Los Angeles Angels: Tyler Chatwood
They still have to unclog a logjam of first basemen/DH types, with a trade of Bobby Abreu looking increasingly unavoidable. Funny, it was pretty apparent at the end of the season that the Angels would need to move Abreu. It just got a little more pronounced when Pujols signed a 10-year contract and added a big log to the jam.
Now, the Angels need the DH spot Abreu would occupy to give at-bats to Mark Trumbo and Kendrys Morales. They'll miss Abreu's patience and his left-handed bat (Let's not forget, he's been a marvelous player for a long time), but his declining production the past three seasons makes him expendable.
Can they get anything for him? That could come down to finances, as in how much of his $9 million contract are they willing to eat? They're unlikely to land any of the things they covet most at this point: a closer, a power-hitting third baseman, a good left-handed hitter of any kind.
To get one or more of those kinds of players the Angels would have to trade one of their promising young players: Hank Conger, Mark Trumbo, Garrett Richards, Peter Bourjos or Mike Trout. I list them here in order of their likelihood of being dealt.
Conger has yet to prove himself in the major leagues, but teams are always looking for catchers who can hit, especially left-handed ones. Mike Scioscia has yet to get comfortable with Conger's defense. The Angels would love to hold onto Trumbo, who is both inexpensive and productive, but this might be the time to strike. His value is high coming off a Rookie of the Year runner-up season, there's no vacant position for him to play and his lack of on-base skills don't fit with Dipoto's vision.
Teams are always looking for young pitching and Richards has the kind of live arm they covet, but he's currently the Angels' No. 6 starting pitcher, a commodity almost as valuable as a backup quarterback in the NFL. They can hardly afford to part with what scant pitching depth they have now that Tyler Chatwood is a Rockie.
It would take more for the Angels to give up Bourjos or Trout (especially Trout), two unique talents, but bear in mind they both play the same position and do a lot of the same things. Moving Trout to a corner outfield spot would waste some of his primary asset, his blinding speed and, thus, reduce his value.
It's too early to tell whether Dipoto's final strokes will be brush-up work or bold changes, but it's pretty obvious he's still exploring his options.
Front office officials for Angels arrived 18 people strong, according to two sources, ready to strengthen the team that wound up second in the AL West.
The Angels filled one of their main needs last week with the addition of catcher Chris Ianneta from the Colorado Rockies in exchange for pitcher Tyler Chatwood.
Saturday, they sent catcher Jeff Mathis to Toronto, after Mathis never achieved what was expected from him offensively and one of the reasons the Angels decided to move Mike Napoli in 2010 to those same Blue Jays.
Ianetta batted .238 with 14 homers and 55 RBIs in 112 games for the Rockies last season. Mathis had a .174 average with three homers and 22 RBIs in 93 games.
Now, the Angels are trying to get a fourth or fifth starter who can work behind Jered Weaver, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana in the rotation, maybe ahead of veteran Jerome Williams.
Jerry Dipoto, the Angels' new general manager, said they are still interested in left-hander C.J. Wilson, who in the past two seasons was a starter for the Texas Rangers, the two-time AL champions.
“We have expressed our interest in improving certain areas,” Dipto said Saturday. “And we are no different than the other 29 teams in the major leagues; starting pitching is our priority.”
AP Photo, Getty Images
The top of the Angels' rotation isn't a concern. It's the 4 and 5 spots that could use some help.
New Los Angeles Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto will have a few days to unpack and settle into his new office.
Until Thursday, teams can only negotiate with their own free agents. The odds of the Angels bringing back Russell Branyan, Joel Pineiro or Fernando Rodney are infinitesimal. Branyan didn’t play, Pineiro lost the ability to get American League hitters out and Rodney constantly grumbled about his lack of use.
By Thursday, Dipoto should have a pretty good idea of what he has, what he needs and what he’s working with. He has a team with some promising building blocks, but encumbered by escalating salaries for aging players. He needs a veteran late-inning reliever and a starter. He would like a catcher and, perhaps, a power-hitting third baseman.
He’s not working with as much as it once appeared he might. Angels owner Arte Moreno told reporters on Saturday he’d like to keep a lid on the payroll at $140 million and the Angels already have $99 million tied up in nine veteran players on long-term contracts. It will cost them about $20 million more to keep all their arbitration-eligible players, plus roughly $2 million more to sign all the young guys making the minimum.
That means, even if he can persuade Moreno to stretch the budget, he’ll be looking at a roughly $19 million budget to address multiple needs.
This probably won’t be a big-splash kind of winter in Anaheim, but it could be a pivotal one. Let’s delve into some of Dipoto's needs:
The Angels flashed their youthful speed at times, but the Rangers made the loud noises, hitting five home runs. Texas can lock up the second-best record in the AL by completing the series sweep Wednesday. That would allow it to open the playoffs at home Friday against the wild-card team instead of venturing to Yankee Stadium.
Dashing lads. Peter Bourjos runs like a deer. Mike Trout churns up ground line a running back. For one night, it was fun to watch the two speedsters hitting together at the top of a lineup. Trout got on base twice and scored a run. Bourjos pushed a triple into the alley in right-center. You could see what one day might be a dynamic pair of table setters.
Streaking. It might be a mistake to bet against the Rangers in the playoffs. They're healthy at last and they seem to be hitting their stride at the perfect time. Adrian Beltre homered in his fourth straight game. Ian Kinsler hit his 32nd home run among three hits and stole his 30th base. Their No. 7 hitter, Nelson Cruz, hit a towering shot for his 29th home run. Mike Napoli has a career-high 28 home runs, 15 of them on the road. These guys have versatility. They can pitch with the good teams and slug with the big boys.
Chance to shine. There are players who toil in your organization that teams like to reward with September call-ups. The Angels weren't able to give those guys action, because they were fighting to stay in the playoff hunt. Tuesday, Mike Scioscia opened the gate to the youngsters. Jeremy Moore, Gil Velazquez and Andrew Romine all had hits. Efren Navarro made a brilliant play at first base. Nice moments.
Chatwood's decline. Back in early June, Tyler Chatwood was a key member of the Angels' rotation and looked like he might be an emerging young pitcher in the American League. Since then, he's gone 3-9 with a 5.58 ERA, lost his spot and now you wonder if he's in the mix next spring. One big problem: Chatwood has allowed a home run in eight of his last nine outings. Ian Kinsler took him deep Tuesday.
Home, bitter home.Vernon Wells' struggles have been a movable famine. He has made frequent outs in most of the venues the Angels have visited, but much of his worst work has been done at Angel Stadium, as usual. Wells is wrapping up his first Angels' season with a 1-for-17 homestand, bringing his Angel Stadium batting average this year to an even .200. He's hit just eight of his 25 homers here. No wonder they boo him so much.
Another injury. Aside from the season-ending injury to Kendrys Morales, the Angels were relatively fortunate in news from the trainer's room. Lately, things have started falling apart. Howie Kendrick jammed his left wrist diving for David Murphy's infield single and might be out for the year, meaning he won't play Wednesday.
The AL West might be the hottest pennant race baseball has to offer this year, but that's not looking like a ringing endorsement for September baseball. More than 37,000 people showed up at Angel Stadium for what turned out to be a 13-5 Minnesota Twins victory. Few of them could have left the place with much hope for the Angels in 2011.
Maybe it was because Jered Weaver wasn’t in the building. His start was bumped back one day so he could attend his grandfather’s funeral in Oregon. Weaver's replacement, youngster Tyler Chatwood, took all the air out of the place with another wild inning, the Twins taking four walks and scoring five times in the fourth.
It went on like that pretty much all night. The Angels walked in four runs, the first time they've done that since divisional play began in 1969. Correct me if I'm wrong, but that doesn't sound like what you do when you're angling for the playoffs.
"We had a tough night tonight on the mound," was how Mike Scioscia put it.
By the latter innings, the only enthusiasm Angels fans could muster was funneled into boos for struggling veterans Vernon Wells and Fernando Rodney.
Had they been in the building, they might have booed when Scioscia posted his lineup at about 3:30 p.m. on the clubhouse wall, too. How on Earth, with the Angels desperately trying to keep pace with Texas, can he justify playing Bobby Abreu and leaving this month’s most dynamic offensive force on the bench?
Mike Trout has batted .357, mashed four home runs, scored 10 times and accounted for seven RBIs in just 28 at-bats since he got called back up from Double-A. And Abreu? When somebody asked Scioscia before the game about Abreu’s season, the first word he said was “struggled.”
Abreu's lack of production has gotten bad enough that Scioscia and hitting coach Mickey Hatcher have urged him to go to a lighter, smaller bat in an effort to speed up his swing. The 37-year old -- who, by the way, is under contract for $9 million in 2012 -- batted .200 with a .244 on-base percentage in August. One thing about Abreu: He’s always been an on-base machine, but it’s harder to walk when pitchers don’t respect the damage your bat can do.
Here’s the easiest way to break down the Trout-Abreu-Wells daily lineup decision: The Angels have lost the last five games Abreu has started. Will Scioscia continue this general loyalty to veterans even as his team sputters to a standstill at his feet?
The Angels, 4 ½ games behind Texas now, haven’t quite stalled out on the side of the highway, but they look like they’re reaching for the hazard lights.
Combined with the Texas Rangers' 10-0 win at Boston, the Angels now trail by 4 1/2 games in the AL West with 24 games to play.
The schedule hasn't helped the Angels' cause as it appeared it might. They have gone 2-3 in their last five games against bottom-feeding teams Seattle and Minnesota while Texas has gone 3-1 against Tampa Bay and Boston.
Hot Howie. Howie Kendrick is having a good month in the last couple of weeks. In his last 16 games, he is batting .365 and has 12 extra-base hits and 13 RBIs. He's been riding a power surge, including a triple off the right-field wall Friday off Carl Pavano.
Mr. Consistency. If this season goes south, one guy you can't blame is Torii Hunter. He's been a different man in the second half, healthier and more productive. Hunter has hit safely in 31 of his last 35 games and he's driven in 13 runs in his past 13 games.
Do-it-all. Three days after pitching seven innings in Seattle, Jerome Williams pitched in relief -- and, after a shaky start sparked by some bad luck -- he gave the Angels another nice outing. He has less certainty about his role than any pitcher on the team, but he's been holding it together. It looks like the Angels might need him to make another start Wednesday, so they're rooting for this feel-good story to continue.
Walk-a-thon. Tyler Chatwood is ahead of most 21-year olds, but his lack of command at times makes him susceptible to cave-ins. Things collapsed on him in the fourth. The Twins banged a couple of doubles to score two, then the walks started coming. Chatwood walked three straight batters to get pulled, then reliever Jerome Williams gave up an infield hit and walked in a run. Ugly, ugly, ugly.
Depth charge. After Hunter's spot in the lineup, the offense fell off a cliff. The Nos. 5 through 9 hitters collectively got on base once through eight innings, when Vernon Wells singled off the shortstop's glove leading off the seventh inning. They were 1-for15 with four strikeouts against Pavano.
Hard to watch. Like his cap, Fernando Rodney is pointed in the wrong direction. He walked in two runs in the eighth -- kind of the theme of the night -- and has now walked 26 batters in 31 1/3 innings this year. Fans cheered when Mike Scioscia came out to relieve him.
ANAHEIM -- Jerome Williams has made it all the way back but admits he doesn't know how to feel. Yeah, he's as giddy as anyone could be after being called up from the minors, excited about making the start Sunday for the Angels against the Baltimore Orioles. But, while sitting in the clubhouse Saturday, Williams shook his head more than once, almost in disbelief of the road he has traveled to get here.
"It's been surreal, I don't even know," said Williams, who will make his first start in the majors since 2007. "I'm pretty much speechless right now. I just can't wait to take the mound."
The former first-round draft pick's last major league win came in 2005 and he has pitched all over the map since, with stops in Puerto Rico and Taiwan. Williams began this season with the Lancaster Barnstormers of the independent Atlantic League before the Angels signed him June 16. He was recalled Wednesday, taking the rotation spot of struggling rookie Tyler Chatwood. Once a hotshot, can't-miss prospect, Williams says his outlook has changed completely from what it was in 2003 when he made his debut at the age of 21. He wishes he knew back then what he knows now.
"When I was coming up I thought everything was handed to me," said Williams, who broke in with the San Francisco Giants. "I was a young guy and nobody was going to take my spot -- that was my thought process. And then once somebody took my spot, reality kicked in. ... Everybody says the easiest thing is to get to the big leagues and the hardest thing is to stay. It's true."
Williams says he's learned how to take care of his body and embrace every moment. His hope, obviously, is to stick with the club through the pennant race. Manager Mike Scioscia says he thinks Williams has the repertoire to make an impact.
"Guys are going to get opportunities," Scioscia said. "You hope they take advantage of it."
Said Williams, grinning from ear to ear: "I have to take this chance and roll with it. I know we're in a playoff race and I know (the coaches) have confidence in me. That's why I'm up here."
Here are lineups for Sunday's game:
1. J.J.Hardy SS
2. Nick Markakis RF
3. Adam Jones CF
4. Vladimir Guerrero DH
5. Matt Wieters 1B
6. Robert Andino 2B
7. Felix Pie LF
8. Craig Tatum C
9. Blake Davis 3B
1. Maicer Izturis 3B
2. Peter Bourjos CF
3. Howie Kendrick 2B
4. Torii Hunter DH
5. Mark Trumbo 1B
6. Vernon Wells LF
7. Erick Aybar SS
8. Mike Trout RF
9. Bobby Wilson C
ANAHEIM -- So far, the showdown for the AL West has been more like a slapdown.
The Texas Rangers pounded the Angels 7-3 Tuesday and they've now scored 15 runs in the first two games of this series, grinding through the Angels' bullpen. Rookie Tyler Chatwood lasted just two innings Tuesday, a day after Garrett Richards' injury forced him out in the first.
The Rangers' No. 5 starter, Derek Holland, dominated the Angels until he grew weary in in ninth inning. The Angels now trail Texas by six games with two games left in this series.
Arrival gate. Trevor Bell and Horacio Ramirez had to get up at the crack of dawn to fly from Salt Lake City to Orange County after they were promoted to give the Angels some fresh arms, but they stayed alert enough to do the job. They combined for what would have been a decent start -- five innings, two runs -- if it weren't mop-up work.
Torii's health. Torii Hunter won't say it, because he's old-school and it's considered bad form to blame injuries for poor performance. But you can tell his legs weren't entirely sound in the first half because of the way he's running now. He extended his hitting streak to 14 games with two hits, one driving in a run, and he made a diving catch to take a double away from Nelson Cruz.
Top option. Mike Scioscia has never had a true leadoff guy this year and his options have been dwindling lately with Erick Aybar in a major rut. Maybe Peter Bourjos is becoming that guy? He was batting .175 in the leadoff spot entering Tuesday, but he singled in his first two at-bats and drove in the Angels' first run.
Chatwood's aim. It's a shaky feeling to have a rookie starting a big game. Chatwood reverted to some bad habits -- falling behind in counts and walking batters -- as he allowed five runs in two innings. It was his shortest start of the season and broke up a roll of fairly solid outings. The Angels took a risk having the back end of their rotation open this series and it has backfired.
Big kid. A lot of people clamored for Mark Trumbo to move up in the lineup. He is, after all, leading the Angels in home runs and RBIs. But so far, his shift northward hasn't worked out well. Trumbo is batting just .200 in the No. 5 spot, including his RBI double in the ninth that glanced off Michael Young's glove.
The alternative. A little patience with Trumbo might be in order, as the guy who was batting in the five-hole, Vernon Wells is hitting .203 for the season and is actually having his worst month (.149) in a season full of bad ones. Wells has gone hitless in six of his last 10 starts.
Monday night's 8-4 loss to the Texas Rangers was about continuity. The Rangers continued to get their late-season roll on and the Angels continued to spring more leaks than they have plugs.
"It's that point of the year where it's put up or shut up time," said Angels catcher Bobby Wilson.
All, of course, is not lost. Yet. Though the Angels slipped five games back -- the furthest they've been from the top of the AL West in nearly a month -- they play six of their next 11 games against Texas. Recent history has shown that one side rarely dominates for long in this little rivalry.
But losses -- five in the last six games -- aren't the only thing the Angels have to worry about now. Suddenly, their pitching is more top-heavy than they're comfortable with. Rookie Garrett Richards' groin injury, which seems certain to send him to the disabled list, forced the Angels to use four relievers for multiple innings Monday and will require them to call up two new arms from Triple-A Salt Lake on Tuesday, manager Mike Scioscia said.
Then, there's the hole he leaves at the back end of their rotation. The most likely guy to claim the spot, Joel Pineiro, has a 5.34 ERA and just got yanked from the rotation about 10 days ago after four miserable starts. He's had a couple of good outings in mop-up duty since then, but is this the guy who's going to fuel a championship-caliber rotation? Maybe, if he pitches like he did last year and occasionally this year. No shot if he pitches like he did two weeks ago.
The Angels figure to need five strong starters, and three dominant ones, because Texas has them beat in virtually every other area of the game: relief pitching and hitting, particularly.
"As you keep struggling with some things and playing inconsistent baseball, that opportunity narrows, so you have to pick it up and play," Scioscia said. "That's what we're going to focus on."
It's about pitching because that's what it's always about with this team. The next guy to try to save this season is another rookie, Tyler Chatwood, who has one win in his last seven starts. The Angels haven't scored a single run while he was in the game in seven of his eight losses.
Good luck, kid. Oh, and try to save the bullpen while you're at it.
It was that night's starting pitcher, Garrett Richards, who was sitting by himself in the Angels clubhouse. Out came bullpen catcher Tom Gregorio to summon him to the conference room. Richards hasn't exactly been at this long.
He's 23 years old, was in Double-A a week ago, and now is being asked to stop one of the best offenses in the American League -- and the team the Angels are chasing -- in its tracks. Compounding the challenge for the Angels is that the guy who pitches the second game vs. the Texas Rangers, Tyler Chatwood, is actually two years younger than Richards and also a rookie.
Necessity has been the mother of promotion for the Angels as they try to keep up in this pennant race.
"Our depth on the starting pitching side has been stretched," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.
Before Richards made his debut at Yankee Stadium last week, Chatwood said he talked to him about using his breathing to "slow it down." It tells you where things stand with this organization -- after Scott Kazmir pitched himself out of the game and Joel Pineiro pitched himself into the bullpen -- that 21-year olds are dispensing advice.
"(They're) definitely our two best options, not only as far as being young, talented arms, but to win games and that's what we're looking at," Scioscia said.
UPDATE: Make that one rookie. Richards left the start with a strained right groin just 19 pitches into his evening. Now, the Angels must scramble for a replacement. It likely will be either Pineiro or Hisanori Takahashi.
Here are lineups for Game 1 of the Texas series:
1. Ian Kinsler 2B
2. Elvis Andrus SS
3. Josh Hamilton CF
4. Michael Young 3B
5. Nelson Cruz RF
6. Mike Napoli C
7. David Murphy LF
8. Yorvit Torrealba DH
9. Mitch Moreland 1B
1. Maicer Izturis 2B
2. Alberto Callaspo 3B
3. Bobby Abreu DH
4. Torii Hunter RF
5. Mark Trumbo 1B
6. Vernon Wells LF
7. Erick Aybar SS
8. Peter Bourjos CF
9. Bobby Wilson C
Seldom-used slugger Russell Branyan slammed a three-run home run off Mariano Rivera in the ninth inning -- the second homer the Angels hit off the Yankees legend this series -- but their rally fell short.
Branyan. Talk about degree of difficulty. Not only was Branyan facing a future Hall of Famer, but he hadn't seen a live pitch in three weeks, as he has remained planted on the bench with Mark Trumbo figuring out how to hit tough right-handers. He swung at Rivera's first pitch to him and sent it arcing into the right-field seats to give the Angels a chance.
Yankees lefties. The Angels would have had their 15th winning series in their last 17 tries if they had been able to pitch to Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano. Then again, a few other teams could have probably said the same thing. Those two left-handed hitters went 11-for-24 with six home runs and 13 RBIs combined in the three-game series. Tough to overcome that production from just two hitters.
Chatwood. He wasn't dominant, but the Angels need some stability at the back of their rotation and the 21-year old gave them some by pitching into the sixth inning and allowing only two runs. He improved on the performance of the other rookie in the Angels' rotation from the night before, which allowed some relievers to get a little rest. The Angels figure to need lots of pitching in Toronto, where the Blue Jays are scoring a lot of runs.
Pitching in the Bronx. When Curtis Granderson swung and made contact with Tyler Chatwood's pitch to him in the sixth inning, his head slumped as if he'd just hit a routine fly ball. The ball carried 10 rows deep into the right-field bleachers. No wonder Granderson has 32 home runs. Right field at Yankee Stadium is even more hitter-friendly than the old place.
Concentration. Maicer Izturis is one of the steadiest fielders the Angels have, but he took his eye off Mark Teixeira's routine chopper in the seventh inning on what would have been the third out. It was only Izturis' second error. You pretty much knew the Angels were in trouble at that point, as the Yankees for years have punished teams that make mistakes. Bam, Robinson Cano hit the lights-out grand slam off Scott Downs.
Homecomings.Vernon Wells is carrying some pretty embarrassing numbers with him as he returns to Toronto for the first time since being traded to the Angels in January. He's making it far too easy for Blue Jays fans to be glad their team got out from under his big contract. Wells has seven hits in his last 48 at-bats and he's only driven in three runs in August.
Luis R. (North Hollywood, Calif.): Looking forward to next season, what are the chances the Angels put either Kendrys Morales or Mark Trumbo at third base and trade Alberto Callaspo or Maicer Izturis?
Mark Saxon: Luis, I think you’re onto something. The Angels would like Trumbo to go play winter ball after this season and work on playing third base and the outfield. He started his minor-league career at third and he says he wasn’t very good, so I think the outfield is more likely. Of course, that raises a whole other can of worms since the Angels have a ton of money tied up in aging veterans there.
Ryan Thomas (Cypress, Calif.): Aramis Ramirez is a potential August trade candidate, but why not David Wright? He seems to fit the Angels’ style better and is under team control beyond this year. Is this possible?
MS: Ryan, David Wright is probably a better player than Aramis Ramirez and his numbers are more valid since he doesn’t play home games at Wrigley Field. The problem, I think, is the other team’s willingness to trade him. The Mets already moved Carlos Beltran, they might lose Jose Reyes next winter. It’s tough to draw fans in New York when you let all the name-brand players go.
Justin (Newport Beach, Calif.): Hey Mark, just wondering what the Halos plan to do with their logjam of outfielders, first basemen, and DHs next year. I assume they’ll have Trout, Peter Bourjos, Hunter, Bobby Abreu, Vernon Wells, Trumbo, and Morales all competing for five spots. How Do the Angels plan to solve this?
MS: Justin, This is the $64,000 question. Or, in the case of Vernon Wells, the $24 million question. That’s his contract next year and it makes him impossible to move. As I see it, the Angels have seven players (Mark Trumbo, Kendrys Morales, Bobby Abreu, Torii Hunter, Vernon Wells, Peter Bourjos and Mike Trout) for four spots. It’s going to be a tricky off-season to say the least.
As I sit in the front row of the Angel Stadium press box writing this, Ludacris is absolutely pounding my ear drums.
The base is throbbing so loudly, it feels like it's regulating the beating of my heart. Maybe this is what Angels hitters feel like when they come up with runners on base this year: hearts pounding to a rhythm not of their choosing (no offense, Ludacris).
Manager Mike Scioscia wasn't particularly critical Saturday of the Angels' at-bats against a rookie right-handed control pitcher named Blake Beavan, who threw 72 strikes en route to buzzing his way through eight innings and beating the Angels 5-1 in a fairly critical game to their playoff hopes.
"I thought we hit the ball better than one run would indicate," Scioscia said.
And that comment met the eyeball test. The Seattle Mariners aren't particularly good, but they made some clutch plays, including a brilliant double play with speedy Erick Aybar running to first in the third inning. But the fact remains that the Angels have slipped into an old, scary habit: failing with men on base, over and over.
In the past two games, the Angels are 3-for-19 with runners in scoring position.
A few questions were asked after the game about whether a lack of run support is bothering rookie starter Tyler Chatwood. The Angels have scored zero runs while he was in the game in half of his last 10 starts.
I'm guessing a 21-year old in the major leagues is too concerned about how he's being perceived as he tries to navigate this incredibly challenging, incredibly exciting experience than he is about what anyone else around him is doing. Jered Weaver or Dan Haren could complain of poor support. Tyler Chatwood can't.
But any Angels pitcher (OK, not Scott Kazmir) could make a good case that he's being left out to dry this year. The Angels rank No. 22 in baseball in runs scored and No. 20 in OPS. Their starters rank No. 2 in ERA.
And, by the way, Scioscia appeared briefly on the Angel Stadium infield, which was filled with Ludacris fans. He was not dancing.
After another lackluster night of hitting, the Angels lost 5-1 to the Seattle Mariners Saturday night to remain a game back of first-place Texas. The Angels have been planted one back for five straight games.
Good Times. That seems to be the only 1970s era sitcom that Torii Hunter hasn't used as walk-up music, but it actually applies these days. He's been dyn-0-mite on this homestand. Hunter has 11 hits in 20 at-bats to add a little heft to a batting average that was getting a little droopy.
One swing. It's not as if Bobby Abreu is hot (he's still trying to get out of the worst slump of his 15-year career), but he hit a deep double to the warning track. It felt like the first ball he had hit hard in a month. A scout I talked to before the game said he wrote in his report that one of Abreu's swings looked like he was swinging underwater. The Angels desperately need to get this guy swinging on dry land, because he's going to stay in the middle of their order the rest of this year, and maybe even next.
Other Bobby. You've got to figure Bobby Wilson is about to start getting the most playing time of his short career. The other catcher, Jeff Mathis, looks like he's swinging a rolled-up newspaper these days and the last two times Wilson has worked with Sunday starter Ervin Santana, Santana threw a no-hitter and another complete game. Wilson drove in the only Angels run with a double to right-center.
Rocky rookie. One reason the Angels appear hesitant to use pitching prospect Garrett Richards in their rotation vacancy this week is because of what they've seen from Tyler Chatwood. Generally, he has been solid, but you never know what you're going to get from start to start. That's often what happens with young players. In his last two starts, Chatwood is 0-2 with an 8.49 ERA.
Failing clutch. The Angels had a runner on in each of the first seven innings and a runner in scoring position in five of those innings against Blake Beavan, a fairly run-of-the-mill control pitcher. They squeezed virtually nothing out of all those chances. If the Angels don't make the playoffs, one reason will stand out in giant letters: They couldn't hit, particularly in the clutch.
Still Wells. Vernon Wells did a nice job poking a single over the shortstop's head and winning Thursday's game in the 10th inning, but his value has otherwise been hard to find lately. He's batting .211 and his on-base percentage isn't much higher than that, because he swings at virtually every baseball that approaches home plate. The one thing Wells has done fairly well this year is hit home runs and he hasn't done that since July 23.
The Angels now have won 11 of their past 12 series.
Firsts. A guy in an Angels cap caught Trout's home run ball and then, it appeared, agreed to give it up to Camden Yards officials (perhaps in exchange for some memorabilia). There should be no shortage of people to bring the ball back to nearby New Jersey as Trout had at least a dozen friends and relatives from his home state on hand. The numbers suggest Trout has struggled offensively, but he's gotten all the firsts out of the way, which should help ease his transition to the majors.
By the way, according to ESPN Stats and Info, the ball traveled 414 feet. It went about 15 rows deep in left-center.
Power. For a team that makes a lot of noise about its aggressive base running, the Angels seem awfully reliant on the home run in the past couple of months. They were in a tense battle with the last-place Orioles before Trout's blast broke it open and Torii Hunter's two-run shot made it a laugher.
Command. Who cares that Tyler Chatwood only allowed six hits in seven innings or struck out five. The number that stands out is zero. Chatwood didn't allow a single walk, the thing that often has been his undoing when he has struggled this season.
Callaspo's instincts. He has had a good season at the plate and he has made some nice plays in the field, but Alberto Callaspo has had an awful time running the bases. It didn't end up mattering after Trout's blast, but Callaspo could have jogged into third on Mark Trumbo's deep fly ball with nobody out. He didn't bother to tag up. Mike Scioscia didn't appear pleased.
Trumbo's dive. He added an extra run with a nice opposite-field hit in the ninth inning, but he looked more than a little awkward while oversliding the bag going for a double. He beat the throw, but decided to slide too late. Trumbo's a home-run hitter, so maybe he hasn't had a lot of practice sliding.
Rumor. One trade rumor has suggested the Angels might have some interest in trading for Orioles third baseman Mark Reynolds. Other than the fact the Angels have gotten scant power from their third basemen, in what universe does that make sense? Reynolds already has struck out 111 times and he's batting .222.