Los Angeles Angels: Los Angeles Dodgers

Sum of little mistakes Dodgers' new plague

August, 4, 2014
Aug 4

LOS ANGELES -- The last time the Los Angeles Dodgers were in a series with a lot at stake in a stadium filled with revved-up fans stoked by a rivalry, they played their best baseball of the season, outscoring the San Francisco Giants 17-4 over a three-game sweep at AT&T Park two weekends ago.

Where did that team go?

A sloppy weekend against the last-place Chicago Cubs seemed pretty easy to explain, as the back of the Dodgers’ rotation continued to sputter in two of those games.

But the lights were bright again Monday night, the steamrolling Los Angeles Angels were in town and it felt as if it would once again bring out the Dodgers’ best. Their second-best starting pitcher, Zack Greinke, was on the mound.

[+] EnlargeCarl Crawford
Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY SportsCarl Crawford misjudged a ball off Mike Trout's bat that led to an RBI double in the first inning. It was one of several miscues for the Dodgers on Monday.
Instead, it brought out their bad habits. They fumbled the ball around at times, paid scant attention at times and made, according to the man who threw it, “one of the worst pitches ever thrown.”

Of course, there’s always tomorrow. The Dodgers are still in first place -- by a dwindling 1½ games -- and they have three more cracks to capture Southern California bragging rights for their fans over the next three nights, one of them behind Clayton Kershaw.

But the sloppiness that plagued the Dodgers in April and May has crept back into their play over the past four games. And it has begun to get on some peoples’ nerves. Some people who matter.

“You look at this game as a playoff-type game from the standpoint of the type of team you’re playing, and you make mistakes, you pay,” said Dodgers manager Don Mattingly. “It’s as simple as that.”

Hanley Ramirez, who had a -1.0 defensive WAR entering the game, according to Baseball Reference, made two throwing errors, one of which led to an unearned run in the first inning. The end of the half-inning saw the Dodgers in a quick 4-0 hole. Carl Crawford made two failed attempts at sliding catches, one of which was hit by Mike Trout -- one of the fastest players in baseball -- and it got by Crawford and went to the wall for an RBI double.

Yasiel Puig put his head down and allowed Albert Pujols -- far from one of the fastest players in the game -- to tag up and take second base.

It was the kind of effort that would get you beaten by a team like the Cubs. Against a team like the Angels, who play strong defense and are 23 games over .500 in the powerhouse AL West, it’s a good way to get embarrassed.

It was not the way the Dodgers wanted to start off this interleague series, especially in front of more than 53,000 fans.

“We’ve had three games [in the past four] where we basically lost in the first inning,” Mattingly said.

That trend is beginning to bother Greinke, too. Like fellow starter Dan Haren, many of his worst starts have seen him labor early. He has a 5.87 ERA in the first inning.

“It seems to be the problem too often,” Greinke said. “I was not even close to hitting the spot to Trout and Pujols, and they did what they should have.”

His sixth-inning changeup to Josh Hamilton was thrown too hard and right down the middle, and Hamilton pummeled it over the right-field wall.

“That was probably up there with the worst pitches ever thrown,” Greinke said. “I just couldn’t believe I could throw that bad a pitch at that important a time.”

The Dodgers described Angels starter Garrett Richards as “electric,” and he certainly was that, touching 96 mph in the ninth inning and striking out nine batters to get the shutout. But he mostly just piled up ground balls, 12 in all. The Dodgers got only four balls airborne off Richards.

There are games when the opposing pitcher is simply going to be better than you. It hurts more when you make it that much easier for him.

Dodgers vs. Angels: Who has the edge?

January, 24, 2013
Who knows, maybe this is the season it finally happens. The Dodgers, having spared no expense, will field a balanced, dangerous team and feel like they are positioned for a World Series run. The Angels, who jacked up their already formidable power with the surprise acquisition of Josh Hamilton, have similar aims.

If there really is to be a Freeway Series in 2013, a lot of things have to go right for both teams. But the team that made -- and makes -- the best personnel decisions likely will go further into October.

Let's break down the key areas of both rosters to try to decipher which team is better constructed to play longer into 2013.

Starting rotation

This is the part of the discussion in which Dodgers fans get to gloat and Angels fans have to just sit there and marinate. You could argue -- in fact, you don't really even have to -- that the Dodgers have better pitchers in all five spots.

We know this because one of the Angels starters, Joe Blanton, couldn't have cracked the Dodgers' seven deep. We also know this because one of the Dodgers' starters, Zack Greinke, almost helped the Angels make the playoffs.

Jered Weaver is perfectly ace-like. About 25 teams would put him at the top of their rotation. He has finished in the top five in Cy Young voting three years running and even got a couple of MVP votes last year -- always a cool accomplishment for a pitcher. He won 20 games, had a sub-3.00 ERA for the second season in a row and usually gives you more than 200 innings. And we won't even hold the .250 and .241 BABIPs from the past two seasons against him. Weaver is a fly ball pitcher and he relies on mishits to pitch deep into games. He gets strikeouts when he needs them, which is quite often, actually.

The only reason he doesn't get the edge is that Clayton Kershaw might be the best pitcher in baseball. We don't need SABR to tell us that. It's not that scientific. For the past two seasons he led baseball in ERA and was in the top three in WAR for pitchers. If he's not the most dominant pitcher in baseball, he's in the team photo and it's a small team (probably Kershaw, Stephen Strasburg, Felix Hernandez and Justin Verlander).

So, the Dodgers get an edge in the No. 1 department, though it's a fairly slight edge because of Weaver's competitiveness and consistency. "Slight" isn't the right word for the rest of the Dodgers' edge in starting pitching.

Greinke has never come close to touching his 2009 Cy Young season, but neither has just about any other active pitcher. Greinke flirted with a sub-2.00 ERA, led the league in ERA+ and WHIP. Nobody could square him up. He gave up 0.4 home runs per nine innings. He was mediocre the following season, probably in part because of a personal crisis, but has gone 31-11 with a 3.63 ERA the past two years. Is he worth $147 million? Is any pitcher? He's as good a No. 2 starter as there is out there.

(Read full post)

At long last, Angels get their road test

June, 24, 2012

AP Photo/Chris Carlson
Albert Pujols celebrates after scoring on a single by Mark Trumbo during the seventh inning Sunday.
Monday morning, the Los Angeles Angels will board an airplane and travel three time zones east to begin a 10-game trip in the sticky air of Baltimore's Camden Yards. For about the past month, the only thing they've crossed has been lanes while driving to work. The only weather they've faced has been sunshine and refreshing breezes from the Pacific Ocean.

In other words, the test gets harder in the next few weeks. When the Angels returned home from Seattle on May 27, they were just beginning to hit their stride, still under .500 and wondering where this season that seemed so promising in February was headed by late spring.

After playing 21 of their next 24 games in Southern California, they finally hit the road this week as one of the most confident teams in the game, having gone 16-8 in this stretch and doing what they usually do -- paving over the National League. But, as usual when things change in this game, there's a certain fear of the unknown.

The next three series come against the Baltimore Orioles, Toronto Blue Jays and Cleveland Indians -- all above .500, all potential rivals for one of the league's two wild-card slots. They'll have to carry their momentum through a few security lines.

"I can't remember the last time I've been in a hotel room. It's been nice. I think we've really gelled the last month being together and being at home," outfielder Peter Bourjos said. "We did a lot of different things that kind of brought us together."

"It's going to be good to go out and play the East. Everybody in the division's got a pretty good record, so it's going to be fun and I think we can separate ourselves if we have a good series."

Manager Mike Scioscia saw his team finally forge an identity at home, capping strong starting pitching with stifling late-inning relief and supported by bats that have been thawing gradually as the weather grows warmer. Of course, July and August are the proving grounds in a major league season. This good stretch only sets the stage for what is to come, but for the first time, if the season ended today, the Angels would qualify for the playoffs.

"We need to keep growing," Scioscia said. "We're going to face tough clubs where we're going to have to go in and bring a level of play that's comparable to the way we've been playing the last three weeks or so. We match up well with the clubs we're going to play, but to win you have to play well."

Next season, the Angels welcome the Houston Astros to the AL West. Maybe that will remind them of their fondest time of the season, June's slate of interleague games. Since 2007, the Angels are 74-34 in interleague play. They went 12-6 this season, winning four of six from the Dodgers after Sunday's marathon 5-3 win.

And even if things get rocky over the next couple of weeks, the schedule sets up beautifully for the Angels. The All-Star break, on July 9-11, offers a respite during this grueling stretch.

If the American League manages to cool the Angels off in coming weeks, they won't be able to turn to any of their neighbors and complain. Their home town has treated them well.

3 Up, 3 Down: Angels 5, Dodgers 3

June, 24, 2012
ANAHEIM -- The Angels had things right where they wanted them -- National League teams in their stadium -- and they they took advantage to put their season back on track. The Angels beat the Dodgers 5-3 Sunday to take both series they played against their northern neighbors.

The Angels will bid a fond farewell to a seemingly endless stretch of games played at -- or near -- home. Starting Tuesday, the Angels are back in the American League portion of their schedule, embarking on a nine-game road trip to Baltimore, Toronto and Cleveland. They had played 21 of the previous 24 games in Southern California.

The Angels went 12-6 vs. the NL this season and have the best interleague record in the majors, 74-34, since 2007.

The Good:

Peter can. It's been a tough year for Peter Bourjos, one of the Angels' stalwarts last year relegated to the bench by the arrival of Mike Trout. Sunday, Bourjos got a rare start and made a good argument for more playing time. He got robbed of an RBI double when the umpire incorrectly ruled his fly down the right-field line was foul, but responded by pounding a two-run home run to left. He also later doubled on a chopper over the third baseman. It was some rare hitting success for an outfielder who has played flawless defense in 53 games.

Swift swimmer. Not that Bourjos can really complain. Trout forces himself into the action like few young players ever have. He has been on base more than any player in the American League since May 1 and he got on three more times Sunday. He also gave Albert Pujols an easy RBI chance by singling and promptly stealing second base in the fifth. Pujols dribbled one up the middle and, voila, the Angels had a lead. Trout has reached in 21 of his 24 stolen-base attempts.

Solid statement. Sunday was Garrett Richards' worst start since his late-May promotion and it qualified as a quality start. That tells you how solid he's been filling in for two injured veterans. It was a laborious afternoon for Richards, who gave up nine hits, but he got a couple of key double plays and worked deep into the seventh inning. He has a 1.63 ERA after four starts, which would appear to be enough to keep his spot in the rotation. We'll see.

The Bad:

Extra effort. One of the impressive things about Albert Pujols at this stage of his career is how hard he tries at aspects other than his hitting. It can at times be to his detriment, however. Saturday he gave up an easy out and tried to get Dee Gordon at third, making a costly error. Sunday he tried to take an extra base on strong-armed Juan Rivera and was out at third, replays confirmed. Playing aggressively and with passion is admirable, but only if it's tempered with a little more savvy. Mike Scioscia got ejected making Pujols' argument with Dan Iassogna.

Meanwhile... Iassogna got his call right. The other umpires had an awful day. Howie Kendrick made a brilliant diving stop of Adam Kennedy's grounder and threw to first in time to get the out, but umpire Bill Miller called him safe. Worse was the call on Bourjos' ball that sent up a small cloud of dust when it hit the chalk. Second-base ump Dale Scott also gave Erick Aybar the benefit of the doubt on a "phantom" tag on Jerry Hairston Jr.'s stolen base attempt. The infielders, apparently, weren't the only ones having trouble in the bright conditions.

Still soft. Kendrys Morales blooped a single to left and later scored a run after he was hit by a pitch, but he had a tough homestand and doesn't really look like a middle-of-the-order hitter right now. It seems reasonable to drop Morales down in the lineup until he gets his bat going again, especially now that Howie Kendrick has heated up and Mark Trumbo has continued to produce. Morales batted .172 with 12 strikeouts in 29 at-bats this homestand.

Jerome Williams on the mend

June, 24, 2012
The Angels aren't entirely sure when Jerome Williams will pitch for them again, but he sounds fairly confident it won't be long. That's encouraging news six days after Williams had to be hospitalized overnight after experiencing shortness of breath and passing out in the Angels clubhouse.

Williams threw a full-effort bullpen session Saturday and said he has felt no further trouble breathing since the incident. He has periodically suffered from asthma, but mostly when he was a toddler.

"I'm trying to forget what happened and keep going forward," Williams said.

Williams is eligible to return from the disabled list on July 4. Angels manager Mike Scioscia said he will pitch a simulated game next week in Baltimore and the team will wait for further direction from doctors and trainers before activating Williams.

At that time, they'll have to choose between Williams, rookie Garrett Richards, who pitches Sunday, and Ervin Santana for two spots in the rotation.

"Believe me, we're not going to lament the fact of having six starters in our rotation who are throwing the ball well when most teams are trying to put together two or three," Scioscia said.

Here is the Angels lineup for Sunday's series finale against the Dodgers. The Angels are trying to win their sixth straight series against their northern neighbors:

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

Santana gets back on the wave

June, 23, 2012
Ervin Santana Gary A. Vasquez/US PresswireNow that Ervin Santana is pitching better for the Angels, his calm demeanor seems to serve him well.

ANAHEIM -- Ervin Santana looks about the same whether he's giving up a monster home run or pitching a no-hitter.

He has a passive demeanor, as if he's taking his dog for a walk rather than competing for the highest stakes in a major-league stadium. It can come across as uncaring when he's struggling, but comes in handy when he's pitching well and his team is letting him down.

Saturday was one of those times when it was handy. For the second start in a row, Santana had dynamic stuff and, for the second start in a row, he was getting it to places hitters couldn't reach. Unlike his one-hitter six days earlier, Saturday's effort didn't stand up in a 3-1 loss to the Dodgers.

Albert Pujols got too aggressive with a throw that led to an error and a run. Maicer Izturis made at least one, maybe two, costly misplays that cost the Angels runs. And the Angels hitters seemed baffled against lefty Chris Capuano pitching in the late-afternoon shadows.

And, as usual, Santana seemed nonchalant after watching his record fall to 4-8. He didn't allow a walk or home run and he struck out 10 Dodgers.

"When I was pitching bad, I didn't get frustrated, so why do I have to be frustrated when I'm pitching better?" Santana said. "I know my team's going to get there, so I just have to keep pitching and everything's going to come to our side."

There is, in fact, some evidence to that effect. Going into Saturday, the Angels were 21-7 in their last 28 games, chewing up the National League, as usual, and pushing toward the top of the double-wild card race. Assuming this two-game sample size is the beginning of a trend for Santana, the Angels don't have much to worry about on the pitching side, even with Jerome Williams on the disabled list and Dan Haren a tick off his usual form.

But Santana has been a tease at times this year, pitching five good games from late April to mid-May before hitting the skids and surrendering home runs and walks in lethal doses for the next three weeks. Before his previous start, most observers considered him in imminent danger of being demoted to the bullpen.

"His season has gone in waves," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.

Santana spent a little quality time in the bullpen with pitching coach Mike Butcher on Wednesday, concentrating on one thing: location. He feels like he figured something out and the results the past two games back that up. His current form could allow him to keep a grip in yet another prime location: The Angels' rotation.

3 up, 3 down: Dodgers 3, Angels 1

June, 23, 2012

ANAHEIM -- The Angels took a break from dominating the National League on Saturday, pausing to play one of their least-inspiring games in a 3-1 loss to the Dodgers in front of a mixed crowd of 44,512 fans.

The Angels looked unfocused in the field, making three key misplays, and they were baffled for the second time in less than two weeks by soft-tossing lefty Chris Capuano. The Dodgers were able to squeeze out the narrow win despite managing just four hits.

The Good:

More progress. Ervin Santana took another step forward from the one-hitter against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Had his defense been better, in fact, he might have pitched another shutout. As it was, he pitched through the eighth inning, giving up only two earned runs and four hits. He struck out 10 batters and, for the first time this year, didn't walk anybody. Between the first and sixth innings, he set down 13 straight Dodgers. With Jerome Williams likely to return from the disabled list in a couple of weeks, Santana can use this time to cement his place in the rotation. He may be doing that.

Getting going. Erick Aybar may have been trying too hard to justify the four-year, $35 million contract extension he signed in April, because he was off to one of the worst starts of his career. Lately, Aybar looks more relaxed and he's picking up the pace near the bottom of the order. Aybar had two hits to continue his nine-game hitting streak, his longest this season. He's batting .441 in his last 12 games, giving the lineup a deeper look.

Ditto. Like his double-play partner, Howie Kendrick hasn't been living up to his new four-year deal, but maybe that may be gradually changing. Kendrick's slump was a bit more baffling than Aybar's, since many people consider him among the best pure hitters on the Angels' roster. Kendrick is having a modestly encouraging homestand, batting .333 with five doubles in 24 at-bats. Still, late June is arriving and Kendrick is stuck at a pedestrian .269 with just four home runs.

The Bad:

Good Dee, Bad 'D'. The Dodgers shortstop created all sorts of havoc in the Angels' defense, much as the Angels' speedsters try to do to other teams. Dee Gordon singled and stole second in the first inning. He advanced to third on Jerry Hairston Jr.'s tapper to Albert Pujols, whose throw hit Gordon in the back and allowed him to score. Later, Gordon sliced a ball to left and Mark Trumbo took an unusual route, letting it get over his head for a triple. Even when the Angels didn't have to rush, they made mistakes. Lumbering Juan Rivera chopped one to Maicer Izturis, who threw high to first for an error that cost the Angels a run.

Big bats, small results. The Angels' three key run producers had a quiet afternoon. Torii Hunter went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, including a crushing one that failed to advance Mike Trout in the eighth inning. Albert Pujols had two soft singles, but couldn't come through with Trout at second and one out. Trumbo was 0-for-4 with a double play. Those guys, along with Trout, have been carrying the Angels for about a month. When they have a rough night, the Angels usually don't do well.

Lacking utility. Izturis has been a quite useful player for Mike Scioscia for nearly eight years, but this is the versatile infielder's worst season. Not only is he stuck in a 5-for-30 slump and batting .219, but he has occasionally even let his defense slide. He should know how slow Rivera is. After all, they were traded together to the Angels once for disgruntled outfielder Jose Guillen. Izturis is making it easy for Scioscia to go with Alberto Callaspo over him.

Stability returning to Angels rotation

June, 17, 2012
Two events have combined quickly to give the Angels' starting rotation a settled look.

Jered Weaver was scheduled to throw a third, and final, bullpen session before Sunday's game, but the team released its rotation for the upcoming series with the San Francisco Giants and Weaver isn't in it. It appears Weaver's return will come Friday against the Dodgers, at the earliest.

Friday would be the spot of rookie Garrett Richards, who could be making his final start Sunday before the Angels hand him a return ticket to Triple-A Salt Lake. Ervin Santana's brush with perfection -- and one-hitter -- over the Arizona Diamondbacks Saturday night appears to have saved his spot, at least for now.

In other words, the Angels are headed toward the All-Star break with the same five-man rotation they opened the season with. That's usually a good thing.

Here are lineups for Sunday:

Willie Bloomquist SS
Jason Kubel DH
Justin Upton RF
Miguel Montero C
Paul Goldschmidt 1B
Chris Young CF
Aaron Hill 2B
Gerardo Parra LF
Josh Bell 3B

Mike Trout LF
Alberto Callaspo 3B
Albert Pujols 1B
Kendrys Morales DH
Mark Trumbo RF
Howie Kendrick 2B
Erick Aybar SS
Hank Conger C
Peter Bourjos CF

3 up, 3 down: Angels 2, Dodgers 1

June, 13, 2012

LOS ANGELES -- The Angels got power from their two least-likely sources and some tightrope walking from their pitchers to beat the Dodgers 2-1 Wednesday night and win the Freeway Series at Dodger Stadium.

Shortstop Erick Aybar hit the winning blast off Kenley Jansen in the ninth inning. Alberto Callaspo hit one earlier in the game off Nathan Eovaldi.

The Dodgers put runners at the corners with nobody out against Angels closer Ernesto Frieri, but -- as he has done since they got him -- Frieri escaped. He got a fielder's-choice groundout and a key strikeout of pinch hitter Tony Gwynn Jr. to record his sixth save.

The Good:

Slump punctured. How badly did Aybar need that first home run of his season? The shortstop is having a miserable season. His batting average was sinking rapidly toward the Mendoza line and he has made some crucial gaffes in the field. A poor decision in the sixth inning nearly led to trouble before Wilson pitched his way out of it. Aybar tried to fool umpire Sam Holbrook by intentionally dropping a sinking liner so he could turn a double play, but Holbrook signaled an infield fly and, eventually, the Dodgers loaded the bases. Aybar also swung at the first pitch in the fourth inning and wiped out a bases-loaded, nobody out rally with a double play.

Houdini. C.J. Wilson often pitches suspenseful innings because of his tendency to walk batters, but he usually walks back from the brink. Wilson walked six batters (one off his season high), but he managed to pitch seven strong innings, allowing a run and striking out three. Wilson has pitched into mid-June while pitching just one truly bad start. He looks like a good bet for his second straight All-Star team and he has done a nice job filling in for Jered Weaver as the de facto staff ace.

"Little" Alberto. Callaspo looks like he is gradually pulling away from Maicer Izturis in the third-base battle. Callaspo has started five straight games there largely because he is out-hitting Izturis. He was the Angels' only offense most of the game. He turned on a Nathan Eovaldi pitch and pulled it into the corner in right field for a home run that erased the Dodgers' 1-0 lead in the second inning and later got on base twice more.

The Bad:

The Strand. The Angels faced some good starting pitchers here and some very good relievers, but the way they had been swinging the bats, there was no reason they should have only scored seven runs in three games. Actually, there is a reason. They went 4-for-31 with runners in scoring position. They worked so hard to build rallies only to watch them dissolve like sand castles.

Bottom third. Manager Mike Scioscia said before the game, "We need more production, for sure," when asked about the bottom third of his lineup. Until Aybar's home run, he didn't get it. The bottom three hitters went 1-for-9 with two strikeouts and a double play. The Angels' surge has mostly been top-heavy, pulled along by some hot hitters in the upper one-third of the lineup.

Roll slows. While we're on that topic, the top of the Angels' lineup didn't exactly scald the ball. Mike Trout, Torii Hunter and Albert Pujols had combined to bat .436 in the previous five games, but things slowed down Wednesday. The threesome had two hits in 11 at-bats, didn't score a run and Pujols grounded into a deflating double play in the seventh.

Angels hopes fade into the West

June, 12, 2012
Dodgers/AngelsGary A. Vasquez/US PresswireDee Gordon, left, was ruled safe on this steal in the eighth inning, but Maicer Izturis and the Angels thought otherwise.

LOS ANGELES -- The Angels were left stewing Tuesday night about a call they thought an umpire blew, but most fans will probably be lamenting a call manager Mike Scioscia didn't make until it was too late.

Scioscia let pitcher Jerome Williams face left-handed slugger Andre Ethier with the tying run at second in the eighth inning. Ethier ripped an RBI single to right field to tie it. Scioscia has a viable explanation for that one. His best left-handed reliever, Scott Downs, was unavailable because of a mildly strained muscle in the left side of his rib cage. His other lefty was on the shelf after pitching 1 2/3 innings the night before.

But what about the next batter, righty Juan Rivera? He let Williams stay out there for that one, too, and Rivera ripped a high fastball over the left-field wall on Williams' 102nd pitch for a three-run shot to give the Dodgers a dramatic finish and a 5-2 win at home. Apparently, Scioscia's faith in Jordan Walden isn't equal to his faith in Downs, because Walden was loose.

"We all felt [Williams] had enough stuff to get out of that inning and he did get out of the inning," Scioscia said.

The reference was to a safe call made by umpire Joe West on Dee Gordon's two-out stolen base earlier in that inning. Williams, by the way, agreed. He was standing 40 feet away and didn't hesitate when asked his opinion of the play.

"Out," Williams said.

(Read full post)

3 up, 3 down: Dodgers 5, Angels 2

June, 12, 2012

LOS ANGELES -- The Angels struggled to come up with clutch hits and saw their slim lead blow up during a four-run ninth inning as the Dodgers tied up the Freeway Series with Tuesday night's 5-2 win.

The Good:

All-around game. Jerome Williams is a good all-around athlete, which allowed Mike Scioscia to leave him in the game despite a couple of pinch-hitting opportunities (he may, in fact, have left him in too long). Williams showed the full range of his skills Tuesday. He got on base twice, including on a well-struck third-inning double. Williams also made several strong plays in the field, including starting an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded in the fourth inning. He also pitched well until his pitch count crept up to around 100 in the eighth inning, when the roof caved in.

Stole patrol. The Angels have three of the best defensive outfielders in the league even when one of them, Peter Bourjos, spends the game on the bench. Mike Trout made a clutch catch on Andre Ethier's line drive over his head to save a run in the sixth and Torii Hunter got a quick jump to take a double away from Kennedy in the seventh.

Still swinging. The Angels have been seeing something more important than home runs from Albert Pujols lately. They've been seeing consistency. Pujols is hitting .352 with 25 RBIs over his last 26 games. He and Hunter were the only hitters in the lineup who seemed to be able to see the ball well off Aaron Harang.

The Bad:

Missed management? Contrary to indications, it was not Scioscia's bobblehead calling the shots from the Angels' dugout. It only looked that way when the Angels elected to let Williams pitch to Ethier in the eighth inning. Left-hander Scott Downs, who has yet to allow a run this season, had pitched one inning the previous five games, so -- unless he is injured -- seemed to be the man for the job. Scioscia also let Williams pitch to Juan Rivera and the ex-Angel hit the knockout blow, a three-run home run.

Opportunity costs. The Angels, once again, had so many chances to do damage and could not come up with that key hit, or even walk. They stranded a runner at third in the first inning, left the bases loaded in the third and sixth and were 2-for-14 with runners in scoring position. The night before, they went 2-for-12. They're making it so much tougher on themselves than it has to be.

Top-loaded. Williams was the only hitter creating action at the end of the lineup. Erick Aybar and Maicer Izturis are having forgettable seasons. Aybar, especially, has been giving the Angels night after night of uneventful at-bats. He tried unsuccessfully to bunt for a hit a couple of times and struck out twice. The Angels are creating tons of action between the Nos. 1 and 5 spots in the lineup, but the noise dies down quickly after that. Izturis also whiffed on Bobby Abreu's liner for an error.

A few tweaks to the roster

June, 12, 2012
The Angels made their big moves -- releasing Bobby Abreu, promoting Mike Trout and trading for Ernesto Frieri -- when they were struggling about a month ago.

Now that they're hot, their roster moves are largely procedural. They announced Tuesday that outfielder Kole Calhoun has been optioned to Triple-A Salt Lake; reliever David Pauley was selected to the major-league roster; and Vernon Wells was placed on the 60-day disabled list, though it won't affect his return date (probably in early August).

Also, catcher Bobby Wilson, on the seven-day concussion disabled list, is playing a rehab game tonight for Single-A Inland Empire.

Is everyone else making Pujols better?

June, 12, 2012
LOS ANGELES -- Not long ago, Don Mattingly wouldn't have had to think about it. The go-ahead run was on second in the ninth inning and Albert Pujols was coming up. Just hold up four fingers and watch Kenley Jansen lob the ball a few feet outside four times.

In one more hopeful sign in this Angels' resurgence, however, Mattingly didn't elect to walk Pujols -- not because the Angels' slugger is struggling, but because so many other parts of the Angels' offense are clicking. Essentially, Mattingly said after the game, it was pick your poison.

Coming up after Pujols was Mark Trumbo, batting .325 with menacing power. On second was Mike Trout, who has been spreading havoc on bases all around the country for weeks.

Getting pitched to in that situation is not what Pujols is used to, but he's rolling with it. He cracked his bat and hit the winning single to left-center field to send the Angels to a 3-2 win at Dodger Stadium. Afterward, he said Trout and Trumbo and the Angels' other young players are energizing this team's move, not to mention its mood.

When the Angels got Pujols, people said he would make everyone else in the lineup better. In a way, it's happened in reverse, Pujols' production catching up to that of the youngsters, Trumbo and Trout.

"I'm really excited that my next 10 years, I'm going to hopefully spend it here with those guys," Pujols said. "They're going to keep me young."

(Read full post)

3 Up, 3 Down: Angels 3, Dodgers 2

June, 11, 2012

LOS ANGELES -- The Angels continued their yearly romp through the National League, beating the Dodgers 3-2 Monday night in the opening game of the Freeway Series at Dodger Stadium. If the Angels win one more game in the next two nights, they will have won 11 of their last 12 series against the NL and 10 of their last 13 games against the Dodgers.

The Good:

Tropical fish. Mike Trout's at-bats now are generating the kind of excitement the Angels thought they would see when Albert Pujols came to the plate. Trout continues to tear up both leagues during this torrid month-plus. He has 15 hits in his last 29 at-bats with 12 runs and six stolen bases. Trout figures to qualify for the batting race within the next two weeks and, by the time he does, he just might be leading it. He also might lead the league in steals by then. He's tied with Jason Kipnis for the lead right now. Pretty good for a 20-year old, right?

Albert delivers. Not too long ago, it would have been automatic. Open base with two outs late in a tie game. You walk Albert Pujols, right? But Pujols has struggled much of this season and Mark Trumbo is emerging as a force batting behind him, so the Dodgers pitched to Pujols. He didn't exactly kill Kenley Jansen's pitch, but he cracked his bat and hit a sinking liner to left-center field for a single to drive in Trout with the winning run.

Sticking around. The way things were going for Garrett Richards for a while, it looked like he might be in for a short night, the kind that can tax a bullpen. Instead, he kept the wheels from flying off, pitching around five walks to get through five innings before getting lifted for a pinch hitter. He showed good stuff, with a lively 96 mph fastball and looks, at this point like a far better rotation option than Ervin Santana. The Angels will have to choose between them when Jered Weaver returns next week.

The Bad:

Sloppy start. When the game started, it almost looked like the Angels weren't ready. Richards walked the leadoff guy. He tried to pick off Elian Herrera, who had doubled, and threw to center field, where Trout promptly overran it for the second error on the play. The Dodgers got off to a quick 2-0 lead thanks to the Angels. Had they played a little more crisply early, this game might not have dragged on all night.

Abreu's "hard feelings." Why all the stories going into this series about how Bobby Abreu isn't mad at the Angels for releasing him? They are paying him $9 million to play baseball -- for another team, where he has a better opportunity. What were they going to do, keep the 37-year old on the bench so Trout could continue to tear up Triple-A and leave them without a spark? Please.

Pace of play. If you're going to play for nearly four hours, you should get at least 14 innings in or score at least 20 runs, shouldn't you? Somehow, these teams managed to stretch a 3-2 regulation game over three hours and 59 minutes. How? Combination of Sam Holbrook's puny strike zone, hitters working counts and pitchers taking plenty of time between pitches.

A tale of two Decembers

December, 9, 2011

A year ago, I flew from back from the winter meetings, Orlando to LAX, seated next to a high-ranking member of the Angels' scouting department.

The fellow, Gary Sutherland, greeted me and then proceeded to spend most of the next five hours asleep. It had been a trying few days for the Angels' brass, who built their entire strategy around landing fleet left fielder Carl Crawford. When that fell through, the Angels -- feeling bereft of an adequate left fielder and a difference-maker in their lineup -- overreacted.

They traded for Vernon Wells. We won't revisit how that worked out. We mention it only to contrast Winter 2011 with Winter 2010.

A year ago, people wondered if the Angels even mattered. Now, Arte Moreno is the king of Southern California baseball, at least until -- if? -- the Dodgers re-exert their dominance of the market.

Moreno's sense of timing was dubious in the past -- he bought the team eight months after its first World Series -- but it was impeccable in the past few days. With the Dodgers in limbo and a $3 billion funnel about to open up from a new TV deal with Fox, everything came together for Moreno's big strike. Even the stage was perfect: the final day of the winter meetings, all eyes on the Angels.

(Read full post)



Howie Kendrick
.293 7 75 85
HRM. Trout 36
RBIM. Trout 111
RM. Trout 115
OPSM. Trout .939
WJ. Weaver 18
ERAG. Richards 2.61
SOJ. Weaver 169