams has given up four home runs in his past two starts, against the Yankees and Tigers. Otherwise, he has pitched pretty well, but that's a big "otherwise." Williams is just clinging to his rotation spot, having given up five earned runs in four of his past five starts.

Focus problem. Erick Aybar has had trouble finding the target lately. He had another throwing error and now has 10 errors, which puts him on a trajectory closer to a dismal 2010 (21 errors) than to his Gold Glove 2011 (13). For a while, Aybar's problem was hitting. Lately, it's been making routine plays.

3 up, 3 down: Tigers 7, Angels 2

July, 18, 2012

The Angels offense cooled off and C.J. Wilson pitched one of his worst games this season in a 7-2 loss to the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park on Wednesday. The Angels, embarking on their most grueling stretch of schedule this season, are 2-4 since the All-Star break.

The Good:

Hot Albert. Albert Pujols might not be in vintage form, but he's pretty close. Though he didn't homer until May 6, he has picked up 17 since and has resumed a pace for 30, meaning he could add to his own record and hit 30-plus in his first 12 seasons. Pujols has three home runs and six RBIs in the six games since the All-Star break. On the worrisome side, he may have tweaked an ankle injury he first picked up in New York trying to take second on a ball in the dirt.

New man. Reliever Kevin Jepsen had a 10.29 ERA when he was optioned to Triple-A at the end of April. Since he came back up early this month, he has yet to allow a run and has given up just one hit in six outings. His stuff looked good when he went down, but he's been far more proficient at locating it lately. With the bullpen struggling, Jepsen could quickly move into a more prominent role. Then the Angels would find out if he can handle it.

Help. The Oakland A's beat the first-place Texas Rangers 4-3 Wednesday afternoon, giving the Rangers just their second loss since the All-Star break. That kept the Angels a manageable 5 1/2 games behind Texas with a three-game series in Anaheim between the teams coming up this weekend. On the other hand, don't look now but Oakland -- with the worst batting average in the majors -- only trails the Angels by 2 1/2 games.

The Bad:

Off his game. Wilson was one of the hottest pitchers in the game in May and June, but he hasn't picked up a win yet this month. Until Wednesday, that really wasn't his doing. He had a truly laborious evening in Detroit, allowing five walks and striking out seven. As a consequence of all those deep counts, he needed 119 pitches to get through six innings. He also had the misfortune of the offense cooling off the night he took the mound.

T and T. One of these days, the Angels are going to have to produce some offense with Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo having quiet nights. That hasn't happened much in recent weeks. Trout tripled and scored a late run, but the two dynamic youngsters combined to go 1-for-7 and the Angels' offense didn't go. Add Torii Hunter's hitless night and you've got the makings of a silent night.

Rumors. There have been persistent reports that the Angels are willing to trade Peter Bourjos to upgrade their pitching staff. It's not that it's such a far-fetched idea. Bourjos has no appreciable role, Vernon Wells will be back soon and the Angels' pitching depth certainly is a concern. But it's hard to imagine general manager Jerry Dipoto would give up Bourjos for a pitcher he might only have for a couple of months (or even through next season). A Trout-Bourjos-Trumbo outfield in coming seasons has a chance to be special.

3 up, 3 down: Angels 13, Tigers 0

July, 17, 2012

The Angels' power took a while to show up this year, but it has arrived in force.

They hit five home runs in a 13-0 win over the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park on Tuesday night. Despite an anemic April, the Angels rank fifth in the American League with a .424 slugging percentage, and they're quickly moving up the ranks.

The Good:

T and T. The nickname seems to be catching on these days to describe the Angels' dynamic 20-something duo of Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo. On Tuesday it looked as if they had packed explosives in their bats. For Trout's part, it seems as if every time you expect this magical run to continue, he does something more impressive. Everyone talks about his speed, but he hit an opposite-field, 430-foot home run Tuesday at a ballpark that's far from miniature. His speed isn't going to improve much, but his power could. Could he be a 40-40 threat soon? Now? You can't put any ceiling on his talent, because he just breaks through those.

T and T. Trumbo's gifts are more focused, but he's still a considerable talent. If a pitcher leaves the ball in a less-than-ideal spot, Trumbo will embarrass him with a long home run. He fell behind 0-and-2 against young Jacob Turner on Tuesday, but Turner left a pitch over the plate and a bit inside, and Trumbo crushed it to left field for a three-run home run to get the Angels out to a 4-0 lead. Trumbo's 26 home runs are only two off the league home run lead, and that's extraordinary given his age and the location of his home games.

Another youngster. The Angels would love for Garrett Richards to pitch his way back into their suddenly beleaguered rotation. They like his upside and could use a solid No. 4 or 5 starter, particularly when he's a homegrown 24-year-old. Pitching with tons of early run support, Richards seemed to relax into his stuff, and he cruised through seven innings, giving up only three hits and pitching around four walks. The fact he had only two strikeouts shouldn't be a big concern. With the big lead, he did a good job inducing quick outs.

The Bad:

Tigers bats. They've been clawing their way back in the AL Central in part due to a resurgent offense, but the Tigers fell behind Tuesday and did virtually nothing all game. The shutout was their first in exactly one year, a streak of 159 games and a franchise record.

Lone soldier. When your team turns somebody else's stadium into a batting practice session, pounding 18 hits, five of which leave the stadium, it's got to be painful to take an 0-for-4 and hit into two double plays. Erick Aybar had that distinction Tuesday. The frustrating part with Aybar, at times, is his extreme lack of patience. He saw just nine pitches in those four at-bats.

Stubbornness. Should it have taken 91 games to realize Trumbo was a better cleanup option than Kendrys Morales against right-handed pitchers? Mike Scioscia bowed to what seemed increasingly inevitable Tuesday and forewent breaking up the right-handed bats for a more vibrant option in the No. 4 spot. Trumbo leads the league in slugging percentage, so it seems like a pretty good idea. It probably was about a month ago, too.

3 Up, 3 Down: Tigers 8, Angels 6

July, 16, 2012
The Angels continue to get so-so starting pitching and awful relief as they lost for the third time in four games since the All-Star break, dropping an 8-6 game in Detroit Monday.

The Good:

He's back. Torii Hunter missed most of two games after slightly straining a groin muscle Friday night in New York, but he returned with a splash by picking up four hits and driving in three runs. Hunter had been struggling a bit before the injury. He's largely overshadowed nowadays by the likes of Albert Pujols and Mike Trout, but he's still a big part of what the Angels are trying to accomplish this year.

Making progress. It would be a good time for the Angels to get their best players on the field and until starting catcher Chris Iannetta comes off the disabled list, that's not going to happen. Iannetta finally looks like he's making some progress after a couple of setbacks. He threw to the bases in Detroit Monday and could go on a rehab outing soon. The Angels could use his bat, particularly now that the pitching is experiencing some turbulence.

Power show. Mark Trumbo's swing doesn't appear to have suffered as a result of the Home Run Derby. Or, perhaps his swing is the same one he used at the derby. He has homered in five of his last seven games and, with 25 on the season, is zeroing in on the league leaders. The 29 homers he hit last year apparently were just a taste of the youngster's massive power.

The Bad:

Bullpen blahs. For the third time in four games since the All-Star break, the Angels' bullpen struggled. The names change, but not the results. Hisanori Takahashi and LaTroy Hawkins blew a one-run lead in the seventh inning and David Carpenter coughed another run up -- not as egregious as some recent unravelings, but also not encouraging.

Ervin just all right. Too bad there's not "The OK" section here in 3 Up, 3 Down, because that's where Ervin Santana's night belongs. In some ways, it was a step forward. Against a good lineup, he didn't allow a home run and he gave up just two earned runs in six innings. But he also struck out just two batters and clearly isn't as crisp as he needs to be. He also made things difficult on himself with a bad throw.

Throwing. Erick Aybar hasn't had a bad year at shortstop, but he also hasn't had another Gold Glove caliber season thus far. The Tigers' first two runs scored as a result of throwing errors, one by Aybar and one by Santana. When you're struggling already, doing the little things is even more important and Santana didn't help himself.

Is there madness left in Motor City?

July, 16, 2012
The last time the Angels played the Detroit Tigers, things turned chippy.

Jered Weaver hooked up with Justin Verlander, two of the league's best pitchers in a Cy Young showdown, and tension gradually built on a muggy afternoon. Weaver got angry at Magglio Ordonez's reaction to a home run, so Carlos Guillen reacted even more theatrically. Weaver buzzed a batter and was ejected. Verlander erupted (both during and after the game) over Erick Aybar trying to bunt to break up his no-hitter.

It was a mess in Motown. Luckily, conditions couldn't be riper for a detente as the Angels start a three-game series in Detroit tonight. Guillen and Ordonez are both out of the game. Verlander and Weaver each pitched Sunday and will miss the series.

The only participants in the drama who will play this week are catcher Alex Avila, the player Weaver brushed back (and who, apparently, was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time); and Aybar. The umpires will be under orders from the league to keep things orderly. Maybe they won't have to.

Exploring Bobby Abreu's future

January, 24, 2012

Christian Petersen/Getty Images
It seems pretty likely the Angels will trade veteran Bobby Abreu, but is now the right time?

With Albert Pujols taking over first base every day and Mark Trumbo and Kendrys Morales without positions, Abreu figures to have virtually no role. Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said the team has penciled in a designated-hitter platoon of Abreu and Trumbo, but what if Morales, a switch hitter with 35-home run potential, is healthy?

Should they move Abreu now, before they know how Morales' surgically repaired (twice) left ankle responds to the wear and tear of playing every day? That could depend on how badly another team wants him. The Detroit Tigers, without Victor Martinez, have been linked to Abreu.

Here's what ESPN's Jayson Stark wrote:
"... There's literally no room for Abreu anywhere. So he's not happy. And other clubs are reporting that the Angels emerged from their organizational meetings last week with Abreu as 'their No. 1 guy to move.' Abreu, who won the 2005 Home Run Derby in Comerica Park, vested a $9 million option for this season. So his salary is an issue. But while the Angels would love to jettison as much of it as possible, an executive of one club reports 'they'll pick up enough to make it comfortable to move him.'

It could be that the Angels and Tigers are deep into talks about how much of Abreu's salary Detroit will pick up. It could be the Angels are waiting until they get more information on Morales.

If Morales goes down again and Abreu is gone, the Angels would have virtually no left-handed power. Then again, Abreu (eight home runs, 60 RBIs) didn't provide much last season anyway. Abreu (career .397 OBP) helps with Dipoto's quest to inject more on-base percentage into the Angels' lineup, but his walks have declined for three straight years as pitchers feel more and more comfortable going right at him with fastballs.

The move seems obvious. The timing, not so much.

Bill James lauds Dan Haren outing

January, 20, 2012
Writing for Grantland, baseball's godfather of statistics, Bill James, ranks the 100 greatest pitchers' duels of 2011. At the very top is Dan Haren's two-hit mastery of the Detroit Tigers on July 5, a game in which he (very slightly) out-pitched eventual Cy Young winner Justin Verlander.

Here is what James says about that memorable game:

"In the first inning Bobby Abreu was called out on strikes, argued with the call, and was thrown out of the game by home plate umpire Angel Campos. With one out in the second, Howie Kendrick grounded to short and beat the throw to first — or not, but anyway, he was called safe by first base umpire Joe West. Well, OK, he was out; West blew the call. You beat it out of me. Tiger manager Jim Leyland came out to dispute the call, but, of course, to no avail. Erick Aybar then doubled to right field, scoring Kendrick and giving the Angels what was to be the game's only run. Cowboy Joe later threw Leyland out of the game for continuing to squawk about the call on Kendrick, and, when Verlander was relieved with one out in the bottom of the eighth, he screamed at West and Verlander also was ejected, although he was already out of the game. Haren pitched a two-hit shutout, striking out nine and walking no one. Verlander struck out eight. Angels 1, Detroit 0."

Mike Scioscia defends this lineup

September, 28, 2011
Some Detroit Tigers fans have taken exception to the Angels' lineups since the team was eliminated from post-season contention Monday night.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia got a little testy while defending himself Wednesday. Scioscia pulled Jered Weaver and Ervin Santana from their final starts of the season and replaced them with rookies Tyler Chatwood and Garrett Richards. Five rookie hitters were in Tuesday night's lineup, a 10-3 loss. On Wednesday, Scioscia's lineup had four rookies, including September call-ups Jeremy Moore, Efren Navarro and Gil Velazquez.

If Texas -- which has fielded lineups similar to what it will run out for the playoffs -- can pull the sweep here Wednesday night (or if Detroit loses to Cleveland), it would host the first round of the playoffs and Detroit will have to travel to Yankee Stadium.

Scioscia said injuries and the risk of injury have been at the root of his lineups. He said Maicer Izturis has been playing with a foot injury, Torii Hunter has been dealing with pain in his quadriceps, Santana has had forearm stiffness and Weaver had a flareup of upper-back pain recently. On Tuesday, Weaver said, "This is the best I've felt at the end of a year in a long time." He and Dan Haren have surpassed the 230-inning mark and Santana finished four outs shy.

Howie Kendrick had to leave Tuesday's game after spraining his wrist diving for a ground ball and Mark Trumbo is out for six weeks with a stress fracture in his right foot.

"It's like that horse you've taken the whip to and they're physically beat. They might have one more start in them, but you don't know how effective they'd be and it's something you deal with," Scioscia said. "We're out here trying to win games."

"We went as hard as we could as long as we could. We brought guys on three days rest against these guys a month ago. That's the team they're playing. If they weren't at such a heightened risk, they'd be out there."

Here are the lineups for Wednesday's season finale:


1. Ian Kinsler 2B

2. Elvis Andrus SS

3. Josh Hamilton CF

4. Michael Young 3B

5. Adrian Beltre DH

6. Mike Napoli C

7. Nelson Cruz RF

8. David Murphy LF

9. Mitch Moreland 1B


1. Erick Aybar SS

2. Mike Trout RF

3. Peter Bourjos CF

4. Vernon Wells DH

5. Alberto Callaspo 3B

6. Jeremy Moore LF

7. Bobby Wilson C

8. Efren Navarro 1B

9. Gil Velazquez 2B

By design, the numbers don't add up (and lineups)

September, 27, 2011
By shutting down Jered Weaver and Ervin Santana before their final starts of 2011, the Angels might have missed out on a couple of cool milestones.

Weaver needed to get only four outs to beat out Justin Verlander for the league ERA title. An inning and a third without allowing a run would have whittled Weaver's ERA from 2.41 to 2.39. Weaver wasn't aware how close he was until reporters informed him before Tuesday's game.

"Yeah, well, oops," Weaver said. "I should have thrown a couple more zeroes up there."

If Santana had just gotten four outs, the Angels would have had three pitchers each throw at least 230 innings for the first time since 1973, when staffs worked on three days' rest routinely. Weaver and Dan Haren already have surpassed 230 innings while Santana will finish with 228 2/3.

"It comes to a point where we would be stretching them for diminishing returns right now," manager Mike Scioscia said. "We have to look out, obviously, for these guys moving forward, to be ready to do this again next year."

Here are lineups for Tuesday's game, which would resemble a spring training game except the Rangers need to win it to keep their edge over the Detroit Tigers for second-best record in the league. The team that finishes with more losses has to travel to New York to open the playoffs while the other team opens at home against the wild-card winner:


1. Ian Kinsler 2B

2. Elvis Andrus DH

3. Josh Hamilton CF

4. Michael Young SS

5. Adrian Beltre 3B

6. Mike Napoli C

7. Nelson Cruz RF

8. David Murphy LF

9. Mitch Moreland 1B


1. Mike Trout RF

2. Peter Bourjos CF

3. Bobby Abreu DH

4. Howie Kendrick 2B

5. Vernon Wells LF

6. Alberto Callaspo 3B

7. Efren Navarro 1B

8. Hank Conger C

9. Andrew Romine SS

After Weaver deals, he says he'll debate

August, 5, 2011
Jered Weaver pitched another brilliant game Friday night in the Angels 1-0 win over Seattle – which ended with Vernon Wells’ RBI single in the 10th inning, too late to get Weaver his 15th win. Brilliant outings seem to be the only kind Weaver has any more.

His need to express himself to the league office could put the Angels in a deeper hole than seems even remotely necessary. After the game, Weaver said he isn’t going to drop his appeal of a six-game suspension.

Assuming he doesn’t change his mind, the Angels might need to scramble for two spot starters in the next week and Weaver might miss as many as three more games than he otherwise would. If he were to drop his appeal before Saturday’s game, he could return to the rotation next Saturday in Toronto and the Angels would need to plug just one hole in their rotation (the one previously held by Joel Pineiro).

“I’m going to keep the appeal and see what happens in the end,” Weaver said. “Scioscia was cool with it. If he would have had a problem, he would have let me know.”

If Weaver weren’t so good, it wouldn’t be such a big deal. But he’s on a roll like none seen in Anaheim… well, maybe ever. He just set a club record by pitching his 15th straight quality start.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia mentioned the word “representative,” several times in describing Weaver’s decision, meaning agent Scott Boras is involved. It’s not clear what Weaver could gain by airing his side of Sunday’s on-field confrontation with the Detroit Tigers.

He clearly threw at catcher Alex Avila and made scant effort to disguise his intent in his post-game comments. If he proves that the Tigers were the instigators, would that make it more likely his punishment is reduced? Doubtful. Rarely are such suspensions reduced by more than a game anyway.

“It’s not our decision. It’s his and his representatives’ decision what he wants to do,” Scioscia said.

“Players obviously want to have their side heard,” Scioscia said. “If he feels that’s going to happen if he goes through the process, he’s going to go through the process. We’ll support him any way, whatever he decides.”

You get the impression there could be a little more discussion on this topic before Saturday’s game. If nothing changes and Weaver has to make his next start on 10 days’ rest, you have to wonder if the dispute doesn’t go deeper than we know.

Tigers 3, Angels 2: Three Up, Three Down

July, 31, 2011
Jered Weaver was great until his temper got the better of him, but Justin Verlander was unhittable.

The Angels lost 3-2 to the Detroit Tigers on Sunday in a game rife with dominant pitching and bad blood. The Angels' first hit off Verlander didn't come until there were two outs in the eighth inning. A batter later, Verlander struck out Torii Hunter on a 101-mph fastball.

Weaver, clearly unhappy about two earlier Tigers' showboating after home runs, was ejected an inning earlier for throwing at a Detroit batter.

The Good:

Erick Aybar's creativity. The sellout crowd didn't like it. Verlander didn't like it. But, given how the Tigers had acted earlier, who cares how they felt? Erick Aybar showed savvy trying to bunt for the Angels' first hit. Verlander had been waiting around after Weaver's ejection and it was a good bet that he would be flustered, and he was, throwing wildly to first. It may have broken an unwritten baseball rule, but those shouldn't matter when a team has a chance to win a key game in a pennant race.

It should have been ruled a hit, but the official scorer was off the hook when Maicer Izturis lined a clean single to left later in the inning.

The TV replay later showed Verlander yelling at Aybar from the dugout and pointing to the middle of his back. Lucky for Aybar, the teams won't meet again until next year ... unless they meet in the playoffs.

Weaver's pitching. The game was hyped heavily in Detroit and it actually lived up to the billing strictly in a baseball sense. Weaver wasn't quite as sharp as Verlander -- few have been -- but he allowed only four hits and struck out eight in 6 2/3 innings.

Maicer Izturis. He calmly stroked a base hit to left field to save the Angels the indignity they had inflicted on the Cleveland Indians four days earlier: a no-hitter.

The Bad:

Magglio Ordonez's antics. He got a hanging slider and pummeled it over the left-field fence to determine this duel's outcome early. Then, he took a while to enjoy the sight of it sailing away. That's great, Magglio, but act like you've been there before. Oh wait, he hasn't been -- often. It was only Ordonez's fourth home run this year.

Carlos Guillen's antics. Guillen made a big show of standing at the plate after his seventh-inning solo blast off Weaver. He also stared at him the whole way to first. It seems like kind of a childish move for such a respected veteran. Too bad baseball doesn't have a 15-yard penalty for taunting.

Weaver's temper. Even with all of that being said, for Weaver to throw a 92-mph fastball over Alex Avila's head was ridiculous. You could see in Weaver's eyes before that pitch that he was seething. Poor sportsmanship is one thing; throwing at a player's head is about safety. Weaver deserved to be ejected.

Angels 5, Tigers 1: Three Up, Three Down

July, 30, 2011
Dan HarenDave Reginek/Getty ImagesDan Haren stepped up to give the Angels the strong pitching performance they needed Saturday in Detroit.

The Angels have been shut out so far before the trade deadline, but they managed to beat the Detroit Tigers 5-1 and keep the heat on the Texas Rangers in the AL West. They trail by just two games going into Sunday, the final day for teams to make trades in which players don't have to clear waivers.

The Good:

Pitching. The Angels' pitching might be good enough to keep them in this thing all the way to the end, no matter what the hitters do. The marquee game is Sunday when Cy Young favorites Jered Weaver and Justin Verlander square off. Meanwhile, Dan Haren said, "Hold on a minute," by pitching nine workmanlike innings. He struck out only one batter, but he gave the bullpen a day off and that's usually good news.

Defense. Don't be fooled. Pitching is the most important component of baseball defense, but the other component -- fielding -- was equally sharp Saturday. Haren, Peter Bourjos and Erick Aybar all made highlight-reel plays to keep the big right-hander chugging along. In a way, Saturday epitomized this season for the Angels.

Trumbo's production. Mark Trumbo has driven in runs in every game in this series. He has a chance to hit 30 home runs, 30 doubles and drive in 100 runs, which should give him the Rookie of the Year no matter what his batting average is. The Angels were kicking the tires on acquiring a big bat during trade talks, but maybe they already have one.

The Bad:

Re-scuffling. Vernon Wells seemed to have found his stroke, but he has stumbled into another cold streak to drop his average to .215. Wells has four hits in his last 29 at-bats (.138) and he hasn't driven in a run in six straight games. To get consistent, the Angels need the middle of their order to show more life more frequently than it has this season.

Inaction. Perhaps teams are asking for unreasonable returns -- say, Mike Trout for example -- but it's looking as if the Angels might not make a major move at the trade deadline. That's not necessarily GM Tony Reagins' fault, but it's not a great message to the Angels pitchers as they try to keep the team in the race almost singlehandedly these days. Plenty of useful players moved around on Saturday and none of them are headed to Detroit to join the Angels so far. The deadline is Sunday at 1 p.m. PDT.

Jeff Mathis. It wouldn't be a "3 Up, 3 Down," if we didn't point out that Mathis went 0-for-3 and is batting .187.

Angels 12, Tigers 7: Three Up, Three Down

July, 28, 2011
The Angels did a week's worth of scoring in one day, pounding the Detroit Tigers 12-7 at Comerica Park on Thursday afternoon.

The Good:

Rookie rakes. When Mark Trumbo got back to the dugout in the ninth inning after grounding sharply to shortstop and falling a single shy of the cycle, you could see him laughing on the bench with Ervin Santana. Trumbo had a chance to push Santana, who pitched a no-hitter the day before, out of the headlines. Still, it was another impressive day -- five RBIs -- in a big rookie year for Trumbo, whose 19 home runs and 55 RBIs lead the team.

Two hits! Plenty of other Angels had better days at the plate than Jeff Mathis, but since we've been so hard on the catcher's offense in this blog we figured we'd tip the cap. Mathis had an RBI single and pulled a smart move and bunted for a hit when the third baseman was playing in shallow left field.

Stabilizer. Bobby Cassevah has been a pleasant surprise since he became the latest Triple-A reliever to ride the shuttle from Salt Lake. He pitched 2 1/3 innings when the Angels badly needed to slow down the Tigers offense, allowing their late rally to put things away tidily.

The Bad:

Struggling starter. Something is seriously amiss with Joel Pineiro, who has been awful for about a month. He kept squandering leads until Mike Scioscia had no choice but to pull him in the fourth inning. Pineiro has to get a better handle on his sinker soon or the Angels could be forced to look elsewhere for help in their rotation.

"Big" bats. The veteran trio of Torii Hunter, Bobby Abreu and Vernon Wells collectively went 2-for-14. The Angels won despite their three middle-of-the-order bats, which -- unfortunately -- has been a trend much of this season.

Sitting Trout. It bears repeating: If the Angels aren't going to find playing time for prospect Mike Trout, why is he still around? Trout has played just one of the last four games. Unless the Angels have a trade working involving one of their outfielders, they need to figure out what to do with this special talent. Trout needs to start playing every day, somewhere.

Tigers 5, Angels 4: Three Up, Three Down

July, 6, 2011
ANAHEIM -- The Angels' offense stalled after the first inning in a 5-4 loss to the Detroit Tigers at Angel Stadium Wednesday afternoon. Four of the Angels' six hits came in the first inning. Miguel Cabrera hit a two-run home run in the seventh to help the Tigers escape a sweep.

The Good:

Fast start. The Angels seemed to be carrying plenty of confidence from having won seven straight series into the first inning against Brad Penny. They bunched four hits to score three runs right away. Vernon Wells had an RBI double and Howie Kendrick a two-run single. After that, not much.

Torii's stroke.Torii Hunter made a bold prediction before the game, telling me: "The second half is going to be totally different, I can tell you that." Starting Monday, he'll get four days to rest a body that has been battered by outfield walls and errant pitches. He got a head start on a strong second half with two hard-hit singles to right field, a good sign that his swing is improving.

Burgeoning power. Only two rookies in baseball lead their teams in home runs. One is Danny Espinosa of the Washington Nationals. The other is Mark Trumbo, who launched his 14th in the seventh inning. Like a lot of power hitters, the big first baseman tends to hit home runs in bunches. Last month, he hit three in a seven-game stretch.

The Bad:

Walk-a-thon. Tyler Chatwood has a lot going for him. He's super-young (just 21) for a big-leaguer, he has a good arm and competes well on the mound. What he doesn't yet have is good command. Chatwood walked five more batters, giving him the AL lead (tied with another youngster, Kyle Drabek of Toronto) with 52 walks. He could make things so much easier on himself by making hitter's earn their way on.

Walk-a-thon II. Walks are also holding back reliever Hisanori Takahashi, who gave up the tying runs in part because of his inability to throw strikes. Takahashi has walked 14 batters this season, just four fewer than Angels starter Dan Haren, in well less than one-third as many innings.

Deep fly. It was home runs that got Michael Kohn sent back to the minor leagues less than two weeks into the season. He hadn't given one up since he was brought back up in mid-June, but he fell behind Miguel Cabrera 2-and-1 and pumped one right down the middle. Cabrera did what he does: He yanked it over the left-field fence to give Detroit a two-run lead.



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