Los Angeles Angels: Torii Hunter

Comparing Torii Hunter and Josh Hamilton

August, 9, 2013
8/09/13
4:53
PM PT

AP Photo, Getty ImagesJosh Hamilton's contract will be tough to live up to, while Torii Hunter's could end up being a bargain
Just like they did in the offseason before 2012, the Los Angeles Angels made a big-name splash for this season by signing Josh Hamilton. In what turned out to be a corresponding move, fan favorite Torii Hunter was allowed to walk. Hunter voiced his displeasure, tweeting in December, "I was told money was tight but I guess the Arte had money hidden under a Mattress. Business is business but don't lie." As unhappy as Hunter was then, it is the Angels that have been left wanting. Let's compare the two outfielders head-to-head.

Defense
At one point Hamilton was a well-above average outfielder. In his MVP season in 2010, Baseball Info Solutions calculated Hamilton's Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) at +11. This season Hamilton has cost the Angels seven runs in the field. The warning signs were there though, as he cost the Texas Rangers nine runs last season.

Hunter has been equally below average in the field this year (-7 DRS), coming off a 2012 campaign in which the nine-time Gold Glover saved 15 runs for the Angels. So despite Hunter having a better overall track record in the outfield, this category is a wash in 2013.

Offense
At the plate is where Hunter has really outperformed Hamilton, hitting nearly 100 points higher. Hamilton has a home run edge 16 to 12, but from a slugging percentage it's not even close with Hunter at .472 and Hamilton at .397.

For Hamilton, the offensive woes have been even more magnified with runners are in scoring position, hitting .163 with just four extra-base hits. Hunter is hitting .313 in these situations.

Overall from an offensive WAR perspective, Hunter has been worth two more wins this season (2.3 to 0.3).

Contract
The most unbalanced numbers actually are in the two players' contracts. Hunter signed a two-year deal with Detroit worth $26 million total. Hamilton's deal is for $99 million more than that and takes him through the 2017 season. In the last two seasons of the deal, Hamilton will make over $32 million each season. That's a tough pill to swallow for the Angels given the slugger has been replacement level in the first year of the deal.

With the monetary value of a win roughly $5 million, Hamilton would have to be a 5 WAR player per season over the remainder of his contract. Hunter, at 2.3 WAR is on pace to outperform his contract this season.

Angels use dominant offense to beat Tigers

April, 19, 2013
4/19/13
10:30
PM PT


ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Peter Bourjos had three hits and three RBIs, Mike Trout and Albert Pujols drove in two runs apiece, and the Los Angeles Angels slowed the worst start in franchise history with an 8-1 victory over Torii Hunter and the Detroit Tigers on Friday night.

For the full story, click this link.

Angels just can't put it all together

September, 27, 2012
9/27/12
9:07
PM PT
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- They do fireworks at Angel Stadium all the time. Warm weekend summer nights. Holidays. And of course, after the last regular-season home game to show appreciation for their fans, another 3 million of which turned up this season.

Most of the time they wait awhile after the game. Let the players get off the field and into the clubhouse. Let the fans file down on to the field or the lower bowl of the stadium. But for some reason they didn't wait this time. Albert Pujols struck out to close the book on the Los Angeles Angels' disheartening 9-4 loss to the Seattle Mariners and fireworks incongruously started popping out in center field.

It has been that kind of year in Anaheim.

A season that started with so much promise after the offseason acquisitions of Pujols and left-hander C.J. Wilson is six games from its end now with no obvious explanation of why this talented team could be left home come playoff time.

In the beginning it was the offense that let the Angels down. Then it was the pitching. In between the bullpen cost them games. Then it was the starting pitching again. Thursday it was again the bullpen, which gave up six runs over 3 2/3 innings of relief of starter Dan Haren.

"When they've done the job, we've done well as a team," Scoscia said of his team's oft-maligned bullpen. "When they've struggled, it's had an impact on us. It didn't work out this afternoon."

The Angels have the most blown saves (22) in the American League this year. They also have the fewest wins in relief, indicating that the relievers haven't done very well at giving the offense an opportunity to win the game once they take the ball from the starter.

But it's not just the bullpen that has landed the Angels where they are now, two games back of the Oakland Athletics for the final wild-card spot with six games to play.

That's just one hole they've had to plug in a year that has felt as if the team were leaking water from the start.

When you get to the end of things -- a season, a game, a career -- it's easy to only look for meaning in the things that came at the end.

But the story of this Angels season, the how and the why they've ended up looking up at the A's and Baltimore Orioles in the final week of the season without full control of their destiny, is a long one. And the beginning of it might be more important than the end.

The truth is the Angels have been bailing water out of the boat from the start of the season, when they stumbled out of the gate 18-25. Since then they've played like a playoff team, going 68-44 (.607) in 112 games.

"We've shown a lot of fight," Haren said. "If it weren't for really two stretches during this season, we'd probably end up with 95 wins or something. Unfortunately we dug ourselves a couple of holes and we're not sure we'll be able to get out."

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Torii Hunter putting on a show in September

September, 27, 2012
9/27/12
9:56
AM PT
With Detroit's Miguel Cabrera closing in on the Triple Crown and the Rangers' Adrian Beltre and Josh Hamilton making a late push; the Angels might have to make the playoffs for outfielder Mike Trout to win the American League MVP award.

If the Angels make it however, it will have been Torii Hunter who carried them the final leg.

Hunter's Wednesday night heroics -- his game-winning RBI single in the ninth inning of a 4-3 win over the Seattle Mariners which came just two innings after his game-tying RBI single -- were just the latest examples of what has made Hunter, not Trout, the Angels' September MVP.

Hunter, 37, who is in the last season of a five-year, $90 million contract, is willing the Angels through this final month. His two-RBI Wednesday were his 22nd and 23rd in 23 games this month . . . from the No. 2 spot in the order.

While Trout and Albert Pujols have cooled off some this month -- Trout is hitting .268 in September, Pujols is hitting .282 -- Hunter has been hitting a sizzling .322.

Last week, Angels manager Mike Scioscia said he thinks the move to the No. 2 hole has reinvigorated Hunter because it allows him to do more of what he does best -- hit gap-to-gap; move runners; come up in the clutch; add occasional power.

"Right now Torii is playing the best baseball he's played since he signed with us," Scioscia said last week.

And that play is fueled by a sense of urgency, because no matter how valuable Hunter has been down the stretch, the Angels may not be able to afford to bring him back next season.

Hunter has stated publicly he wants to stay and would take less money to finish his career here.

"I really love these fans," he said after Wednesday's win. "I want to stay here the rest of my career."

That's probably another two or three years, and while the Angels have moved on from late-career outfielders in the recent past, the 37-year-old Hunter appears to be a different case than former Angel Bobby Abreu, for example.

He's in far better physical shape than Abreu was at this age and is still playing quality defense in right, in addition to what he's producing at the plate.

It's true that at some point the Angels either have to clear room for youngster Peter Bourjos to play regularly or trade him (or Mark Trumbo or Vernon Wells). But from this corner of the room, I don't see how you let go of a guy who brings as much leadership, experience and ability to the park as Hunter does. Not when he can still play at the level he's demonstrating right now.

Nevertheless, finances being what they are, if it doesn't work out between Hunter and the Angels in the off-season, Thursday's home finale against the Mariners could be his final appearance in Anaheim.

Unless of course he keeps up what has so far been a magical September and earns the Angels the chance to play a few more games here in October.

3 up, 3 down: Angels 4, Mariners 3

September, 26, 2012
9/26/12
10:31
PM PT


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.

Pitchers dominate, but Angels can't gain ground

September, 26, 2012
9/26/12
12:22
AM PT
Zack GreinkeJeff Gross/Getty ImagesZack Greinke had 13 strikeouts in five innings but had to leave the game early because of a high pitch count.

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Los Angeles Angels pitcher Zack Greinke became the first pitcher in the modern era to strike out 13 batters in five innings, and yet the Angels gained no ground.

As a team, the Angels tied a major league strikeout record, and yet they remain where they were when the day started.

The Angels' pitchers dominated in a 5-4 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday night at Angel Stadium, but because the Oakland Athletics rallied for a 3-2, 10-inning victory over the Texas Rangers, the Angels remain two games out of the final wild-card spot with eight games to play.

The Angels also could not put any distance between themselves and the Tampa Bay Rays because the Rays also won and remained a game behind the Angels in the chase for that final wild-card spot.

The Angels' inability to change their position in the standings put a damper on a historical pitching performance Tuesday night.

"That sucks," said outfielder Torii Hunter, who hit a two-run home run Tuesday. "Trust me, we're scoreboard-watching. I don't care what nobody says. I am."

A few more pitching performances like they got Tuesday and the Angels should be able to make up that ground before the season ends.

Greinke, Garrett Richards, Kevin Jepsen and Ernesto Frieri combined to whiff 20 Mariners and tied the major league record for strikeouts in a nine-inning game. The Chicago Cubs (1998) and Boston Red Sox (1986, 1996) have also had 20 strikeouts in a nine-inning game.

The Angles were the first to use multiple players to reach that number, however, as Kerry Wood and Roger Clemens turned the trick by themselves for the Cubs and Red Sox.

Greinke certainly had the stuff to match that, but his pitch count piled up to 110 by the end of the fifth inning and he had to come out of the game with the Angels leading, 4-1. It was the third consecutive good start Greinke had to leave early because of his pitch count.

But unlike the past two, when Frieri blew leads in the ninth inning, the bullpen held on to keep the Angels breathing in the playoff chase.

"I was just trying to get ahead of guys, and that was the plan," Greinke said. "It just kind of worked out that I got a bunch of strikeouts early, and then later on I kind of had to go for a strikeout because there were people in scoring position in a close game. Kind of fluky, I would say, is the main thing that happened.”

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3 up, 3 down: Angels 5, Mariners 4

September, 25, 2012
9/25/12
10:35
PM PT


ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Led by a dominant -- albeit brief -- start by Zack Greinke, the Los Angeles Angels tied a major league record with 20 strikeouts in a nine-inning game and kept alive their wild-card hopes with a 5-4 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday night at Angel Stadium.

Greinke had 13 strikeouts in five innings as the Angels remained two games behind the Oakland Athletics for the final wild-card spot and pulled within 2 1/2 games of Baltimore with eight games to play.

The Good:

The repertoire: Greinke was missing bats with all of his pitches as he set a season-high with 13 strikeouts in only five innings and became the first pitcher since 1900 to have 13 strikeouts in five innings or less. He had his fastball, slider, curveball and changeup fooling the Mariners throughout the first five innings and struck out the side twice, including when he had four strikeouts in the fourth to tie an Angels record. He got strikeouts to end four of his five innings, including on a 94-mph fastball on his final pitch of the game.

Big-game Hunter: Right fielder Torii Hunter had a two-run home run among his two hits and also scored twice. He was 2-for-3 for the game, raising his season average to .306 and keeping him on pace to bat over .300 for the first time in his career. Hunter, whose home run in the fifth inning gave the Angels a 4-1 lead, is now batting .429 against the Mariners this season and has 44 RBIs against the Mariners since 2009 -- more than any player in the majors. The home run was No. 297 of his career.

Leading man: Mike Trout continued to build his case for MVP with two hits, two runs and a stolen base. Trout, who reached base three times, has already been named the team MVP and is beginning to reach some team records. Trout has now tied Vladimir Guerrero’s team record for runs scored in a season (124) and tied Wally Joyner’s team record for multi-hit games by a rookie (52). He now has 47 stolen bases, one behind the team rookie record held by Gary Pettis.

The Bad:

The pitch count: Greinke needed 110 pitches to get through five innings and had to come out of the game. The first batter of the game, Dustin Ackley, provided a harbinger of things to come as he made Greinke throw 10 pitches before striking out. Greinke also had to face a few extra batters -- one after Trayvon Robinson reached on a passed ball after striking out and two more after Mark Trumbo dropped a fly ball that would have been the third out in the fourth. He also picked off Kyle Seager at first base for the third out on a 2-2 count to John Jaso and then had to face Jaso again to lead off the next inning.

Designated strander: Kendrys Morales, batting cleanup as the Angels' designated hitter, had some unproductive at-bats in key situations. In the first inning with runners at first and third with no outs, he popped out to shortstop. In the third inning with runners at first and third with one out, he struck out. In those prime run-producing situation, Morales pretty much did the only things you could to leave the runner stranded at third. He finished 0-for-3 with two strikeouts.

Downs and out: The Angels handed relief pitcher Scott Downs a 5-1 lead in the seventh and he nearly let it slip away. He gave up consecutive doubles to Ackley and Franklin Gutierrez to lead off the inning that cut the Angels' lead to 5-2 then, after getting the next two batters, gave up a two-run home run to Justin Smoak that made it 5-4. Downs hadn't given up a homer since July 25, hadn't allowed a run since Aug. 25 and hadn't allowed a hit since Sept. 12.

Angels find it difficult to explain their troubles

September, 21, 2012
9/21/12
12:07
AM PT
Adrian BeltreAP Photo/Mark J. TerrillAdrian Beltre smacks a ninth-inning home run that sent the Angels tumbling to a tough loss.

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Like most pitchers coming off a tough loss like the Los Angeles Angels' 3-1 loss to the Texas Rangers on Thursday night, Zack Greinke only wanted to do this once. One group interview session by his locker. Say it once, explain it once, frame it once.

So Greinke waited patiently while the two other men who had a larger role in deciding this game had their say.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia explained why for the second time in a week the Angels were on the losing end of a game where Greinke gave them eight strong innings of one-run ball. Or really, why he keeps taking Greinke out for the ninth inning?

"It's not worth anyone extending themselves or getting them to a point where they're setting themselves back with injury," Scioscia said. "I don't know if it's 110 pitches, but I think it's a certain point of the game. If we're going to stretch him to 115, 120, we're going to start to push him for not only what he's going to do bouncing back but for his career."

Closer Ernesto Frieri was left to answer for why, for the second time in a week, he'd blown a game in the ninth inning that Greinke had pitched well enough to win. This time because he threw a hanging slider to a notorious breaking-ball hitter, Adrian Beltre, who promptly deposited said breaking ball into the left-field stands.

"Maybe I didn't execute the pitch the way I wanted, but I wanted to throw that pitch," Frieri said. "I am the same guy [as when he was more successful]. I was being aggressive throwing the fastball. I made only one bad pitch and that's what happened. When I was doing good I was throwing bad pitches, too. I was missing fastballs right down the middle and they would pop it up. This is the game. You need to be professional and just deal with it."

Both good, honest answers, even if they couldn't change the result of the game.

But when the microphone finally came around to the one guy who should have nothing to answer for, Greinke was stumped.

How can the Angels be playing good baseball, winning 15 of their last 22 games even including Thursday's loss and the heartbreaking 3-2 loss Frieri blew in relief of Greinke in Kansas City five days ago, and still be falling back in the wild-card chase?

"It's tough," Greinke said, shaking his head and searching for an answer. "We've been playing good. It's just, the other teams have been playing good, too.

"We can do better, but we can't do much better. I guess you have to give Baltimore and Oakland credit. You keep waiting for one of them to stumble, but they're not. It's making it tough."

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3 up, 3 down: Rangers 6, Angels 2

September, 19, 2012
9/19/12
10:29
PM PT


ANAHEIM, Calif. -- At some point, the Los Angeles Angels are going to start running out of these crucial must-win games. Maybe that will be a good thing for frustrated fans who have been forced to sit through one heartbreaking loss after another as the Angels fall further behind in the playoff race.

On Wednesday night, the Angels lost to a Texas Rangers team playing without Josh Hamilton and Adrian Beltre 6-2, as C.J. Wilson was unable to make it out of the third inning. The Angels are now 7½ games behind Texas in the American League West and 3½ games behind Baltimore for the final wild-card spot.

The Good:

Callaspo’s big hit: On a night when the runs were, once again, few and far between for the Angels, Alberto Callaspo hit a two-run home run to left field that scored Howie Kendrick, who led off the fifth inning with a double. The homer was Callaspo’s 10th of the season and brought the Angels to within 3-2, which was as close as they would get in the game.

Williams in relief: Jerome Williams got the call sooner than he expected, but he did his part to keep the Angels in the game when he came in to relieve Wilson in the third inning. He pitched 4 1/3 innings, giving up only one hit and no runs and striking out four. Unfortunately for the Angels, the rest of the bullpen was not as effective.

Pujols is back: After missing Tuesday night’s 11-3 win over the Rangers to be with his wife, Deidre, in Kansas City, where she gave birth to the couple’s fifth child, Esther Grace, on Sunday morning, Albert Pujols returned to Anaheim on Wednesday. When Angels manager Mike Scioscia was teased that the team didn’t seem to miss Pujols, he shook his head. “No, you always miss a player like Albert.” Pujols finished the game 2-for-4 but didn’t do a particularly great job when he did get on base (see below).

The Bad:

Wilson’s bad start: Wilson’s start against his former team couldn’t have gone much worse. He lasted only 2 2/3 innings, giving up three runs, all earned, and four hits. It looked as if Wilson might have been called even earlier, as Williams, who relieved Wilson, started warming up after the first inning. Wilson’s nightmarish third inning did him in, as he gave up all three runs and three extra-base hits in that inning before being pulled. Wilson had won three straight coming into the game after compiling an 11-game winless streak earlier this season.

Pujols’ base running: Perhaps he was still catching up on sleep after the birth of his daughter, but Pujols inexplicably tried to stretch a routine single into a double in the sixth inning when he had no business doing so. As he jogged to second base after rounding first, you figured at some point in time he’d realize what he was doing and run back, but he never did. He was thrown out by about 15 feet. Making matters worse, Torii Hunter followed Pujols with a ground-rule double. Had Pujols stayed at first instead of trying to stretch his single, he would have been at third base and Hunter would have been at second with one out. Instead, the inning ended with Kendrick striking out with the next at-bat.

Just for good measure: As Scioscia has stated many times, his bullpen is simply not built be tested early. He needs his starters to go at least six to seven innings to give his relievers a chance to be successful. Obviously, that was not the case Wednesday night, as Wilson was pulled in the third inning and the Angels rolled through three relievers who gave up a combined three runs, all earned, on six hits.
 Jered WeaverVictor Decolongon/Getty ImagesJered Weaver returned to the rotation after skipping a start and looked as good as ever Thursday.

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Jered Weaver has been with the Los Angeles Angels long enough to know this isn't where they want to be this time of year. Chasing, pressing, scratching and clawing their way into a playoff spot, rather than lining things up for a deep playoff run.

He was a young pup back in the days when the Angels were the kings of the American League West. John Lackey was the staff ace then, and man, doesn't that feel like a long time ago?

Weaver is indisputably the ace of the staff now. The guy the team turns to when it absolutely, positively, needs to win a game. And a moment like that arrived Thursday afternoon with the Oakland Athletics on the verge of their first four-game sweep of the Angels since 2001.

Had the Angels been where they want to be this time of year, where their payroll and the talent on their roster projected them to be, Weaver might have been able to rest his tired right arm another week or two.

But the Angels don't have that luxury now. Not when they're still on the outside of the AL wild-card race looking in with just 19 games to go.

So Weaver did what an ace does, coming back to strike out nine and allow just two hits in a walk over seven dominant innings against the previously sizzling A's in a 6-0 win that added fresh kindling to the Angels' flickering playoff chances.

Weaver did his part Thursday, stepping up with a dominant performance in a game the Angels absolutely had to have.

"I wanted to set the tone," he said. "We obviously didn't want to get swept. And the first three games of this series obviously didn't go the way we'd like them to. These guys are playing real good baseball. You can't take them lightly. They're playing the game hard. They're battling just like we're trying to."

While the score looks like a blowout, it was far from it. Weaver and Oakland's Brett Anderson were locked into a classic pitcher's duel through six scoreless innings. Things only loosened up in the bottom of the seventh when Angels outfielder Torii Hunter slammed a solo home run that seemed to open the flood gates as the Angels batted around to score six runs and chase Anderson in the process.

Having shut down the A's almost completely, Weaver left after throwing 94 pitches in seven innings.

It was what an ace does.

The question is whether it's what a Cy Young winner does.

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3 up, 3 down: Angels 6, A's 0

September, 13, 2012
9/13/12
3:39
PM PT


ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Jered Weaver may have skipped a start with biceps tendinitis but in his return Thursday in a 6-0 win over the Oakland A's, he didn't look like he'd skipped a beat.

The Angels' ace looked to be back in dominant form as he struck out nine and gave up just two hits in seven strong innings to keep the Angels' flickering wild card hopes alive.

After struggling to score against the A's young guns in the first three games of this series, the Angels broke out in the finale as eight of the Angels' nine batters in the starting lineup got at least one hit.

Torii Hunter broke a scoreless tie with a solo homer to lead off the bottom of seventh and the flood gates were open. The Angels batted around, scoring six runs on RBIs from Hunter, Mark Trumbo, Alberto Callaspo and Hunter again to chase A's starter Brett Anderson.

The Angels' win snapped their three-game losing streak and halted the A's winning streak at six.

The Good:

Hunter continues to lead: Hunter smacked a home run to break a scoreless tie in the seventh, setting the Angels on a much-needed offensive roll. It wasn't so much the run that mattered, but the feeling it created among his teammates. All the pressure and the frustration that had built up over three straight losses and through the first six innings Thursday was lifted. With a run on the board, the Angels relaxed and scored five more runs.

Aybar keeps rolling: Shortstop Erick Aybar extended his season-long hit streak to 13 games with his 28th double of the season in the seventh. Aybar is now batting .320 with 25 runs in 34 games since coming off the disabled list.

Weaver back in form: It wasn't altogether clear how much the Angels would get from Weaver after he skipped his start last week to rest biceps tendinitis in his right arm. Manager Mike Scioscia was leery of extending him much farther than 100 pitches before the game. But Weaver was again masterful, striking out nine, walking one and giving up just two hits to stop what could've been a demoralizing sweep at the hands of the A's.

The Bad:

Failure to deliver: Albert Pujols was the only Angels starter not to record a hit Thursday. After blasting his 30th home run Wednesday night, Pujols went 0-for-3 with a strike out on Thursday. He grounded out with a runner at third in the sixth inning, which felt pivotal until the Angels exploded for six runs in the seventh.

Picking on Jepsen: It feels a little nitpicky to single out a guy who pitched a scoreless eighth inning, but that's how good the Angels pitching was on Thursday. Kevin Jepsen ran into a little trouble when he allowed two-out singles to Jemile Weeks and Coco Crisp, but got Seth Smith to strike out to strand runners at first and third. It was the second straight shaky outing for Jepsen, who allowed two runs in the top of the ninth Tuesday night in the game the Angels lost 6-5 despite a two-run rally in the bottom of the ninth.

Those who like Hunter in the No. 2 hole: It may be a temporary thing, but with Kendrys Morales getting the day off, Scioscia inserted Callaspo into the No. 2 spot and slid Hunter into the cleanup spot. Callaspo went 2-for-4 with two RBIs and Hunter was 3-for-4 with two RBIs. Morales got a day off after going just 2-for-12 in this series.

3 up, 3 down: Athletics 4, Angels 1

September, 12, 2012
9/12/12
10:38
PM PT


ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the Los Angeles Angels’ season is slowly slipping away.

Actually, at the pace they’re going now, it might not be so slowly anymore. The Angels lost 4-1 to the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday night, their third loss to the A’s in as many days. The Angels are now 8.5 games from the top of the American League West and 3.5 games out of a wild-card spot.

The Good:

Santana: You couldn’t ask for much more from Ervin Santana. The right-hander, who had won four of his previous five decisions and thrown quality starts in six of his previous seven starts heading into Wednesday’s game, pitched six innings, giving up one earned run on four hits and striking out six. Santana got out of a two-on, two-out jam to end the first inning by striking out Josh Donaldson and later played on after getting hit by a comeback by Brandon Moss in the fourth inning. On that play, he threw to second for the forceout before getting checked by doctors on the mound.

Kendrick: It might not have been Howie Kendrick’s best day from the plate; then again, none of the Angels had a day worth remembering. But the second baseman did make the Angels’ defensive play of the game. In the top of the fifth inning, he dove left to smother a Coco Crisp grounder and threw to first base for an out.

Pujols: Before the game, Angels manager Mike Scioscia had somewhat encouraging news on Albert Pujols’ tight right calf, which has prevented him from playing first base since Aug. 22. “He’s been taking some ground balls, but he’s still not quite to that level,” Scioscia said. “Hopefully he’s feeling comfortable enough at some point to get out there, but right now it’s something you can’t push.” While the Angels wait for him to return to first base, Pujols has been a consistent hitter as a DH. On Wednesday he hit a home run, and he now has a hit in 18 of his past 20 games.

The Bad:

Hunter: Torii Hunter admitted he didn’t know much about A’s pitcher A.J. Griffin before Wednesday’s game and looked especially confused by the right-hander at the plate. Hunter struck out twice, popped out once and broke his bat on a groundout in the eighth inning. It seemed Hunter was almost as frustrated by umpire Mike Everett’s strike zone. He struck out on a couple of pitches that were down and out after an earlier exchange with Everett.

Wells: The biggest reason Vernon Wells has been playing for the Angels recently is he has been a far more productive hitter than Mark Trumbo. Wells homered Tuesday night and has five homers in his past 15 games with an at-bat. Trumbo, however, likely will see the field again Thursday after Wells went 0-for-3 and flied out to left field to end the fourth inning, when the Angels had runners on first and third. To be fair, it’s not entirely Wells’ fault they didn’t score. In the past 13 innings, the Angels have had four runners at third base with fewer than two outs and have failed to score.

Iannetta: The good news was Angels catcher Chris Iannetta snapped his 0-for-15 skid with an infield single in the bottom of the third inning. The bad news was he tried to get from first to third on a Mike Trout single and was easily thrown out. Scioscia loves aggressive baserunning, but that was simply a bad decision by Iannetta.

Pujols delivers and it doesn't matter

September, 11, 2012
9/11/12
11:57
PM PT
Albert PujolsCal Sport Media/AP ImagesAlbert Pujols came through with a ninth-inning hit Tuesday, but it wasn't enough to lift the Angels.

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Albert Pujols dug in and glared at Oakland Athletics closer Grant Balfour. Mike Trout led off third base; Torii Hunter was at first. The Los Angeles Angels trailed by two with nobody out in the bottom of the ninth.

It was exactly the spot the Angels had envisioned having the game's most fearsome slugger in when they signed him to a 10-year, $240 million contract last winter.

This time Pujols delivered with a sharp RBI single to left field that cut the lead to 6-5. The Angel Stadium crowd roared. Pujols clapped his hands together as he rounded first base, then pointed to the sky. Hunter pumped his fist as he cruised into third.

It felt symbolic. As if Pujols and the Angels had finally squashed the upstart, perpetually low-budget A's and this improbable run they've been on. Talent matters. Money matters. Order had been restored.

And then A's reliever Jerry Blevins got Kendrys Morales to strike out and Howie Kendrick to hit into a game-ending double play to preserve a critical 6-5 win.

The rally ended so suddenly, it took a few minutes to digest. But even when there was time to process, it didn't sit well.

The Angels got clutch hitting from the guy they are paying $240 million to get clutch hits, and they still lost?

Pujols delivered, and it didn't matter?

"They're playing pretty good baseball over there," Hunter said of the A's, who now lead the Angels in the American League wild-card race by 4 1/2 games with just 20 games to go. "It's just frustrating because we're playing good ball, too. They're just coming out on the W side."

Afterward, there were the familiar laments of wasted opportunities early in the game. The Angels got runners to first and third with fewer than two outs in each of the first two innings and again in the ninth but couldn't capitalize.

And of course, Hunter tried to "take this one on the chin" because he tried to cut off Coco Crisp's sharply hit triple down the right-field line and missed, playing it into an inside-the-park home run that ultimately decided the game. After he came up with a solo homer in the seventh and a critical RBI single in the ninth, this one isn't on Hunter.

But mostly, folks just shook their heads.

(Read full post)

3 up, 3 down: Athletics 6, Angels 5

September, 11, 2012
9/11/12
10:37
PM PT


ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The Los Angels Angels got all they could've hoped for out of spot starter Jerome Williams and four relievers, another spectacular night from rookie sensation Mike Trout, clutch hits from Torii Hunter and Albert Pujols in the bottom of the ninth ... and they still lost.

The surprising Oakland Athletics continue to be a team of destiny, this time holding on for a hard-fought 6-5 win over the Angels to strengthen their grip in the American League wild-card race.

The Angels trailed 6-3 going into the final inning but seemed to be on the verge of a dramatic comeback as catcher Chris Ianetta and Trout drew walks, then came home to score on RBI singles from Hunter and Pujols. But Kendrys Morales struck out and Howie Kendrick hit into a inning-ending double play to end the threat and the game.

The Angels now trail the A's by 4 1/2 games in the AL wild-card chase and the Yankees and Orioles by 2 1/2 games.

The Good:

The Hunter for a Playoff October: If this is the final month of Hunter's Angels career, he's making it memorable. Hunter hit a solo homer in the seventh inning and drove in a run in the bottom of the ninth to give him 27 RBIs in August and September.

Wells Bells: Don't look now, but Vernon Wells is about to take Mark Trumbo's job. The veteran outfielder has been on a bit of a power surge lately, blasting a two-run homer in the second inning Tuesday to give him five home runs in his last 15 games. Trumbo, who had been the Angels' most reliable slugger early in the season, remains mired in an awful second-half slump (he's hitting .182 in August and September). He sat for the third time in a week Tuesday.

Troutatious: It's getting to the point that you're surprised when he doesn't make the spectacular catch or drive in a critical run every night. Heck, it's even a little jarring when the kid records an out. Tuesday night Trout was his typically fantastic self, going 3-for-4, drawing a key walk and making a spectacular diving catch in the outfield to rob Yoenis Cespedes of a base hit.

The Bad:

Failure to capitalize: The Angels had runners at first and third with less than two outs in each of the first two innings against A's righty Dan Straily but couldn't plate any of them and ended up allowing Straily to settle in and grow stronger throughout the game. Pujols flied to right with runners on in both the first and second innings, Morales and Kendrick struck out swinging with Trout on third in the first inning and Hunter struck out to end a scoring threat in the second.

Bullpen holds, and then it doesn't: Angels manager Mike Scioscia wasn't expecting much out of starting pitcher Williams and he certainly wasn't going to leave him in too long. Not with as much riding on it as this game. Williams worked a solid three innings but ran into trouble in the fourth and Scioscia turned to the bullpen, which came through in a big way. Nick Maronde, Garrett Richards, Scott Downs and Jordan Walden combined to hold the A's to scoreless on one hit over the next four innings until Kevin Jepsen gave up two runs in the top of the ninth on an RBI-triple by Coco Crisp that played as an inside-the-park home run when Hunter couldn't field it cleanly. It proved to be the winning run.

Losing ground: The Angels came into this series on a tear, winning 11 of their past 12 games, but could barely gain any ground in the wild-card race. And now, like a classic yo-yo dieter, they've fallen 2 1/2 games back of the Baltimore Orioles, who beat the Rays 9-2, and the Yankees, who lost to the Red Sox, for the second wild-card berth.

Help from unlikely sources

September, 7, 2012
9/07/12
8:47
AM PT
The Angels picked a good time to get hot, winning eight of their last nine to get within two and a half games of the AL Wild Card leaders.

In their last three series (sweeps over the Red Sox and Athletics and two of three from the Mariners) the Halos have received offensive production from some unlikely sources.

HUNTER LEADING BY EXAMPLE

Torii Hunter has been solid since the All-Star Break, with a slash line of .325/365/.420 through August 26, but in his last nine games he has really set the table by going 17-37 (.459). Pitchers have tried to pound Hunter low and away, but he has simply gone with the pitches and served them into right field.

Hunter isn’t hitting for much power (his .136 ISO is on pace to be his lowest since 2000), but the Angels don’t need him to hit for power out of the two-hole. His batting average is up to .305, which would be a career high and his on-base percentage of .357 would be the second-highest rate of his career.

CATCHING ON

Chris Iannetta didn’t exactly make a strong impression in his first year in Anaheim. Prior to hitting the disabled list with a broken wrist on May 9, he was hitting .197. To his credit he drew enough walks that his OBP was .312. And since the break he’s hitting .319 and in the last nine games he’s 10-23 with two home runs, two doubles and just two strikeouts.

STREAKY STAFF

After a simply brutal start to the second half of the season, the Angels pitching staff is finally living up to its potential. They have held opponents to three runs or fewer in each of the last eight games -- their longest streak of the season. The only team this season that has had a longer streak of three runs or fewer allowed is the Cardinals -- who went nine straight games at the end of April.

SCOUTING SCHERZER

The Angels huge seven-game homestand will start off with the top two pitchers in baseball in strikeouts -- Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander. Scherzer is on the hill Friday and he leads all starters with 11.29 strikeouts per nine innings pitched.

Scherzer’s fastball has an average velocity of 94 MPH and has topped out this season at 99 MPH. He throws it over 60 percent of the time while throwing his changeup and slider around 20 percent of the time each.

The righty has dominated the Angels in two previous meetings this season, allowing a total of seven hits in 14 innings while striking out 18.

Mike Trout has had the most success of any Angel against Scherzer this season, with two hits including a home run. Both of those hits came off of sliders.

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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Mike Trout
BA HR RBI R
.305 24 76 72
OTHER LEADERS
HRM. Trout 24
RBIM. Trout 76
RM. Trout 72
OPSM. Trout .992
WJ. Weaver 11
ERAG. Richards 2.62
SOG. Richards 139