Los Angeles Angels: New York Yankees

Can they win despite their pitching?

July, 26, 2012
7/26/12
12:23
PM PT

AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

The Angels are a different team in July than they were in April.

Obviously, right? They have Mike Trout and Ernesto Frieri now. They had Bobby Abreu and Vernon Wells then.

But the morphing of the team's personality has been more drastic than the sum of its personnel moves. Over the intervening few months, the Angels have gone from being a light-hitting team with lockdown starting pitching to a menacing group of hitters trying to obscure an erosion in the quality of pitching.

This, by the way, is why all those starters -- being starved of run support early -- were wise to hold their tongues about how frustrating it was. Good karma has its own reward.

"It's a little change of pace," Jered Weaver said Wednesday, after one of his shakiest outings during this dominant stretch of his. Weaver had uncharacteristically poor command, leading to a high pitch count that knocked him out after five innings. It didn't matter much, because the Angels had handed him a 7-0 lead in the first three innings. That was a week's worth of scoring in April.

Even the Angels' good starts are unconvincing nowadays.

"These guys go out and swing the bats and put up some runs for us," Weaver said. "It takes a lot of pressure off us, knowing that if we go out there and give up two or three, that these guys are going to answer back and score some big runs."

The Angels lead the majors this month with 114 runs, and many of them have been loud. Their 33 home runs in July also lead the majors. Meanwhile, the team's ERA in July is 4.85. Only five teams in the majors have pitched worse this month and all of them, other than the Angels, are either in last place or headed that way.

Early this year, the Angels were riding the shoulders of Weaver and what seemed like four other reliable starters while the offense filled up row after row of zeros. They were 13th out of 14 AL teams in runs scored for April.

Much of this surge has been because of Trout, who is scoring 51 percent of the time when he reaches base safely, according to ESPN Stats & Information, by far the highest rate in the majors. Albert Pujols has heated up week by week, of course, and Mark Trumbo has been steadily productive. Guys who were slumping are returning to their career norms.

It doesn't feel fluky or short term, but sadly for the Angels, neither does the breakdown in pitching. Weaver is the one bankable commodity now. The Angels were going to give Ervin Santana one last chance to keep his rotation spot, but even that fell through when they elected to skip Santana and pitch Dan Haren on four days' rest this Friday. C.J. Wilson has struggled with command lately, Haren remains a mystery coming off back issues, and Garrett Richards and Jerome Williams have been stuck in a battle of mediocrity to win the fifth starter spot.

So far, GM Jerry Dipoto hasn't been able to land another starting pitcher. He did acquire Barry Enright from the Arizona Diamondbacks to stash him away in Triple-A in case the Angels' need becomes more dire or Enright finally taps into the potential that made him a second-round pick not so long ago.

Is this sustainable? There have been teams that have hit their way into the playoffs and gone a long way in spite of their pitching. The 2009 New York Yankees won the World Series with ace CC Sabathia followed by so-so starters A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte (and then they prayed for rain, or lots of off days in the playoffs). The team the Angels are chasing, the Texas Rangers, have similar rotation concerns, theirs due to injuries, and they seem to be holding up just fine.

But the Angels aren't counting on going far with such a unidimensional approach, which is why their search for pitching answers is so frantic.

"Offensively, we're trying to take over. When we weren't doing well, the pitching was doing their thing," Torii Hunter said. "We need to just come together and get it going."

3 Up, 3 Down: Angels 10, Yankees 8

July, 15, 2012
7/15/12
2:14
PM PT
The Angels did something Sunday that teams like the Yankees often do: They smothered their opponent with an unrelenting lineup.

It may have been the Angels' most complete offensive game of the season. Every starter but Alberto Callaspo had at least one hit and seven of the nine drove in at least one run in the Angels' 10-8 win over the Yankees in New York.

Not that it was easy. The Yankees scored three times in the ninth inning and the game ended with the bases loaded.

The good:

Pace maker. Every time Mark Trumbo has a bad at-bat, he seems to make an adjustment and come back the next at-bat -- or day -- and do something impressive. That's one of the reasons Trumbo isn't giving off any signs of being a three-month wonder. He was in the middle of a busy day of hitting, with three hits that included a laser solo shot to left field, his 24th home run. That was the fourth Angels long ball of the afternoon as they kept pouring it on, something you have to do against the Yankees at their home.

Mighty Maicer. How unlikely was Maicer Izturis' two-run home run? Not only had Izturis not gone deep yet this season, but it was his first long ball since July 29 of last season. That means he had played 5 1/2 months of baseball without doing what he did off Ivan Nova, and it was probably the key shot of the game. Izturis has been largely a wasted asset this season -- and when he has played he has generally struggled -- so Sunday's heroics had to be satisfying to the utility guy.

Third-to-first. It never works, right? But it must, on rare occasions, or pitchers wouldn't bother. In the third inning, Jered Weaver faked a throw to third and then fired over to first, where he picked off Robinson Cano, inexplicably wandering away from the bag. After Erick Aybar dove to tag Cano, Alex Rodriguez -- again, inexplicably -- was caught between third and home. What had been major trouble brewing turned into a double play, without Weaver having to throw a pitch. And they say the Yankees never beat themselves.

The bad:

Streak's over. What a great run Ernesto Frieri had, but it came to an end with a Mark Teixeira home run in the ninth inning. Those two runs were the first Frieri has given up as an Angel. His first 26 appearances were scoreless. It happens all the time. A closer enters in a non-save situation and struggles. He just couldn't throw strikes. A lot of good pitchers gave up home runs Sunday, with the ball absolutely flying out of the yard.

Bronx blues. Weaver has a Yankee problem. Coming into Sunday, he had a career 4.79 ERA against New York and he has now allowed 16 home runs to the Yankees in 11 starts. That's a somewhat troubling thought if the Angels qualify for the playoffs. Weaver battled in tough conditions -- heat, humidity, a tough lineup -- but the three home runs he allowed were the most he had given up since August of last season. Jerome Williams actually pitched slightly better the day before and took the loss. Weaver got his 11th win, but he also had .36 tacked onto his ERA.

Turnabout. Mike Trout got a little taste for what he has done to J.J. Hardy and several other hitters this season: a robbery. Curtis Granderson was playing shallow when Trout rocketed a deep fly to center field. Granderson caught it in full stride, with his back to the infield. If he misses it, Trout, one of the game's fastest players, well could have tried for an inside-the-park home run. Trout was undeterred. He later picked up a couple of doubles and walked and now has a .403 on-base percentage.

3 up, 3 down: Yankees 6, Angels 5

July, 13, 2012
7/13/12
7:19
PM PT


The Angels' bullpen, so dominant since early May, unraveled to open the second half as the Angels lost 6-5 at Yankee Stadium, with New York rallying from a 5-2 deficit in the eighth inning.

The Good:

Yankee killer. When you do things in New York, you can no longer do them with relative anonymity, as Mark Trumbo has this season. The Angels' most powerful hitter mashed a Hiroki Kuroda fastball in the seventh inning for a three-run blast. It was his 23rd home run and carried to the left-field bullpen, a distance of about 435 feet. Trumbo has homered in five straight games against the Yankees, so now everybody will know his name when he walks down Fifth Avenue. If they don't, they'll just make up a few of their own. MVP candidate for sure now.

Escape artistry. C.J. Wilson had a man at third, nobody out and Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano coming up in the sixth inning, the Angels already trailing by a run. None of those hitters could get the ball out of the infield. Later, he stranded a runner at third with one out. Wilson didn't pitch in the All-Star Game because of some blister issues on his left middle finger. Who cares? If anything, that's good news for the Angels, since they could open the second half with Wilson and give Jered Weaver a few extra days of rest.

Still going. It's fun to watch Mike Trout even when he's doing relatively mundane things, at least by his standards. He dribbled a single up the middle and stole second (on a play that wasn't close) and roped a double into left (and stole third). It wasn't Trout's most spectacular night, but it continued his positive momentum heading into the final 2½ months. That's important to this team that has absolutely fed on his energy since early May.

The Bad:

Downer. How good had Scott Downs been? Not only hadn't he allowed a run, but he hadn't even allowed more than one base runner in an outing since June 22. That came to an end at a dramatically bad time. Downs hung a breaking ball to Mark Teixeira and the slugger hammered it into the left-field stands. Downs had given up one earned run all year. Now he has given up five.

Baffling base running. Does any team run into outs more giddily than the Angels? Much like earlier in the season, a fairly mediocre pitcher was able to sail into the latter innings, in part due to some unnecessarily aggressive base running. It's one thing to let Erick Aybar or Mike Trout run, but why put Trumbo and Alberto Callaspo in motion? Each of those guys were involved in swing-throw double plays. Howie Kendrick ended the game trying to reach second on a pitch that bounced in the dirt and dribbled about 15 feet from home plate.

What to do? Vernon Wells took batting practice on the field before Friday's game and Mike Scioscia said he would begin a rehab assignment once he can hit pain-free for a week. OK, so let's say Wells is about two weeks or so away from returning. That means Decision Day, which the Angels have been dreading, is rapidly approaching. Wells clearly no longer has an everyday spot, and is he really even deserving of at-bats at the expense of Kendrys Morales or Torii Hunter? What do you do with a player who's going to cash $42 million worth of checks from you in the next two years and no longer has an appreciable role? Stay tuned.

Ervin Santana: 'I'm a home-run pitcher'

May, 30, 2012
5/30/12
11:22
PM PT
Ervin Santana Kelvin Kuo/US PresswireErvin Santana is giving up home runs at an alarming pace, but he and manager Mike Scioscia shrug it off.

ANAHEIM -- The Angels' 6-5 loss to the New York Yankees didn't seem to portend a dramatic shift in momentum, even if it snuffed out the team's longest winning streak in three years.

If anything, it felt like a continuation of their offensive resurgence and their newfound ability to battle back. They did, after all, fall behind 5-1 in the third inning before rallying to tie the score.

But that brings us to the part of the evening that was a bit troublesome given its connection with a season-long trend: Ervin Santana is giving up home runs as if they're on markdown. During his tortured, 48-pitch third inning, Santana allowed long balls to Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano.

Those were the 14th and 15th home runs Santana has allowed this season, most in the majors. The next guy on the list, is Texas' Colby Lewis, who pitches here Friday night.

Is it a problem? Depends who's asked. Angels manager Mike Scioscia and Santana essentially shrugged it off.

"I'm a home-run pitcher," Santana said. "I'm a power pitcher and, if they make good contact, that's where it's going to end up."

Scioscia worries that if Santana abandons his aggressive style, it will only lead to further troubles. The only thing worse than giving up a home run is giving up a couple of walks in front of a home run. Scioscia called Santana's propensity to give up deep fly balls a "byproduct of challenging guys."

"He has much more success when he stays aggressive in the zone," Scioscia said.

(Read full post)

3 Up, 3 Down: Yankees 6, Angels 5

May, 30, 2012
5/30/12
10:23
PM PT
The Angels' eight-game winning streak came to a halt Wednesday night, but not without a fight.

The Angels rallied from a 5-1 early hole to tie the game before the New York Yankees tacked on a run to win it 6-5 at Angel Stadium and sidestep the three-game sweep. A familiar problem -- Ervin Santana home run balls -- returned, and a trend continued -- Mark Trumbo's torrid hitting.

The Good:

Killing it loudly. Mark Trumbo told me before the game that just knowing he's in the lineup every day has helped get into a nice rhythm at the plate. But it's got to be more than that, doesn't it? Trumbo looks as dangerous as any hitter in the game not named Josh Hamilton, one of only two AL hitters with a higher OPS. He has homered in four straight games. If he goes deep again Friday, he'd set a new Angels record. Trumbo went 3-for-4 and drove in three runs.

Feisty fish. Mike Trout is probably a little more edgy than most people realize. He didn't look happy after Ivan Nova hit him in the shoulder with a pitch in the first inning, so he promptly stole second. He also later hit a two-run double off Nova. The Angels' rookie appears to have the right combination of on-field swagger and clubhouse humility to walk the delicate line this game requires.

Getting on. One of the reasons Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto fired hitting coach Mickey Hatcher was that he wanted to see a greater emphasis on on-base percentage. During this hot streak, we're seeing evidence that the Angels are moving in that direction. The top four hitters in the lineup were on base 10 times to give Trumbo and Howie Kendrick copious chances.

The Bad:

The barrage. Ervin Santana is giving up home runs at an extraordinary pace. He has allowed 15 long balls in his 11 starts, most in the majors. They are proving costly to Santana (2-7), who has a 2012 team option in his contract, and for the Angels, who have lost all but two of his starts. Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano both took him deep in a rough third inning.

Rally killer. Kendrick popped up with the bases loaded in the first inning. He hit into an inning-ending double play to spoil a two-on, one-out rally in the fifth and he struck out to strand two more runners in the seventh. Yeah. Rough night for Kendrick, whose season just has never gotten clicking.

Soft around the middle. The back end of the Angels' bullpen is as solid as it has been in years. It's the middle innings you worry about, but then again, what team doesn't? Hisanori Takahashi (0-2, 5.06 ERA) hardly seems like he adds much value. The Angels fought so hard to tie the game in that fourth inning and then Takahashi gives up a triple to Raul Ibanez and a run to squander the momentum.

The impermeable outfield

May, 30, 2012
5/30/12
6:07
PM PT


As the elder statesman of Angels outfielders, who are rapidly becoming the best defensive unit in the major leagues, Torii Hunter has a little motto he shares with young speedsters Peter Bourjos and Mike Trout.

"Don't let anybody have a hit," Hunter said. "And if you don't have a hit, then really don't let them have a hit."

Tuesday night, they barely did. Trout made a leaping catch to rob a home run and a diving catch to take away a single. Bourjos made a sprinting catch in the alley before slamming into the wall. Hunter is a nine-time Gold Glove winner who may have played the best defensive right field in the AL last year.

If Bourjos can hit well enough to force his way into the lineup more often, the Angels would have an outfield comprised of three center fielders, all with Gold Glove potential.

"They've got some track stars out there," said Yankee Nick Swisher, the victim of two of the great catches.

"It was crazy from my point of view, when the ball goes up, to see them close ground like that," Angels pitcher Dan Haren said. "It's pretty special. Those things, they change innings and they can change the game around."

Hunter got Wednesday's game off since he just returned from a two-week stay on the restricted list, but he figures to return Friday night with first-place Texas in town.

Also, Haren will pitch Sunday, the finale of that series. The Angels likely will use rookie Garrett Richards either Monday or Tuesday against Seattle.

Here are lineups for Wednesday:

New York
Derek Jeter SS
Curtis Granderson CF
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Robinson Cano 2B
Mark Teixeira 1B
Raul Ibanez LF
Nick Swisher RF
Eric Chavez DH
Russell Martin C

Angels
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

Angels pitching will finally get tested

May, 28, 2012
5/28/12
4:44
PM PT
After consecutive series against three of the worst offenses in baseball, Angels pitchers come home this week to face the two most-powerful lineups in the American League, starting Monday night against the New York Yankees.

The Angels are riding a six-game winning streak, all at the expense of the Oakland A's and Seattle Mariners. Before that, they faced the San Diego Padres.

Angels starting pitchers had a 2.38 ERA on the road trip and the bullpen has a 0.89 ERA over its last 13 games.

There were a couple of promising developments for the Angels before the game. Manager Mike Scioscia said it appears that a blister on the middle finger of pitcher C.J. Wilson won't cause him to miss Saturday's scheduled start against the Texas Rangers. Also, right fielder Torii Hunter rejoined the team and likely will be reinstated from the restricted list before Tuesday's game. Hunter missed two weeks while he helped his family deal with sexual-assault charges against his 17-year-old son, Darius.

Here are lineups for Monday's game, Angels ace Jered Weaver opposing New York's Phil Hughes:

Yankees
Derek Jeter SS
Curtis Granderson CF
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Robinson Cano 2B
Mark Teixeira 1B
Raul Ibanez LF
Nick Swisher RF
Eric Chavez DH
Russell Martin C

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

Jerome Williams battles case of nerves

April, 15, 2012
4/15/12
12:39
PM PT
It would be one thing if Jerome Williams were just facing the New York Yankees for the first time in his career.

It would be manageable if he were simply making his Yankee Stadium debut. But did the game have to be at prime time on ESPN, and did it have to coincide with Jackie Robinson Day? All of it put together had Williams feeling "anxious," in his own words, about making his season debut tonight.

"Just the magnitude here and the significance of the day, too, it's pretty nerve-wracking," Williams said. "I've got to calm my nerves down and go out there and pitch."

In a way, Williams is going directly from Single-A ball to the Bronx since his first two starts were on a minor-league rehab assignment. He likely will be on a short pitch count tonight since he'll be making just his fifth start since the beginning of spring training. He missed three weeks of camp with a strained hamstring, getting back just in time to fend off a charge for the fifth-starter spot from rookie Garrett Richards.

So, as nervous as he'll be, Williams also recognizes the accomplishment of just getting on the mound tonight. He hasn't been on a major-league roster in April since 2007. In the interim, he has pitched all over the globe -- from Taiwan to Mexico to Puerto Rico to Venezuela -- and he's still only 30.

"I'm just happy I'm back," Williams said.

Kendrys Morales loses his groove and other nuggets

April, 14, 2012
4/14/12
9:14
AM PT
NEW YORK -- Hopes for this team were sky high after Albert Pujols signed, but they went stratospheric when Kendrys Morales proved he was healthy in the spring.

Now, both sluggers are struggling in tandem, particularly Morales, and it has blown a hole in the middle of the Angels' offense. The most telling measure of that: Morales, usually the team's cleanup hitter, has yet to drive in a run. Since his four-hit game one week ago, Morales is 1-for-18 with six strikeouts.

Since the hot start, he has seemingly swung at every pitch he has seen, causing manager Mike Scioscia to say before Saturday's game at Yankee Stadium, "He's expanding his zone a little bit, which he did at times in '09 as well." Getting reacquainted with American League pitchers could also help.

Morales is just trying to get comfortable again in the batter's box.

“I’m not doing great right now, but I’m trying to get acclimated as quickly as possible," Morales said. ...

Reliever Scott Downs got on the bullpen mound Saturday morning and threw a few pitches to test his bruised right ankle. He said it felt good and, after missing the next two games, expects to be ready to pitch again by Monday or Tuesday. Downs has been the Angels most reliable reliever since April 2011.

The injury is complicated by the fact Downs lands on his right foot.

"The good news is I'm not a very harsh lander. I'm not violent," Downs said. ...

The Angels promoted lefty pitcher Brad Mills from Triple-A for one reason only: after some shaky starting pitching in the first week -- and against a stacked lineup at a hitter's ballpark -- they were concerned they might not have enough innings to squeeze out of their bullpen. Mills is a starting pitcher and he's hoping this isn't a permanent career move, from starter to long man.

"I still think I can be a starter in the league, but obviously the opportunity is what it is," Mills said.

Albert Pujols on his New York roots

April, 13, 2012
4/13/12
10:25
AM PT
Today's game will feature Albert Pujols' first swings at the new Yankee Stadium.

But Pujols isn't a newcomer to the biggest city in the United States. It was the first stop in his immigration from the Dominican Republic nearly 20 years ago. He, his father and grandmother landed in New York in 1996, when Pujols was 16. They lasted just a couple of months. Pujols saw a man shot at a grocery store and his family decided to live with relatives in Independence, Mo.

Pujols' memories of New York mainly are of fitting into a new culture -- he barely spoke English when he arrived -- and of the bitter cold. It was the dead of winter when they arrived, so Pujols didn't visit Yankee Stadium as a teenager.

"I still look at a picture that my aunt took when they came and got me at the airport with my dad," Pujols said. "That's something that really keeps you humble."

Pujols was booed rather lustily in his first-inning at-bat here, his .217 batting no doubt providing fodder for the bleacher creatures who relentlessly badger players at Yankee Stadium. He flew out to left field. Who knows, perhaps a series in baseball's highest-profile venue will ignite Pujols' bat. He was batting .182 after his first six games last year.

"He’s probably trying to get comfortable in the batter’s box, there are some pitchers he hasn't seen a lot that he's faced," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said, "but he's going to hit."

Manager reaches out to Bobby Abreu

February, 20, 2012
2/20/12
2:37
PM PT
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Mike Scioscia said he called Bobby Abreu about a month ago to discuss the veteran's role.

Abreu has been the subject of frequent trade rumors all winter, most recently linked to discussions with the New York Yankees involving pitcher A.J. Burnett. That trade reportedly fell through because Burnett, who has a limited no-trade clause, didn't want to play on the West Coast.

With Mark Trumbo and Kendrys Morales eating up at-bats at designated hitter and the Angels deep in outfielders, Abreu, 37, wouldn't appear to have an appreciable role.

"In talking to Bobby, he does want to play every day, but he's tempered that with an understanding of the potential of this team to win and he understands the situation," Scioscia said.

Abreu is not yet in Angels camp. Position players aren't required to begin working out here until Feb. 27.

Why pitch to Albert Pujols?

December, 14, 2011
12/14/11
12:07
PM PT
Who’s going to protect Albert?

Now that everyone has had time to take a deep breath, it could become an all-consuming question for the Angels, who could see their $254 million investment, Albert Pujols, turn into a walk machine. It was largely to provide protection that the St. Louis Cardinals signed Matt Holliday to a seven-year, $120 million contract before the 2010 season.

First up in the search for a hitter behind Pujols: Kendrys Morales, who mashed 34 home runs and 43 doubles in his breakout 2009 season before a fractured left ankle cost him nearly two seasons. The Angels aren’t banking on his return, but they’re sure hoping for it.

“One thing that sets us up really well is if Kendrys Morales can come back, just his presence from the left side,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “Right now, with a player like Albert, there are really only two ways to protect him: One is getting guys on base in front of him. Another is having some depth behind him, because he gets on base a lot.”

At first, it seemed that Morales’ return was less important when the Angels signed Pujols. Now, it could be paramount. If Morales is healthy and the Angels can squeeze him and Mark Trumbo into their lineup (Morales as designated hitter and Trumbo at third base or left field), they would have five players in their lineup capable of hitting 30 home runs.

It could be the difference between having a lineup as deep as the powerhouses of the league -- Texas, Detroit, Boston and New York -- and having a massive drop-off following the No. 3 hitter. Even after signing perhaps the best hitter alive, the offense could be the biggest question mark heading into 2012.

Angels cleanup hitters last season had a .739 OPS (on-base plus slugging), good for 10th in the AL. Their leadoff men had a .325 on-base percentage, seventh-best in the league.

Pujols walked 115 times in 2009. After the Holliday deal, he averaged 82 walks in each of the next two seasons. His lifetime OBP (.420) is .054 points higher than the Angels’ OBP leader last season, Alberto Callaspo.

The phrase that got tossed around a lot during the Pujols ceremony Saturday: makes everyone else better. It’s pretty straightforward. Anyone hitting in front of him will get more fastballs, because pitchers are wary of turning a solo home run into a two- or three-run shot. Anyone hitting behind him figures to have more RBI opportunities than he did a year ago. But it’s a two-way street. For Pujols to produce at his typical career levels, the Angels have to find people who have his back.

Arte Moreno continues to bet on Southland baseball

December, 12, 2011
12/12/11
10:29
AM PT
Angels owner Arte Moreno is painfully aware of what many baseball analysts have said and written about him since last week, when he committed $254 million over 10 years to 31-year-old slugger Albert Pujols.

“They’re going to say this is a dumb move,” Moreno said. “They’ve been saying that about me my whole career.”

At this point, maybe it’s prudent to assume Moreno knows what he’s doing, or at least has run the numbers a few times. A self-made billionaire who sold his billboard company in 1999 and parlayed that into a spot on the Forbes 400 list of richest Americans, Moreno bought the Angels for $183 million in 2003, about one-third what they were worth, before he signed Pujols and polished off a new TV deal worth more than $2 billion over the next 20 years.

Moreno has never been one for incremental moves. At 65, he had another chance to stun his industry and he didn’t hesitate at the moment of truth, shelling out more than $330 million in a matter of days for Pujols and pitcher C.J. Wilson.

The moves were about baseball in the sense that Pujols and Wilson have to keep producing to make them work, but it was really about two brands: one called Albert Pujols and one called the Angels, a merger that could change the geography of the game. The center of the baseball universe shifted a little bit west and a little bit south.

“I’m not as young as I used to be, but I’m a marketing guy and I just thought, ‘What’s it mean to our fans to bring a player of this caliber here?’“ Moreno said. “That’s when, all of a sudden, all your objectivity and budgets and stuff go out the window and you go, ‘Can you really get this player?’“

One of the topics Moreno and Pujols discussed in a series of phone calls leading up to last Thursday’s deal was a personal services clause that will tie Pujols to the Angels for at least 10 years after his playing days are over. It appealed to Pujols, a religious man who speaks freely about his charity work in the community, and it appealed to Moreno, who rarely speaks for more than a minute without mentioning the fans.

One moment in his career as a baseball owner continues to tug at Moreno. You can tell because he brings it up, unprompted, virtually every time he speaks to reporters. It was the breakdown in negotiations between him and agent Scott Boras over Mark Teixeira in the winter of 2008. Moreno feels his $160 million offer over eight years was used to simply drive up the price for the New York Yankees, who eventually agreed to pay $180 million.

To Boras, it was business: Moreno didn’t win the bidding.

It has always been more personal to Moreno.

No subsequent failings by the Angels to land top-flight free agents -- whether Adrian Beltre or Carl Crawford -- have stuck with Moreno like that one. Unlike three seasons earlier, Moreno didn’t linger long at the negotiating table with Pujols. He played the role typically played by the Yankees or Boston Red Sox, coming in late with the best offer and closing quickly.

That tells you something about his belief in his market. So far, Orange County, Los Angeles, Southern California -- whatever you define as his marketplace -- hasn’t let him down.

“He puts it out there,” Angels right fielder Torii Hunter said. “Those guys just chose to go to big markets like Boston and New York. Albert Pujols chose to come over here. I’m grateful the best hitter and the best player in baseball chose the Angels.”

Yankees 6, Angels 5: Three Up, Three Down

September, 11, 2011
9/11/11
4:07
PM PT
ANAHEIM -- It might prove to be the costliest mistake of the season. Angels center fielder Peter Bourjos dropped a Mark Teixeira fly ball that allowed the winning run to score in Sunday's 6-5 loss to the New York Yankees.

Bourjos' three-base error in the seventh inning dropped the Angels to 2 1/2 games behind the Texas Rangers in the AL West with 16 games remaining, the next 10 on the road.

The Good:

Bourjos' bat. One of the reasons the Angels have shown surprising power since the start of August is that Bourjos and Howie Kendrick have been supplying some of it. Bourjos' main attribute is his speed, but he's shown more than a modicum of power. He hit his 11th home run, a high, hooking shot to left field to give the Angels a 5-2 lead in the fourth. Kendrick hit his 16th in the first, building on a new career high.

Dink doctors. The Angels can hurt you with the long ball, but they're more likely to do it quietly. They had three infield hits, one of which resulted in a run, within the first three innings and four overall Sunday. That's been a season-long trend. The Angels lead the majors with 155 infield hits. They tap it and run and it often works.

Downs dealing. Scott Downs has been one of the best below-the-radar pickups in the majors this season. Angels fans must think so. In 26 outings at Angel Stadium, he has yet to give up a run. The veteran lefty was on the mound when the Yankees scored the winning runs, but he was far from culpable, nearly getting out of a two-on, nobody-out jam.

The Bad:

Bourjos' glove. He's been virtually flawless in center field, but Bourjos picked a bad time for a mistake. He had tracked down Mark Teixeira's deep drive at the warning track -- in fact he was camped under it -- but he took his eye off it at the last second and it bounced out of his glove for a three-base error that accounted for the winning run.

Faulty clutch. One of the reasons the Angels have made up ground in the past four weeks is their clutch hitting had picked up the pace. Entering Sunday, the Angels were hitting .369 with runners in scoring position and were 4-for-10 with the bases loaded. Not so much Sunday. They couldn't quite maximize their chances against Freddy Garcia, largely because they were 0-for-7 with RISP and 0-for-2 with the bases loaded.

Costly at-bats included: Bobby Abreu's third-inning strikeout with one out and a runner at third, Mark Trumbo's bases-loaded infield pop-up in the fifth and Torii Hunter's strikeout with a runner at third and one out in the seventh.

Not Ervin's best. It felt like Ervin Santana was trying to hold back a wall of pent-up aggression from a Yankees lineup that had been held down for two straight games by Jered Weaver and Dan Haren. He wasn't quite good to the task. Santana had solid stuff judging by eight strikeouts, but he gave up hits at key times and the result was his worst outing since May 30. That tells you how good he had been.

Scioscia looking to jiggle rotation

September, 11, 2011
9/11/11
12:44
PM PT
Manager Mike Scioscia said his rotation is the last thing he thinks about before he goes to bed and the first thing he thinks about when he wakes up.

It could be the impetus to drive the Angels into the playoffs or, if it doesn't keep up its current pace, it could send them home. Scioscia has been mulling the timing of when to start Jered Weaver on three days' rest again. It could come as soon as next Sunday in Baltimore. That would set Weaver up to pitch the final game of the season on his normal four days' rest.

"There is most likely going to be one day he comes back short," Scioscia said. "There are a lot of different things we’ve talked about in terms of the timing of it."

Here are lineups for Sunday's game:

New York

1. Derek Jeter SS

2. Curtis Granderson CF

3. Mark Teixeira 1B

4. Robinson Cano 2B

5. Jesus Montero C

6. Eric Chavez 3B

7. Andruw Jones RF

8. Eduardo Nunez 2B

9. Brett Gardner

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. Peter Bourjos CF

8. Mike Trout LF

9. Bobby Wilson C

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Jered Weaver
WINS ERA SO IP
18 3.59 169 213
OTHER LEADERS
BAH. Kendrick .293
HRM. Trout 36
RBIM. Trout 111
RM. Trout 115
OPSM. Trout .939
ERAG. Richards 2.61
SOJ. Weaver 169