Los Angeles Angels: Jeff Mathis

Frieri should be a good bullpen fit

May, 4, 2012
5/04/12
5:45
PM PT
ANAHEIM -- Ernesto Frieri was enjoying an off-day Thursday with his wife and baby girl in San Diego when he received a call from Padres general manager Josh Byrnes, who informed him that he had just been traded to the Angels in exchange for minor leaguers Alexi Amarista and Donn Roach.

"I was like, 'Wow,' " Frieri said Friday before the Angels hosted the Toronto Blue Jays. "But then, two hours later, I was like, 'Wow, that's a really good team. I'll take it.' I'm very glad to be here."

Frieri, a 26-year-old right-hander from Colombia, received even more assurance from Padres manager Bud Black, a former pitching coach with the Angels under Mike Scioscia.

"He said, 'Ernie, you're going to a great organization,' " Frieri said. "He told me that Scioscia is a really nice guy and that there's a great coaching staff here. I believe him."

Scioscia says he hopes Frieri can help strengthen the back-end of the bullpen. Angels relievers ranked 26th in the majors with a 4.89 ERA heading into Friday's game.

"All reports point to a guy that will really fit in our bullpen and be part of a component that will hold leads for us," Scioscia said.

To make room for Frieri the Angels optioned right-hander Kevin Jepsen (0-1, 10.29 ERA) to Triple-A Salt Lake City.

"He needs to get on the mound and get hitters out," Scioscia said of Jepsen. "Hopefully he's going to get his game together to where he can be a part of our bullpen in the near future. We need an arm like that, no doubt."

Chris Iannetta, meanwhile, is out of the starting lineup for the second consecutive night as he nurses a sore right wrist. Iannetta was hit by a pitch Wednesday against the Minnesota Twins and X-rays were negative. Scioscia said Iannetta would be available Friday if needed.

In other catching news, Jeff Mathis will make his first appearance in Anaheim since being shipped off to Toronto in a December trade. Mathis spent seven years with the Angels.

Lineups for Friday's game:

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Jered Weaver says he'll miss Jeff Mathis

March, 7, 2012
3/07/12
3:13
PM PT

AP Photo/Chris Carlson
The Angels put up with Jeff Mathis' feeble hitting for six seasons primarily because they liked the way he worked with their pitchers.

If there was one risk in trading Mathis, a .194 career hitter, to Toronto in the off-season, it was this: How will it affect Jered Weaver. The Angels' ace worked almost exclusively with Mathis in recent seasons.

After throwing to new catcher Chris Iannetta for the first time spring, Weaver acknowledged it's not going to be easy.

"I’m definitely going to miss Jeff. When you’ve had that kind of relationship with somebody, you pretty much know what each other’s thinking and what each other wants to do," Weaver said. "It’s going to be a little different, no doubt about it, when you get a new guy -- the way he catches a ball, the way he sets up, the way he calls a game.

"I mean, it’s all going to be different, so it’s going to take a little while to get on the same page, but he’s a workhorse. He wants to win, he’s a competitor and he wants to get better."

The results were just fine Wednesday against the Seattle Mariners. Weaver got through two scoreless innings, pitching out of a bases-loaded jam in the second, using only his fastball and changeup. The Angels acquired Iannetta for pitcher Tyler Chatwood in a trade with the Colorado Rockies.

Hank Conger fighting for a chance

February, 24, 2012
2/24/12
2:43
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Going from top prospect to productive major-leaguer isn't as easy as it looks.

Hank Conger is desperately trying to make that transition, but after a season in which he batted .209 in 197 plate appearances and struggled with the defensive demands on a catcher, he doesn't know how much longer his window will stay open.

"I knew after last season ended it was going to be an uphill battle for me just to make the team [this spring]," Conger said.

The switch-hitting catcher was the Angels' No. 1 prospect entering the 2010 season, but he has yet to gain a foothold in the major leagues. The Angels traded for Rockies catcher Chris Iannetta, who figures to be the mainstay behind the plate and Bobby Wilson seems to fit the profile of a backup better than Conger, 24.

(Read full post)

Chris Iannetta already knows the angles

February, 21, 2012
2/21/12
3:24
PM PT
As a math major at North Carolina, Chris Iannetta had to get through courses such as Advanced Calculus II, Functions of a Complex Variable with Applications and Elementary Differential Equations.


Icon SMI
Chris Iannetta feels comfortable with the numbers.


So, he ought to know the difference between .301 and .172. As a baseball player, he can’t help but know that’s the glaring divide between his batting average at hitter’s-haven Coors Field and every other stadium he played in last year.

He just doesn’t care.

“I don’t think it’s any trend. I don’t believe in that. I think it’s just something that happens and something that can be analyzed statistically later on,” Iannetta said.

It already has been, with some people wondering whether the Angels were getting a player whose numbers will collapse when he comes down to sea level. Iannetta points out that in 2008, his best season, he hit .280 on the road and .250 at home.

And, by the way, he has no problem with people slicing and dicing the numbers. If he weren’t busy here with a new team and trying to satisfy Mike Scioscia’s high demands for catchers, he might even join them. The Society for Baseball Research (SABR) would seem to have the perfect on-field spokesman in Iannetta.

“Any way you can analyze a game and process it and find enjoyment from baseball is fine with me,” he said.

Even if Iannetta bats just .208 this year (his lifetime average away from Coors), he’ll be an offensive upgrade over the Angels’ previous No. 1 catcher, Jeff Mathis, a .194 lifetime hitter. It goes well beyond that, though, because Iannetta is more powerful (.430 slugging percentage to .301) and more patient (.357 on-base percentage to .257) than Mathis.

(Read full post)

Position previews: Catcher

January, 31, 2012
1/31/12
12:11
PM PT

AP Photo/David Zalubowski
A few days before general manager Jerry Dipoto made a couple of loud noises in the free-agent market, he made two lower-decibel moves that nonetheless resonated with Angels fans.

Dipoto traded young pitcher Tyler Chatwood to the Colorado Rockies for catcher Chris Iannetta and followed that up three days later by sending catcher Jeff Mathis to Toronto for pitcher Brad Mills.

Many Angels fans, tired of watching Mathis' feeble at-bats, seemed joyous over the news. But how much better -- if at all -- will it make the team? Are the Angels simply giving up defense to gain offense? Or, was Mathis' defense -- the subject of periodic rhapsodies from manager Mike Scioscia -- overrated? Is Iannetta even a much better hitter?

The first few questions are difficult, maybe impossible, to answer. Baseball analytics have come a long way in the last 10 years, but they come up short when it comes to breaking down a catcher's contributions to stopping the other team from scoring.

I got assistance from ESPN statistical analyst Mark Simon, who said what I suspected. There really is no good overarching measure of a catcher’s defense. Here’s what we have to go by:

Angels pitchers had a 3.25 ERA when Mathis was catching. Only Philadelphia’s Carlos Ruiz had a better CERA among guys who caught at least 80 games. They had a 3.86 ERA with any other Angels catcher.

Rockies pitchers had a 4.22 ERA when Iannetta was catching. They had a 4.84 ERA with any other Rockies catcher.

Summary: Both guys were slightly better than the on-hand alternatives at helping pitchers succeed, but we can’t even say that with certainty. What if they were better because they were paired with better pitchers? It’s not uncommon for a manager to give his best catcher a day off when the fifth starter is pitching, figuring that game is a crap shoot anyway.

But we can safely assume, probably, that both Mathis and Iannetta are good at catching and that Mathis is a little better than Iannetta.

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Wilson still on the Angels' radar

December, 5, 2011
12/05/11
7:51
PM PT
DALLAS -- The Angels started their offseason movements before coming here for the winter meetings, but that doesn’t mean they are simply watching the “winter market” while they're here.

Front office officials for Angels arrived 18 people strong, according to two sources, ready to strengthen the team that wound up second in the AL West.

The Angels filled one of their main needs last week with the addition of catcher Chris Ianneta from the Colorado Rockies in exchange for pitcher Tyler Chatwood.

Saturday, they sent catcher Jeff Mathis to Toronto, after Mathis never achieved what was expected from him offensively and one of the reasons the Angels decided to move Mike Napoli in 2010 to those same Blue Jays.

Ianetta batted .238 with 14 homers and 55 RBIs in 112 games for the Rockies last season. Mathis had a .174 average with three homers and 22 RBIs in 93 games.

Now, the Angels are trying to get a fourth or fifth starter who can work behind Jered Weaver, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana in the rotation, maybe ahead of veteran Jerome Williams.

Jerry Dipoto, the Angels' new general manager, said they are still interested in left-hander C.J. Wilson, who in the past two seasons was a starter for the Texas Rangers, the two-time AL champions.

“We have expressed our interest in improving certain areas,” Dipto said Saturday. “And we are no different than the other 29 teams in the major leagues; starting pitching is our priority.”

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Q&A with new GM Jerry Dipoto

November, 11, 2011
11/11/11
11:57
AM PT

Rick Scuteri/US Presswire
Jerry Dipoto said the Angels won't "lock the door" on going after an impact player.
Jerry Dipoto was named senior vice president and general manager of the Los Angeles Angels on Oct. 29, replacing Tony Reagins after the Angels missed the postseason for the second consecutive year.

Dipoto, 43, spent the last six years as the Arizona Diamondbacks’ vice president of player development and scouting. He pitched in the majors for seven years, and his front-office experience includes scouting for the Boston Red Sox and serving as director of player personnel for the Colorado Rockies.

I sat down with Dipoto to talk about his offseason plans and to hear his blueprint for the Angels.

Bowden: You were interim GM of the Diamondbacks in 2010 and made a couple of significant trades [Dan Haren to the Angels for a package including Joe Saunders and highly regarded prospect Tyler Skaggs; Edwin Jackson to the Chicago White Sox for pitcher Daniel Hudson]. How disappointed were you that you didn’t get that job?

Dipoto: I expected there would be other good candidates and, of course, I was disappointed but I also understood. However, I also was given an opportunity to work and learn from Kevin Towers, who taught me the value of a group of players that have a common goal and that the makeup and character of the players had be the anchor and the most important trait of a player even before their physical ability, scouting reports or statistical analysis.

Bowden: Who were some of your other baseball mentors besides Towers?

Dipoto: I was blessed with a long list of baseball executives that I learned from. Josh Byrnes, who’s now the GM of the Padres; Bob Gebhart, who I played for as well as worked with; John Hart, who I also played for and studied; Dan O’Dowd, the GM of the Rockies who I worked with really from ages 21 to 40; Theo Epstein briefly. Each of them taught me a different angle and I learned from all of them. Other baseball influences include Bobby Valentine, Dallas Green, Roland Hemond, the late Bill LaJoie and Jim Fregosi.
Bowden: Do you think it is an advantage that you played in the major leagues?
Dipoto: There are a lot of smart people in baseball, some that played the game and some that didn’t, so I’m not sure that matters in terms of success. However, I do think it gives me credibility when I talk to players and the fact that I’ve walked in their shoes. It allows me empathy to understand how tough a game it is to play.

Bowden: Going into spring training will the Angels’ outfield be Torii Hunter in right field, Peter Bourjos in center field and Mike Trout in left field?

Dipoto: Right now it’s Hunter in right field, Bourjos in center field and Vernon Wells in left field. Trout will need to play his way onto the team. I know one thing, he’s going to play every day, and if it’s not in the major leagues then it will be in our farm system. Wells deserves a chance to bounce back. Throughout his career he has a history of bouncing back the year after he’s had a down year. Wells needs to be protected. That being said, we’ll play the best three outfielders on opening day, and if Mike Trout is one of those three, we won’t hold him back.

Bowden: Can you give us an update on Kendrys Morales and whether he will be ready to impact the club at first base or DH in 2012?

Dipoto: Morales is a work in progress. We will know more in January. It’s uncertain how his health is going to play out.

Bowden: Morales is arbitration eligible, will you tender him a contract given the health concerns?

Dipoto: In all likelihood we will tender him.

Bowden: Mike Scioscia used a platoon behind the plate with Hank Conger, Jeff Mathis and Bobby Wilson in 2011. How do you see the catching position for 2012?

Dipoto: We are going to continue to try and sort it out. Catching, as you know, is a tough position to fill, and we will continue to search for more depth of major league-caliber catchers.

Bowden: Hank Conger hasn’t been given a chance to be the everyday catcher despite many baseball people feeling that he could be the long-term answer. Are you going to give him a chance?

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Angels free-agency primer: What they need

October, 31, 2011
10/31/11
10:50
AM PT

AP Photo, Getty Images
The top of the Angels' rotation isn't a concern. It's the 4 and 5 spots that could use some help.

New Los Angeles Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto will have a few days to unpack and settle into his new office.

Until Thursday, teams can only negotiate with their own free agents. The odds of the Angels bringing back Russell Branyan, Joel Pineiro or Fernando Rodney are infinitesimal. Branyan didn’t play, Pineiro lost the ability to get American League hitters out and Rodney constantly grumbled about his lack of use.

By Thursday, Dipoto should have a pretty good idea of what he has, what he needs and what he’s working with. He has a team with some promising building blocks, but encumbered by escalating salaries for aging players. He needs a veteran late-inning reliever and a starter. He would like a catcher and, perhaps, a power-hitting third baseman.

He’s not working with as much as it once appeared he might. Angels owner Arte Moreno told reporters on Saturday he’d like to keep a lid on the payroll at $140 million and the Angels already have $99 million tied up in nine veteran players on long-term contracts. It will cost them about $20 million more to keep all their arbitration-eligible players, plus roughly $2 million more to sign all the young guys making the minimum.

That means, even if he can persuade Moreno to stretch the budget, he’ll be looking at a roughly $19 million budget to address multiple needs.

This probably won’t be a big-splash kind of winter in Anaheim, but it could be a pivotal one. Let’s delve into some of Dipoto's needs:

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Angels turn, desperately, to Joel Pineiro

September, 25, 2011
9/25/11
10:47
AM PT
Today is hold-your-breath time if you still believe the Angels have a chance to reach the playoffs.

They're relying on Joel Pineiro, who is 0-3 with a 10.26 ERA vs. the Oakland A's this season and recently referred to those struggles as the "curse of the elephant." With the Angels 2 1/2 games out in the wild card with just four games left, look for Mike Scioscia to get a reliever up at the first sign of major trouble.

Mark Trumbo, who left Friday's game with discomfort in his right ankle, declared himself fit to play.

Here is Scioscia's lineup for the Sunday afternoon game:

Oakland

1. Jemile Weeks 2B

2. Coco Crisp CF

3. Hideki Matsui DH

4. Josh Willingham LF

5. David DeJesus RF

6. Scott Sizemore 3B

7. Brandon Allen 1B

8. Erik Sogard SS

9. Landon Powell

Angels

1. Erick Aybar SS

2. Howie Kendrick 2B

3. Bobby Abreu DH

4. Torii Hunter RF

5. Mark Trumbo 1B

6. Alberto Callaspo 3B

7. Vernon Wells LF

8. Peter Bourjos CF

9. Jeff Mathis C

A's 3, Angels 1: Three Up, Three Down

September, 23, 2011
9/23/11
8:37
PM PT
ANAHEIM -- The Angels simply can't get themselves into a race that's been standing there waiting for them.

They lost to the Oakland A's 3-1 Friday night at Angel Stadium to eliminate themselves from the AL West race and to imperil their wild-card chances. The Angels, who have gone 5-7 in their last 12 games, now trail the Boston Red Sox -- rained out in New York -- by 3 1/2 games with five games left.

The Texas Rangers, who beat the Seattle Mariners earlier in the evening, watched the end of the Angels' game on the stadium scoreboard in Arlington before celebrating their second straight AL West title.

The Good:

Weaver's work. In between a rocky first inning and a rocky eighth, Jered Weaver was at his most efficient. He struck out seven batters and allowed just five hits. You could see the fatigue starting to get to him in his final inning of work, when he had a wild pitch and threw a pitch over catcher Jeff Mathis' head on a pitchout. Weaver is about precision, so it was a bit out of character. Solo home runs by Jemile Weeks and David DeJesus were Weaver's only appreciable mistakes.

Alarm bell. When Torii Hunter slammed a home run into the right-center field seats in the seventh inning, it was an unfamiliar sight: a run. Hunter's shot broke up 12 scoreless innings for the Angels offense and was just the second hit Oakland starter Gio Gonzalez had allowed.

Aybar's dive. Shortstop Erick Aybar made a diving stop in shallow left field on Scott Sizemore's sharp grounder in the fifth inning, but that wasn't the impressive part of the play. Aybar sprang to his feet in one fluid motion and threw Sizemore out by a half-step. That brought an appreciative roar from the crowd.

The Bad:

Bat rot. The Angels clearly have stumbled into an offensive funk. Entering the seventh inning Friday, they had gone 10 innings with just three base runners and one of them (Vernon Wells) reached on an error. The Angels' offense has been streaky all year. This latest cold streak is sinking the season.

Trout trouble. A combination of sporadic playing time and major-league pitching appear to be getting to Mike Trout. The Angels' best prospect, only 20, is finally starting to look overmatched at times. He is in a 1-for-22 slump and he struck out twice Friday, swinging and looking. It's looking like Trout could begin next season at Triple-A, which wouldn't be a bad idea given his age.

Clutch defense. The Angels have made some fielding mistakes at bad times lately. Mark Trumbo's error allowed the tying run to score Thursday and Maicer Izturis couldn't stop Weeks' sharp grounder in the eighth Friday that let the go-ahead run score. It wasn't an easy play, but it was an error.

Angels 4, A's 1: Three Up, Three Down

September, 14, 2011
9/14/11
4:03
PM PT
OAKLAND -- Jered Weaver got stronger as the game went along to pick up his 17th win and the Angels continued to keep the heat on the Texas Rangers with a 4-1 win at Oakland Wednesday afternoon.

After Texas beat the Cleveland Indians 9-1 Wednesday night, the Angels were still three games back with 13 left. They gained a game on the Boston Red Sox in the wild-card race, which they now trail by 4 1/2 games.

The Good:

Cruise control. Wednesday wasn't particularly comfortable for Weaver. He struck out only one batter and had messes to clean up in each of the first three innings. But once he survived all that early noise, he got into a good groove, cruising through seven innings and setting up the possibility that he can pitch Sunday in Baltimore on three days' rest. That way, he can give the Angels three more starts.

Rested, ready. Manager Mike Scioscia gave Mark Trumbo Tuesday's game off after he saw evidence Trumbo was grinding hard trying to snap out of a hitting funk. That worked out well when the Angels' Rookie of the Year candidate sent a two-run home run screaming over the left-field wall in the sixth inning and pounded a single off the right-field wall two innings later. Trumbo usually doesn't stay down long. He's four home runs shy of Tim Salmon's team rookie record, 31.

Veteran presence. Bobby Abreu's career appears to be in the decline phase, but you get the impression he could still have a key part to play in this race. Abreu had the biggest hit of this series, the RBI double that tied Wednesday's game in the sixth. Abreu was on base three times and scored two of the Angels' runs. It was an important day for Abreu with youngster Mike Trout in the midst of a slump.

The Bad:

Bottom half. This is fairly commonplace in baseball and something that has plagued the Angels all year. The bottom of their lineup tends to be where rallies go to do. The Nos. 6 through 9 hitters went 2-for-15, both singles.

Willingham able. The way Josh Willingham stands out in the A's lineup, you'd think Angels pitchers might have been a little more careful. Somehow, Willingham got pitches to hit and he hit them quite hard. He mashed his 25th and 26th home runs while going 6-for-10 with seven RBIs in this series. No other A's regular has hit more than 13 home runs.

Sun spots. Peter Bourjos is a brilliant young center fielder, but lately he has had trouble with balls in the sun. He lost Brandon Allen's ninth-inning pop-up for a sun-aided double three days after dropping a Mark Teixeira fly ball that accounted for the losing run. It might take Bourjos a while to figure out how to approach balls at various stadiums. Oakland can be one of the tougher sun fields.

Angels 6, Yankees 0: Three Up, Three Down

September, 10, 2011
9/10/11
9:10
PM PT
ANAHEIM -- The Angels look like they're serious about this whole pennant-race thing.

With a dominating 6-0 win over the New York Yankees Saturday night, the Angels pulled to within 1 1/2 games of the Texas Rangers in the AL West. This is the closest the Angels have been to first place since Aug. 10.

The Yankees hadn't seen pitching this good in a while. It was the first time anyone had held them to one run or fewer in back-to-back games since the Baltimore Orioles did so in September of 2004.

The Good:

Ace race. Dan Haren (15-8) pitched just a tad better than Jered Weaver had the night before, going an extra inning and securing the win. Haren's fastball didn't touch 90 mph all night, but he still picked up his fifth career shutout. Power hasn't been a part of either pitcher's success lately, but the results are just as dominant. It was Haren's best outing since a complete-game shutout against the Detroit Tigers on July 5.

Young talent. Mark Trumbo and Mike Trout, a pair of rookies, sparked most of the Angels' offense, which wasn't much until the seventh inning. Trumbo had three singles off CC Sabathia and Trout doubled and drove in the Angels' second run with an excuse-me bloop single to right. If you're projecting the Angels' future, these guys would be right in the middle of things. In fact, they're right in the middle of the present.

Beleaguered catcher. Jeff Mathis has had a rough year. He came into the game batting .176 and he's been relentlessly beaten up in the media and on message boards and call-in shows. But the Yankees seem to bring out the best in Mathis' bat. He pounded their pitching in the 2009 playoffs and Saturday he doubled, homered and scored two runs.

The Bad:

Grinding halt. Vernon Wells just can't sustain any positive momentum. He had it going for a while, but that push has come crashing to a halt in the last few series. Wells went 1-for-5 and stranded eight runners, seemingly defusing every Angels rally for a while. He is 7-for-32 (.219) since the Angels returned from Seattle.

Kendrick's jump. The Angels figured they would test catcher Jorge Posada, considering the 40-year old hadn't caught all season, so Howie Kendrick tried to steal... and was thrown out easily despite an awful throw from Posada. Kendrick is not a great base stealer. He has 13 stolen bases this year and has been caught five times.

Lineups? Is it time to put the Trout Effect to the test? The Angels are 20-4 in games Trout has started, but the 20-year-old uber-prospect still often is benched when the Angels are facing a right-handed pitcher. Maybe Mike Scioscia should ditch that strategy and give Wells a day off instead against Freddy Garcia Sunday?

Angels 2, Yankees 1: Three Up, Three Down

September, 9, 2011
9/09/11
10:09
PM PT
ANAHEIM -- The Angels found a way to win a game they desperately needed.

Maicer Izturis, pinch-hitting in the ninth inning, produced the game-winning RBI for the second straight game as the Angels beat the New York Yankees 2-1 in front of 41,014 fans at Angel Stadium Friday. The win kept the Angels 2 1/2 games behind the first-place Texas Rangers, who beat the Oakland A's 13-4 earlier.

The Good:

He's back. Jered Weaver's Cy Young-caliber season veered off the road about a month ago, but Friday he steered it back into the correct lane. Weaver was masterful through eight innings, striking out 11 Yankees, and allowing just one run -- on Jesus Montero's long solo home run -- on three hits. Coming into this start, Weaver had a 6.67 ERA since Aug. 5.

He's back II. Howie Kendrick has been the most slump-resistant Angel this season, but his time finally arrived. Kendrick was in an 0-for-18 skid before he lined a Bartolo Colon pitch to right field, driving in Peter Bourjos with the tying run in the fifth inning.

Tiny ball. Does it seem like the Angels bunt their way on base a lot? Well, why shouldn't they? Mike Scioscia thinks this is the fastest team he's ever had and they're showing it. The Angels have 38 bunt hits this season, most in the majors. The leaders are Bourjos with 15 and Erick Aybar with 12. They both bunted their way on Friday night.

The Bad:

Offense. The Angels have been in a funk on this homestand, but up to now it has been obscured by the weak opposition. Their hitting issues got exposed a bit Friday, when ex-Angel Bartolo Colon came in and dominated them for seven innings. It was Colon's best start since at least early July. Note to Angels: This isn't 2005.

Support. When your ace pitches this well, you generally should reward him with a win. The Angels gave Weaver tons of support in his last start, when he won despite giving up six runs in five innings. But in his past 10 outings, the Angels have scored zero or one run while he was in the game six times. That's no way to give Justin Verlander Cy Young competition.

Strike zone? Umpire Dan Bellino caught a lot of flak, both from the Angels dugout and the fans. He called out Mark Trumbo on a pitch that the TV replay seemed to indicate was inside and, perhaps, low, then gave Alex Rodriguez some borderline pitches during a ninth-inning walk.

Mariners 2, Angels 1: Three Up, Three Down

September, 6, 2011
9/06/11
10:12
PM PT
Ervin SantanaGary A. Vasquez/US PresswireErvin Santana had a good start but also committed a costly error that contributed to two unearned runs.

ANAHEIM -- The Angels had as many errors, four, as hits Tuesday night and -- not surprisingly -- they lost to Felix Hernandez and the Seattle Mariners, 2-1 at Angel Stadium.

The mistakes proved costly, as did the loss. The Angels dropped a game in the standings and now trail the Texas Rangers by 3 1/2 with 20 games left.

The Good:

Staying hot. Ervin Santana wasn't particularly dominant and he made one of the errors that cost him two unearned runs, but he continues to be the Angels' best starting pitcher in recent weeks. Santana got through six laborious innings and hasn't had a bad start since the end of May. He had to swallow just his second loss since June 15.

Learning fast. It didn't seem particularly noteworthy, but file Garrett Richards' scoreless seventh inning away. It was his first professional relief appearance and he seemed perfectly comfortable. Richards pitched around a single and an infield hit, struck out two and touched 94 mph on the radar gun. The 23-year-old rookie could be a significant addition to the bullpen this September.

Sparking things. Torii Hunter is showing some creativity -- and a willingness to set the table rather than clear it -- during this hot second half. With Hernandez dominating the Angels' lineup, Hunter bunted his way on, reached second on Hernandez's throwing error and scored a cheap run on Alberto Callaspo's single. It was a good example of scrapping for runs against a tough pitcher.

The Bad:

Slop. The Mariners committed five errors Monday night and the illness apparently is contagious. The Angels made four. They seemed incapable of making a routine play in the early innings, with errors by Santana and Erick Aybar leading to unearned runs. The mistakes were crucial, as well as being surprising, since this has been a solid fielding team all year.

Subs. A couple of Mike Scioscia's pinch-hitting decisions seemed odd. Twice, he pinch-hit for the catcher's spot with non-catchers, forcing him to use four guys for two substitutions. Neither Mike Trout or Howie Kendrick got on base and, meanwhile, two left-handed hitters, Hank Conger and Russell Branyan never got off the bench to face Hernandez. Strange.

Short. Balance has been a strength for the Angels lineup lately, but it hasn't been for most of the season. The Nos. 7, 8 and 9 hitters Tuesday went 0-for-10 with with a couple of strikeouts. They collectively reached base once, when Peter Bourjos struck out and got to first on a passed ball.

Angels 7, Mariners 3: Three Up, Three Down

September, 5, 2011
9/05/11
8:36
PM PT
ANAHEIM -- Mark Trumbo smashed a first-inning home run and drove in three runs to lead the Angels to a 7-3 win Monday night over the Seattle Mariners, who made five errors.

The win helped the Angels move to within 2 1/2 games of the first-place Texas Rangers, who lost 5-1 in Tampa Bay.

The Good:

Hanging on. Dan Haren may never have had a worse quality start. He couldn't break 90 mph with his fastball and the Mariners smacked 10 hits off him in six innings, but he managed to avoid disaster and happened to pitch on a night when the Angels offense got rolling. Haren's stuff looks shaky lately. In his last three starts combined, he has allowed 26 hits and struck out just 13 batters. One thing that's consistent: He doesn't walk people.

Power. You don't think of the Angels' as a powerful offense, but since the start of August they have been surprisingly brawny. Mark Trumbo smashed his 26th home run and Vernon Wells hit his 20th. Torii Hunter missed his 20th by a couple of feet, but judging by his home-run trot, he thought he had it. The Angels have hit 44 home runs since Aug. 1. Only three teams in the league have hit more and those guys all play in band boxes.

Trumbo. His mediocre batting average and the emergence of some good young pitchers in the American League are the only possible reasons he wouldn't win Rookie of the Year. He's not just putting up numbers (including 80 RBIs), he's helping the Angels hang in this race. His first-inning shot jump-started the offense for the second time in three games. He added an RBI double.

The Bad:

Atmosphere. Maybe it's because people were a bit drained after a holiday weekend, but it didn't feel like much of a pennant race in Anaheim Monday night. The announced crowd of 35,497 was subdued. Maybe they still need a little more proof this team is for real, or maybe it was just a mellow evening.

The kid. Here's what we know about Mike Trout in extremely limited exposure to the major leagues: His talent is off the charts and he's a bit streaky. Trout made some nice plays in left field and he seems to be adapting well to being an outfield nomad, but he's been hitless in three of his last four games.

No 'D' in Seattle. Committing five errors in a game is a good way to lose. It's a surefire way to lose when you're starting a shaky pitcher. The Mariners, who just got swept by the Oakland A's, were absolutely awful. This is a good example of why strength of schedule matters in a pennant race.

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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Howie Kendrick
BA HR RBI R
.293 7 75 85
OTHER LEADERS
HRM. Trout 36
RBIM. Trout 111
RM. Trout 115
OPSM. Trout .939
WJ. Weaver 18
ERAG. Richards 2.61
SOJ. Weaver 169