Los Angeles Angels: Maicer Izturis

3 up, 3 down: Angels 4, Mariners 3

September, 26, 2012

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- It might feel as if the Los Angeles Angels are running in place in the standings but at least they're still in the running with seven games left to play in the season.

On Wednesday night, the Angels beat the Seattle Mariners, 4-3, as Torii Hunter hit a walk-off single to score Maicer Izturis and give the Angels a much-needed comeback win, keeping their postseason hopes alive. The Angels are now two games out of the final American League wild-card spot with one more home game left against Seattle and six more on the road.

The Good:

Hunter steps up: Hunter is making the @KeepTorii contingent at Angel Stadium look like geniuses lately. His .341 batting average since the All-Star break is the third best in the AL over that span and he has come through for the team time after time with clutch hits, including Wednesday night's heroics. It was Hunter's second walk-off hit this season. Hunter also hit a single to shallow right center to score Peter Bourjos in the seventh inning to tie the score at 3-3.

Aybar's shot: Erick Aybar is another player who has been on a tear as of late for the Angels. His .357 clip since the start of August ranks third in the majors and first in the AL and he is batting .332 since the All-Star break, which is good for eighth in the AL. On Wednesday he hit a two-run double to left to score Kendrys Morales and Alberto Callaspo and give the Angels an early 2-0 lead.

Bullpen shines: After C.J. Wilson was pulled, the Angels' bullpen kept the team in the game, not allowing a run through the final four innings. The combination of Jerome Williams, Kevin Jepsen and Ernesto Frieri pitched 3 2/3 innings, giving up no hits and no runs.

The Bad:

Wilson, again: By Wilson's standards it wasn't the worst start, but it wasn't good either. Wilson pitched 5 1/3 innings, giving up three runs, all earned, and five hits, including a home run. This is the first season Wilson has recorded double-digit losses. Wilson has thrown quality starts in just three of his last 10 starts and 20 of 31 overall. On the bright side, Wilson did record his 800th career strikeout in the game.

Pujols strikes out: Despite finally getting on base late in the game, it wasn't the best night for Albert Pujols, who struck out his first three times at bat before finally recording a hit. Pujols has actually been batting .316 over his last 15 games and had six RBIs in his previous four games before Wednesday night, when Felix Hernandez rendered him completely ineffective.

Oakland and Baltimore win: The only way the Angels are going to play their way into the postseason is by having teams like the Oakland Athletics and Baltimore Orioles (and even the Tampa Bay Rays) lose. On Wednesday night, all of those teams won, meaning the Angels were unable to gain any ground.

Angels' pitching woes are no big secret

August, 11, 2012
HarenLisa Blumenfeld/Getty ImagesDan Haren had one of his worst outings of the season, adding to the Angels' pitching woes of late.

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The question had nothing to do with pitching. In fact, the words "pitching" or "pitcher" were never uttered when I simply asked Angels outfielder Torii Hunter why the team has struggled to find any kind of consistency this month.

"I can't talk about that," Hunter said. "I will never talk about my pitchers."

Fair enough, but I never said anything about pitchers. So pitchers aside, why hasn't the team been able to win back-to-back games in August?

"I don't want to talk about that one," Hunter said. "I can't do that."

It was one of the few times the gregarious and outspoken Hunter was left speechless and forced into the unfamiliar territory of giving a no-comment not once, but twice.

Hunter is the one of the few players in the Angels' clubhouse who sidesteps the regular canned quotes and clichés and speaks his mind. And even though I never asked him about pitching, he simply could not answer why the Angels have struggled this month because he knew that would force him to talk about something he promised himself early in his career he never would.

His smile, however, said it all. The answer is so clearly on the field and in the box scores that there is no real need for him to point it out.

The Angels' pitching this month hasn't just been bad, it has been historically horrendous.

The staff ERA in August is 6.67, which is easily the worst in all of baseball. Next up is the Colorado Rockies at 5.93, and they are currently in a heated race with Houston for the worst record in baseball this season.

During the Angels’ recent 10-game trip, the relievers posted a 10.54 ERA with five losses and five blown saves. During that time they also gave up 32 runs and 41 hits in 27.1 innings, including 11 home runs.

During Saturday’s 7-4 loss to Seattle, Dan Haren had his shortest start since his rookie year in 2003. Haren’s line was cringe-worthy: 3.1 innings pitched, 5 hits, 7 runs (5 earned), 3 walks, 0 strike outs, 1 home run and a 4.68 ERA.

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Mike Trout scratched with bruised knee

July, 29, 2012
It doesn't sound like a long-term concern, but with a player this talented, any injury is a concern.

The Angels scratched Mike Trout from the lineup shortly before Sunday afternoon's game with the Tampa Bay Rays with a left knee contusion. Trout hurt his knee colliding with the center-field wall trying to catch Ben Zobrist's home run Saturday night.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia said it was even possible Trout could pinch hit late in Sunday's game and he figures to be back in the lineup Monday night in Texas.

The injury does raise the question of whether Trout's aggressive style could make him injury-prone in the long run. The Angels saw that for years with Darin Erstad, who played with a reckless style and spent his last few years on and off the disabled list. Last week, Trout made a diving attempt at a ball down the left field line in a game with two outs in the ninth inning and the Angels leading comfortably.

Here are lineups for Sunday:

Tampa Bay
Desmond Jennings CF
Sam Fuld LF
Ben Zobrist 2B
Matt Joyce RF
Jeff Keppinger DH
Carlos Pena 1B
Ryan Roberts 3B
Jose Lobaton C
Elliot Johnson SS

Maicer Izturis SS
Howie Kendrick 2B
Albert Pujols 1B
Mark Trumbo RF
Kendrys Morales DH
Alberto Callaspo 3B
Vernon Wells LF
Chris Iannetta C
Peter Bourjos CF

Patchy pitching, but splashy defense

July, 24, 2012
In the third inning of Monday night's 6-3 win over the Kansas City Royals, with Angels starter C.J. Wilson teetering on the brink of a second straight meltdown, Peter Bourjos retreated to the warning track, jumped and turned what might have been a Lorenzo Cain three-run home run into a fairly innocuous sacrifice fly.

The next inning, Wilson was again stumbling into some trouble when Jeff Francoeur hit a bullet to the left side of the infield. It nearly knocked Maicer Izturis down, but Izturis threw from his knees to start a difficult double play that helped Wilson get out of the inning.

And those are just the backups.

Both Izturis and Bourjos have played only part-time this season, Izturis because of the presence of Gold Glove shortstop Erick Aybar and Bourjos because of the presence of league batting leader Mike Trout, who, incidentally, made an even more impressive play taking a home run away in Baltimore earlier this season.

The Angels have premium defenders at most positions on the field and, often, all over their bench, which is another reason they are surviving some fraying in their starting rotation. Combined with an offense that has sprung to life -- leading the majors in runs per game over the past two months -- it has helped stabilize the Angels during this difficult stretch of schedule.

"There have been some phenomenal players out there behind everybody on the pitching staff," Wilson said.

The Angels, according to ESPN Stats and Info, rank fifth in the majors in defensive runs saved (DRS) and second in another measure of overall defense called Ultimate Zone Rating, or UZR. Their outfield ranks third in DRS and third in UZR.

"Statistically, there are some things you can point to and say we're just playing average defense, but if you see it every day, you see the range, you see guys that are taking hits away, helping our pitchers shrink the field a little bit," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Our defense is a plus, there's absolutely no doubt about that."

Nor is there any doubt they need it. Had Bourjos not made that catch, for example, Wilson likely wouldn't have been able to pitch into the seventh inning. He might have given the Angels their second ultra-short outing in the past three games. Ervin Santana, who is 4-10 with a 6.00 ERA, couldn't get out of the second inning Saturday. Wilson, in his previous start, gave up seven runs on five walks, and he hasn't picked up a win this month.

General manager Jerry Dipoto is searching high and low for help from starting pitchers, but he has yet to hit the high end of the market. He acquired Barry Enright from the Arizona Diamondbacks Monday, but Enright will report to Triple-A and figures to join the Angels only if they have another crisis. He had a 5.21 ERA with Triple-A Reno.

Good starting pitchers aren't easy to come by via trade, so the Angels might have to make do with who they have this season. It will be easier to pull that off if their teammates keep making virtually all the plays behind them.

3 Up, 3 Down: Angels 6, Royals 3

July, 23, 2012
ANAHEIM -- Monday night was a slow, sometimes-ugly grind and a far cry from the Angels' explosiveness of recent games. But they kept their momentum rolling along with a 6-3 win over the Kansas City Royals at Angel Stadium. Pinch hitter Kendrys Morales slammed a three-run single off the right-field wall to cap a two-out rally in the eighth inning.

The Angels stayed on top of a crowded wild-card race and remained five games behind the Texas Rangers in the AL West.

The Good:

Stopping power. Peter Bourjos got to the wall and jumped to take away what looked to be a home run from Lorenzo Cain and save two runs. Maicer Izturis practically got knocked over by Jeff Francoeur's sharp grounder, but got up to start a crucial double play. The Angels have premium defense up the middle in excess. They have two center fielders and two shortstops capable of making highlight plays. Their pitchers are lucky in that regard.

Streaking on. Guys who go on long hitting streaks don't just ride hot stretches, they get through nights when they don't feel great at the plate. Monday wasn't the most dynamic night for Mike Trout -- he went 2-for-5 with two singles and no stolen bases -- but it kept alive a couple of streaks. He has hit in 12 straight games and has scored a run in 15 straight games. The run mark extends the new franchise standard and puts him three away from the AL record, held most recently by Kenny Lofton, a pretty good leadoff hitter not so long ago.

Surprise production. The deep lineups in the AL typically fill out the bottom third of their lineup with light-hitting, speedy players or low-average hitters with decent power. The Angels sometimes have an unwieldy look, with Bobby Wilson clogging the bases for Trout, and have gotten scant production from the bottom third. But Monday that bottom third got the winning rally started. Izturis had two clutch hits. He, Wilson and Bourjos were on base five times between them and primed the winning rally with an Izturis hit and Bourjos walk.

The Bad:

Step back. Albert Pujols has been among the most productive hitters in baseball for more than two months, but Monday wasn't a good night for the Angels' No. 3 hitter. He looked off-kilter all evening, picking up his only hit on a pop-up that landed between a couple of outfielders and his only RBI on an awkward chopper to the first baseman. Trout has been the most impressive offensive player, but the Angels do tend to rise and fall on Pujols' performance.

Another step back. A lot of the same things could be said for Mark Trumbo. He walked in the first inning, which was encouraging since his patience had waned in recent games (one walk in 10 days), but he also struck out twice and is 4 for his last 16 with four strikeouts. The Angels have led the majors in home runs over the past month, paced largely by Pujols and Trumbo. Monday the power took a night off, but the Angels found other ways to get a win.

No 'W' in Wilson? It was far from an artful outing by C.J. Wilson. He had bushels of trouble, allowing nine hits in less than seven innings. On the other hand, they were all singles and he was able to grind through most of his difficulties, unlike his previous start in Detroit. Wilson has allowed 17 hits and six walks in his past two starts, so he's not exactly on top of his game. But he was able to take the ball deep enough in the game to give the Angels a good chance. Wilson rattled off five straight wins to get to 9-4 and made the All-Star team, but he hasn't earned a win since June 26.

3 up, 3 down: Indians 12, Angels 3

July, 4, 2012

The Angels are virtually unbeatable when Jered Weaver or C.J. Wilson starts. With anybody else, not so much.

The Angels lost the rubber game at Cleveland, with Ervin Santana getting knocked around in Wednesday's 12-3 loss.

The Good:

Cutthroat Trout. He just keeps going and going. Mike Trout had two hits and a walk and has been on base 107 times since May 1, more than any hitter in the major leagues in that span. Torii Hunter and Albert Pujols had only one hit between them, so Trout didn't score. But if he keeps getting on base this much, he's going to pull this offense along in the second half.

Hit parade. Mark Trumbo has had an outstanding first half, but his production had been a little soft for most of this road trip, with only seven hits in the first eight games. But he went 3-for-4 to raise his batting average to .310, a great mark considering his prodigious power numbers.

Utility man. Maicer Izturis has always had a knack for clutch hits, but the Angels haven't seen much of that in 2012. The scrappy utility guy has had a fairly miserable season, with his playing time reduced and timing at the plate out of whack. He had driven in one run in his previous nine games. Wednesday, he got back to the old Izturis, driving in two of the Angels' three runs.

The Bad:

Ervin. He made his major-league debut in Cleveland and the first four batters accounted for a single, a double, a triple and a home run -- a perverse twist on the cycle. He also had his greatest triumph there, last season's no-hitter. Unfortunately for Santana, he's pitching more like the rookie rather than the seasoned vet. Santana couldn't make it out of the second inning (six hits, eight runs). With no more starts before the All-Star break, Santana is 4-9 with a 5.75 ERA. It has been a puzzling few months for Santana since there is no obvious physical ailment as there is in the case of another struggling starter, Dan Haren, who has admitted to lingering back pain.

Relief. Jason Isringhausen has been a pleasant surprise. He was contemplating retiring -- again -- in spring training before the sides worked out a minor-league deal. He struggled in Arizona, but made the team and had pitched himself into some important situations lately. But mopping up after Santana's shoddy outing, Isringhausen gave up five hits and three runs to put a dent in his ERA and give Cleveland an easier win. Hisanori Takahashi didn't do Santana or the Angels any favors allowing a three-run home run to ex-Angel Casey Kotchman.

Depth. It was the rotation that stabilized things early and has generally been the foundation of the Angels' success. Suddenly, things are looking a little dicey behind the top two starters. Jerome Williams is on the disabled list, Haren could be headed there and Garrett Richards looked shaky in his last start. This would be an opportune time for Williams or Richards to step up and provide a little stability, because right now the Angels' pitching is dangerously unbalanced.

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.

Should the Angels upgrade at third?

June, 23, 2012
ANAHEIM --Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto was fairly blunt when asked about Kevin Youkilis, who is reportedly close to being traded by the Boston Red Sox.

"We're not involved," Dipoto said.

But should the Angels look to get a little more thunder out of third base? Going into Saturday's game with the Dodgers, the Angels have gotten three home runs from their third baseman. Dipoto said he's not focusing on it before the July 31 trade deadline.

"I don't know that there's an overwhelming market of available power-hitting third basemen that's out there," Dipoto said.

Alberto Callaspo has hit all of three of the home runs from Angels third basemen (he also had a pinch-hit grand slam off Fexlix Hernandez). The other third baseman, Maicer Izturis, still hasn't homered after 134 at-bats. Only the Dodgers and Chicago White Sox have gotten less power out of their third basemen than the Angels.

It appears the Angels' priority before the July 31 trade deadline will be pitching depth, perhaps another arm for the bullpen or a starter they can stockpile at Triple-A.

Here are lineups for Saturday evenings game vs. the Dodgers:

Los Angeles
Dee Gordon SS
Jerry Hairston Jr. 2B
Andre Ethier RF
Bobby Abreu DH
Juan Rivera LF
James Loney 1B
Elian Herrera CF
Juan Uribe 3B
A.J. Ellis C

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

3 Up, 3 Down: Giants 5, Angels 3

June, 18, 2012

Cal Sport Media/AP Images
With their combination of speed and power, Mike Trout, who stole three bases, and Mark Trumbo, above, who homered on an otherwise off night for Angels batters, could be the team's top talents.

ANAHEIM -- Matt Cain wasn't perfect, but Monday night he didn't have to be.

The Angels hitters continued to struggle in the clutch and Jerome Williams got them off to a sloppy start in a 5-3 loss to Cain and the San Francisco Giants. It was Cain's first start since his perfect game against the Houston Astros and he struggled to get through five innings under constant pressure.

The Good:

T and T. Mike Trout nearly took over the game with his speed, Mark Trumbo nearly won it with his power. That's a phrase Angels fans could be reading for years to come. Trout was successful in all three of his stolen base attempts -- running on 2010 rookie of the year Buster Posey -- and Trumbo hit an impressive opposite-field home run to tie the game in the second, his team-high 16th of the year. If the first few months are any indication, these two guys might be the Angels' best players -- not in the future, now.

Late to the party. The bottom third of the Angels' order finally contributed, helping build steady offensive pressure that had been missing for a week. Maicer Izturis was on base twice, Erick Aybar is heating up and even Bobby Wilson -- fresh off the concussion list -- chipped in with a sacrifice fly that was nearly a grand slam. Even as the Angels have heated up over the last six weeks, the bottom of their lineup was a major cold front.

Real relief. The Angels have won four of their last seven games while batting .140 with runners in scoring position. The credit goes to pitching and not just the starters. Angels relievers had five saves and a 4.70 ERA in the first 32 games. In the next 35, they had 10 saves and a 2.14 ERA. Three Angels relievers tried to hold the line for the offense to rally, but it never happened.

The Bad:

Slippery slope. Is Jerome Williams' spot in the rotation safe? That's a reasonable question after a third straight sub-par outing. In fairness, Williams pitched well at Dodger Stadium and the three-run home run he gave up to Juan Rivera may have been the result of fatigue (and a managing blunder by Mike Scioscia). By no measure did he pitch well Monday, giving up seven hits and three walks in less than four innings. With Garrett Richards pitching as well as anyone in an Angels uniform and Jered Weaver back Wednesday, Williams might have reason to be nervous this week.

Mini-funk. Compared to the first six weeks of the season, Albert Pujols' current stretch is a speed bump. But he clearly isn't quite as locked in as he was two weeks ago. Pujols had at-bats with runners in scoring position his first three times up and managed one RBI (though he was also hit by a pitch). Pujols has one hit in his last 14 at-bats, a bit concerning considering he's facing National League pitchers he knows well.

Not-so-mini slump. Kendry Morales' days as a cleanup hitter could be over, or at least they should be. Trumbo hits right-handers just as well as lefties (.321 to .319) and Morales isn't hitting anybody right now. He went hitless, struck out twice and is 1 for his last 14 with seven strikeouts. So far, Morales (seven home runs) hasn't been the same player he was before May 29, 2010 -- the day of his major ankle injury. Until he gets back to being that guy, he should hit fifth or lower.

3 up, 3 down: Angels 6, Mariners 1

June, 5, 2012

ANAHEIM -- The Angels kept their momentum going, beating the Seattle Mariners 6-1 Tuesday night behind Garrett Richards' first major-league victory.

The Good:

Big threat. A year ago, Mark Trumbo led the team in home runs (29) and RBIs (87), the first Angels rookie ever to do so. The Angels didn't figure it would happen again after signing Albert Pujols, but after more than one-third of the season, it's happening again. Trumbo blasted home runs Nos. 11 and 12, a team high, and drove in his 31st run, equaling Pujols. The explosion was welcome news for an Angels offense that was showing signs of slumping again. Trumbo, for example, was 1-for-16 with seven strikeouts coming into the game.

Power arm. Richards had a rough May at Triple-A Salt Lake, but the Angels needed a starter to plug Jered Weaver's spot in the rotation and he was next in line. Richards exceeded everybody's expectations with a masterful performance against a lineup that had been scorching the ball. The rookie right-hander's fastball was popping at 95 mph in the sixth inning and he cruised through seven innings, allowing only four hits and striking out eight Mariners. If he keeps this up, he'll stick in Anaheim even after Weaver gets back.

Underrated arm. The Angels are 5-16 when Jason Isringhausen pitches, but that's largely a product of the role manager Mike Scioscia has slotted him in. It's sometimes a highwire act, but Isringhausen has been solid, especially lately, and might merit a more meaningful role. Sixteen of his 21 outings have been scoreless, not bad for a 39-year old who has had his right elbow reconstructed three times.

The Bad:

Slip-sliding. Tuesday night was Erick Aybar's first time in the No. 9 spot in the batting order. It looks as if he might be there to stay, mostly because he can't bat any lower. Aybar just can't get his bat to activate. He has been moderately warm lately (batting .275) in his last 18 games, but since the start of last weekend's Texas series he has just three hits. Oh, and he has walked only seven times after nearly 200 at-bats.

Bourjos situation. Peter Bourjos is a promising 25-year-old player who, last season, blossomed into a star center fielder and a solid hitter. Is it really fair to his career to slot him as a part-time player and pinch runner? That seems to be the role Bourjos is settling into. He pinch ran and played a little late defense, but Bourjos has started only 12 of the Angels' last 36 games. The need to resolve this situation one way or another before long.

Callasp-is. Alberto Callaspo and Maicer Izturis have had solid careers and have made underrated contributions to this team, but this season they've just kind of been there. And you certainly don't need two guys like that. The two switch-hitting infielders are splitting up playing time largely because neither guy can take it and run. They came into the game batting an identical .235, which seems appropriate since their skills are largely redundant.

Slumping Kendrick gets a day off

June, 5, 2012
ANAHEIM -- In the midst of one of his worst hitting slumps since 2009, the year the Angels demoted him to Triple-A for 20 games, Howie Kendrick got a day off to decompress Tuesday night.

"I think he's caught in between a little bit," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "At times he's out in front, at times he's missing some fastballs he should hit. Howie's just a terrific hitter in the box, and right now he's searching for some things, and we need him."

One of the things he's searching for is an extra-base hit. He hasn't had one since May 9. Since then, he has batted .188 with 20 strikeouts in 85 at-bats. The Angels have a handful of slumping hitters, including Torii Hunter, but in some ways, Kendrick's long dry spell is the most surprising.

He appeared poised for great things when the season began and he was slotted to hit in front of three-time National League MVP Albert Pujols.

"I think Howie can take a day and maybe just exhale a little bit," Scioscia said.

Here are lineups for Tuesday night's game, with Angels rookie Garrett Richards opposing Seattle right-hander Blake Beavan:

Ichiro Suzuki RF
Dustin Ackley 2B
Kyle Seager 3B
Jesus Montero DH
Justin Smoak 1B
John Jaso C
Mike Carp LF
Michael Saunders CF
Brendan Ryan SS

Mike Trout CF
Maicer Izturis 2B
Albert Pujols 1B
Kendrys Morales DH
Mark Trumbo LF
Torii Hunter RF
Alberto Callaspo 3B
Hank Conger C
Erick Aybar SS

3 Up, 3 Down: Angels 5, Mariners 3

May, 26, 2012

The Angels are on their best roll of the season, five wins in a row, and they kept it going against one of the toughest pitchers in baseball Saturday afternoon.

Albert Callaspo hit a pinch-hit grand slam off Felix Hernandez and the Angels beat the Seattle Mariners 5-3 at Safeco Field.

The Good:

The blast. Pinch hitting isn't an easy task, but sporadic playing time for some Angels has apparently given them enough practice to produce in the clutch. Howie Kendrick won Friday's game with a two-run pinch-hit single and Callaspo hit the Angels' first pinch-hit grand slam in eight years.

The blasts. Albert Pujols is one of the few players in baseball who can set the direction of his team's season and for more than a month, he took the Angels on a tour of the doldrums. Now, he's carrying them back into contention. Pujols broke the ice of Hernandez with his third home run in the past three games and his sixth in the past 11 games. Everyone said he was going to turn it around with a vengeance and, eventually, they were right.

Who is this guy? Admit it, Angels fans: How many of you knew who Ernesto Frieri was three weeks ago? He's making himself known to a lot of people now. He closed his second straight game, this time getting four outs to do it. He has thrown 10 scoreless innings and struck out 23 batters. If that were one start, instead of scattered relief appearances, it would be perhaps the greatest start in baseball history.

The Bad:

Still slumping. Kendrys Morales just doesn't look right. For a while, he was picking up hits without actually driving balls with much authority. Now, he's just plan hit the skids, 0 for his last 8. You wonder whether something physical might be bothering him or whether the disruption of being benched for interleague play hurt his swing.

More slumping. Maicer Izturis isn't bringing much to the table these days other than his defensive versatility. As long as Callaspo stays hot in the clutch, he might be a better choice to play third base. Izturis has three hits in his last 30 at-bats, shedding 60 points off his batting average.

Space limitations. We call this feature "3 Up, 3 Down," so there wasn't enough room to give Jerome Williams his due above. That's our bad. How many teams have a fifth starter who has pitched seven quality starts in nine appearances? The Angels have no reason to complain about any phase of their pitching right now, certainly not with the back of their rotation.

3 Up, 3 Down: A's 5, Angels 0

May, 14, 2012
ANAHEIM -- Tyson Ross had a 7.71 ERA going into Monday, but like a lot of other undistinguished pitchers who have stymied the Angels this season, he looked invincible against this struggling team.

Ross pitched his only scoreless outing of 2012 as the Oakland A's beat the Angels 5-0 Monday at Angel Stadium. After a modestly warm streak, mostly at the expense of the hapless Minnesota Twins, the Angels have lost three of their last four games to stay mired in last place in the AL West.

The Angels are 2-6 in their own division so far.

The Good:

Feeding Albert. Manager Mike Scioscia seems to have settled on Alberto Callaspo and Maicer Izturis as his No. 2 hitters because they're willing to take walks, unlike virtually anyone else in the lineup. Izturis did what he's supposed to do -- got on base in front of Albert Pujols -- three times to build a little excitement for those at-bats. Pujols didn't exactly maximize the opportunities, but more on that later.

Certain swings. The Angels looked flat most of the game. Early on, they were just unlucky. Pujols, Kendrys Morales and Vernon Wells all hit rockets in the first two innings. Two of them were ground-outs and another was an inning-ending double play. The Angels seemed to have some decent offensive vibes coming off a good hitting night the day before in Texas, but those soon drifted off as the night advanced.

Bullpen not too bad. Hey, guess what, the bullpen no longer is the problem. The addition of Ernesto Frieri has helped and some other relievers finally seem to be gaining a measure of confidence. Five of Hisanori Takahashi's last six outings have been scoreless. Jordan Walden hasn't given up a run since losing the job as closer. Next, maybe we'll get to see how these guys do protecting leads instead of helping mop up.

The Bad:

Albert. It's confidence. It's just a slump. It's because he's not comfortable. He doesn't know the pitchers. Everybody's got an opinion on why Albert Pujols is batting .197 (after a 1-for-4 night). Ultimately, who cares? The booing at Angel Stadium continued and Pujols had another ho-hum game. He's getting some hits here and there -- an improvement over a week ago -- but he's still not producing runs as he normally does. Everyone continues to wait for the real Albert Pujols to show up.

Haren's stuff. The poor command -- four walks and a hit batter -- seem to be the result, not the cause, of Dan Haren's problems. For years, he has had better control than all but the most elite starting pitchers, but he used to have a low 90s fastball and a nasty split-finger pitch. As Haren's stuff has diminished, he seems less willing to throw strikes -- and probably for good reason.

Ay, Aybar. Erick Aybar just doesn't look like the same guy. A Gold Glover last year, he appears passive at times in the field (Collin Cowgill's third-inning hit probably should have been an error on Aybar) and he has been an easy out for weeks. Aybar has two hits in the last eight games, his average slipping to .193. Since he's got only four walks all year, his on-base percentage isn't much better.

3 Up, 3 Down: Angels 8, Twins 3

May, 7, 2012

The Angels have gotten on their first roll of 2012. Their 8-3 win over the free-falling Minnesota Twins at Target Field gave them their sixth win in the last eight games.

The good

Setting table. The game plan was pretty clear. Against Francisco Liriano, who has dynamic stuff but rather hazy control, the Angels stacked the top of the lineup with their best on-base guys. Maicer Izturis and Alberto Callaspo made it work, reaching base safely six times. Callaspo's bat is showing signs of heating up. He nearly beat the other Alberto to the first-home run-of-the-season finish line and had three RBIs.

Day Two. The Angels don't really need home runs from Albert Pujols, though, of course, they'll take them. What they need are big hits and production. The day after ending his career-long homerless streak, Pujols had two RBIs to help keep the Angels' offense from going back in a funk. It wasn't particularly spectacular, though his single to left was well-struck, but it led to runs.

No-no repeat. Jered Weaver didn't pull a Johnny Van Dermeer and throw consecutive no-hitters, but he labored through six strong innings under difficult conditions -- facing the same lineup in consecutive starts. Of course, if you're going to face a lineup twice in a row, it may as well be the Twins'.

The bad

Bullpen news. The Angels have had enough trouble holding leads. Now it just got more difficult. The team placed LaTroy Hawkins, the primary setup man, on the 15-day disabled list with a broken pinky. While Sunday was a good day for the bullpen, Monday was more ambiguous. Rookie David Carpenter, who now has an appreciable role, had a rough time in the eighth inning.

Cooling off. Torii Hunter ignited the Angels' offense last week, but a rough series against Toronto appears to have put him in a bit of a rut. Since his batting average hit the high-water mark of .319 on Wednesday, he has one hit in his last 15 at-bats to slip all the way to .283.

Twins baseball. After fuming about his team's "Little League" play in the Weaver no-hit game, Ron Gardenhire took a few days off to attend his daughter's graduation. He probably wished it was a week. The Twins are 7-21, easily the worst record in baseball. Left fielder Erik Komatsu dropped a fly ball. The Twins had just six hits. This team is a mess.



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