May 2012

Game 52: Yankees-Angels …

Yankees (26-23)

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

Pitching: RH Ivan Nova (5-2, 5.46 ERA)

Angels (26-25)

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

Pitching: Ervin Santana (2-6, 4.45 ERA)

Some pregame notes …

  • Looks like it’ll be Dan Haren pitching the series finale against the Rangers on Sunday, though that’s not official yet. He’d be on normal rest then. That would mean the matchups for Rangers-Angels will be: Jerome Williams vs. Colby Lewis, C.J. Wilson vs. Yu Darvish (yep) and Haren vs. Matt Harrison. Garrett Richards will be available out of the bullpen for the next couple days, but he pretty much has to start Monday or Tuesday so guys aren’t pitching on short rest.
  • Day off for Torii Hunter, who went 1-for-3 in his first game back on Tuesday and admitted he got gassed pretty early. Mike Scioscia, on how he thinks he looked: “He ran well down the line, looked good in right field, and he came out of it OK. Hopefully he’s getting back into his swing. … Just ease him back in take today off, take tomorrow off.”
  • Scioscia with some strong words about Jordan Walden, who has given up one run (with six walks and 12 strikeouts) in 12 1/3 innings since being demoted from closer: “He’s best suited long-term to be a Major League closer on a championship-caliber club and that’s what I think he’ll eventually get to.”
  • The Angels are 18-10 in May (second only to the Marlins). If they win tonight, they will match the club record for wins in May, done in 2002 (19-7).
  • Cool stat: Angels batting average from the leadoff spot before Trout’s callup — .250; since Trout’s callup — .364.
  • Ernesto Frieri is the first pitcher in Major League history to make 12 consecutive appearances without allowing a hit to begin his tenure with a team, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Per Stats LLC … since at least 1921, he’s the first pitcher with 25-plus strikeouts and no earned runs in the first 12-plus innings with a new club.

Some Angels links from Tuesday …

Some AL West links …

And with Chris Bosh out, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James will need to continue to step up.

Alden

Question of the Day, 5/29 …

With Torii Hunter back, where does Mark Trumbo play? – @bshah79

Time will tell, but I believe he’s essentially the everyday left fielder now (though he played first base when Albert Pujols was given a DH day on Tuesday). Fact is, Peter Bourjos wasn’t even getting regular playing time when both Hunter and Vernon Wells was out — Kole Calhoun was taking away some of his at-bats, if you’ll remember — and it’s clear that Mike Scioscia isn’t very comfortable with Trumbo at third. I think Wells’ DL stint gives Scioscia an avenue to plug Trumbo in as the left fielder at an almost everyday basis — with Mike Trout obviously in center — and not have to put him at the hot corner just to get his bat in the lineup. That’s what I see taking place moving forward.

Alden

Game 51: Yankees-Angels

Yankees (26-22)

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

Pitching: LH Andy Pettitte (2-1, 2.53 ERA)

Angels (25-25)

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

Pitching: RH Dan Haren (2-5, 3.76 ERA)

Some postgame notes …

  • So, Jered Weaver will be going on the disabled list with a lower back strain. My guess is he misses a little less than a month, but just a guess at this point. Garrett Richards is up. He’ll be available out of the bullpen these last couple of games. With the off day, the earliest he’ll pitch is Sunday (though Haren may be available for that) and the latest he’ll pitch is Tuesday (since Jerome Williams would be required to go on three days’ rest by that point).
  • Hunter, as evidenced by the starting lineup, was activated from the restricted list, with infielder Andrew Romine being sent back down to Triple-A Salt Lake. Mike Scioscia obviously feels comfortable that Hunter is ready to go.
  • As for how the outfield situation will play out moving forward? Scioscia said it’ll fluctuate, but I’m thinking the most common lineup you’ll see will have Hunter in right, Trout in center and Trumbo in left, with Bourjos and Kole Calhoun backing up.
  • Kendrys Morales (5-for-9 with a homer and five RBIs the last couple games) is fine; just sitting because there’s a lefty starting. Scioscia said he’ll be back out there on Wednesday.

Some Angels links from Memorial Day …

Some AL West links …

And the Heat pulled out Game 1 of the ECF’s against the Celtics, in a game they really had control of for most of the night.

Oh, and don’t forget to follow Penn State grad and new MLB.com associate reporter Joe McIntyre on Twitter. He’ll be helping me out this summer.

Alden

Game 47: Angels-Mariners …

It’s only a three-game winning streak, and they’re still 6 1/2 games back in the AL West, but the baseball world is suddenly talking about an Angels resurgence and wondering if they’ll make the playoffs. That was our Question of the Day on MLB.com, and it was a topic grazed by the folks at ESPN plenty today …

Angels (21-25)

Mike Trout, CF
Maicer Izturis, 2B
Albert Pujols, 1B
Kendrys Morales, DH
Mark Trumbo, RF
Alberto Callaspo, 3B
Erick Aybar, SS
Kole Calhoun, LF
John Hester, C

Pitching: RH Ervin Santana (2-6, 4.22 ERA)

Mariners (21-26)

Michael Saunders, CF
Alex Liddi, 3B
Ichiro Suzuki, RF
Kyle Seager, 2B
Justin Smoak, 1B
John Jaso, DH
Jesus Montero, C
Mike Carp, LF
Munenori Kawasaki, SS

Pitcing: RH Blake Beavan (2-4, 4.46 ERA)

Some pregame notes …

  • Still no exact return date for Torii Hunter. My prediction is that he comes back at some point in the Monday-Wednesday Yankees series, but call that an educated guess.
  • LaTroy Hawkins (pinkie) threw off a mound for the first time today. Mike Scioscia isn’t sure if he’ll need to go on a rehab assignment once he’s ready.
  • Scioscia, on Pujols: “I think he feels a little more comfortable about how he feels in the batter’s box. Hopefully that’s going to lead to some of the things we saw last night. I like the way he’s playing baseball. Just a little thing like the stolen base or the way he’s playing defense. I think he’s getting more involved in that end of it, and hopefully he’ll just getting into that groove on the field.”
  • Angels pitchers have allowed just one run in their last 33 innings. The starting staff hasn’t allowed more than three earned runs in nine of its last 10 game; over their last seven games, the staff has a 1.80 ERA. The bullpen’s ERA over the last 10 games: 0.89.
  • Ernesto Frieri‘s 19 strikeouts in his first 8 2/3 innings with the Angels sets a new team record. Jordan Walden and Frankie Rodriguez each had 17 in that span, but Frankie gave up six hits and Walden gave up seven. Frieri hasn’t given up any.
  • Since his call-up on April 28, Trout ranks in the Top 5 among Major League rookies in batting average (.312; 2nd), runs (17; T-1st), doubles (6; T-4th), homers (4; T-3rd), RBI (12; 3rd), OBP (.377; 2nd) and slugging (.527; 2nd).
  • Outfielder Nate McLouth was DFA’d by the Pirates today, but I’m told there isn’t any real interest on the Angels end.
  • Reliever David Pauley cleared waivers and has been reassigned to Triple-A Salt Lake.

Angels links from Thursday …

Some AL West links …

And, thanks to another dominant performance by their dynamic duo, the Heat have advanced to the ECF’s.

Alden

Is Pujols finally ‘locked in’? …

OK, so the Angels have won three in a row for the third time this season, moving to 6 1/2 games back of the idle Rangers and, for just the eighth day this season, moving out of the cellar in the American League West.

The starting pitching has been great for most of the year (3.31 ERA, four complete games and 32 quality starts after Dan Haren‘s masterpiece), and the bullpen has been outstanding recently (three earned runs in the last 26 1/3 innings, dropping the collective ERA from 4.70 to 3.81). It’s the offense that’s still playing a little catch-up.

Sure, many are under performing there. Howie Kendrick is hitting .250 with 41 strikeouts; Erick Aybar has a .247 on-base percentage; Kendrys Morales‘ OPS is .730; Angels catchers are collectively hitting .199; Peter Bourjos (.200 batting average), Maicer Izturis (.242) and Alberto Callaspo (.231) have been about as inconsistent as their playing time; and the Angels still rank 13th in the AL in runs. But it’s all about Albert Pujols. It’s Pujols (.225/.268/.357, five homers, 22 RBIs) who changes everything from the No. 3 spot if he’s truly “locked in,” as they say — the pitches guys in front of him get to hit, the amount of times those behind him hit with runners on base and, ultimately, the mindset of a lineup that won’t be taxed with doing too much if Albert gets going.

With that in mind, is he finally back to being the guy we’re all used to seeing?

It was hard not to think that after a three-hit night against the Mariners on Thursday, which saw him hit his 450th career homer and rip two singles to left field. It was the kind of night that made you think he’s finally feeling comfortable at the plate. But, we also thought that after his three-double game on April 19 (before he went 5-for-54 over his next 14 games), after he hit his first homer on May 6 (but then it took him nine games to hit another), and after hitting two homers to center field in as many days May 16 and 17 (until he went 3-for-his-next-16).

Is it different now?

Only time will tell, of course. But here are some signs things might be turning in his favor, beyond Thursday’s line score …

  • 4 homers, 10 RBIs over his last 10 games (which averages out to 65 HRs and 162 RBIs over 162, if you care)
  • 18 RBIs in 22 May games, after just 4 in 23 April games (he’s currently on pace for 77)
  • 16-for-52 (.308 batting average) since May 12.
  • And since the end of April, the percentage of pitches Pujols has swung at outside the strike zone has gone from 40.3 to 35.2 (still a career high, but better)

That’s the big change Pujols will tell you he’s made.

“I was probably expanding the strike zone a little bit more if you look at it, and my walks can tell you everything,” Pujols said when asked about the amount of balls he’s pulled to left field. “Probably that. I’m not going to lie, because there’s 40,000 people watching you and there’s millions of people on TV watching you. I expanded the strike zone, which I’m not doing right now. Right now, I’m putting good swings.”

Alden

Question of the Day, 5/22 …

What’s wrong with Howie Kendrick? Why so many strike outs this year?!?!? — @parant80

Actually (and I was surprised by this, too) his strikeout rate isn’t really much different from last year’s. Kendrick leads the Angels with 39, which is tied for 26th in the Majors, but he actually had 38 through his first 41 games in 2011 — on his way to making his first All-Star team. Simply put, Kendrick strikes out a lot — which is part of the reason he’s not a great fit as the No. 2 hitter in front of Albert Pujols — but has previously found a way to succeed in spite of that. This year, not so much. He’s batting just .203 in his last 18 games and has struggled all year with runners in scoring position. Why, exactly? Tough to say. But I wouldn’t look at strikeouts first.

Alden

Game 44: Angels-Athletics …

Angels (18-25)

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

Pitching: LH C.J. Wilson (4-4, 3.35 ERA)

Athletics (22-21)

Coco Crisp, CF
Collin Cowgill, RF
Seth Smith, DH
Jonny Gomes, LF
Josh Donaldson, 3B
Cliff Pennington, SS
Adam Rosales, 2B
Daric Barton, 1B
Anthony Recker, C

Pitching: RH Graham Godfrey (0-3, 5.06 ERA)

Some pregame notes …

  • The left side is the best side. That’s not me sucking up to my new region of the country, it’s in reference to Morales, who’s just 3-for-20 as a right-handed hitter this season (where he hit yesterday) and has a .309 batting average from the left side (where he’s hitting today). But Mike Scioscia says that has more to do with the sample size than actuality, saying: “I think Kendrys showed a couple years ago that right-handed, there’s no doubt he’s a threat and can hit the ball out of every park. This year, he hasn’t had that many at-bats from that side because of just trying to keep him fresh and active from the left side. There’s no doubt he can swing it from that side, though.”
  • Pujols comes into this game with a .212/.256/.318 slash line, having gone 5-for-24 with a couple of homers since a three-hit game on May 15. “You have to keep it simple,” he said. “As much as you know it’s hard, you have to really keep it simple and go out there and put good swings. Sometimes, you’re going to feel good, and most of the time you won’t. The times you don’t feel good is when you have to survive until you get that streak going.”
  • Scioscia, on Bobby Cassevah‘s role in the bullpen: “He’s depth, and we’ll see when Bobby can pitch. Probably use him in the middle somewhere until he gets his feet on the ground. But last year, he had a terrific season for us. Nothing that says that kind of arm won’t move to the back of the bullpen as depth and be able to pitch, whether it’s the seventh, eighth or ninth inning, whatever. We’ll just see how it evolves.”
  • Chris Iannetta had his wrist protector off in the clubhouse — but only temporarily. He has to keep it on in case he re-aggravates it and is still about three weeks away from throwing.

Angels links from Monday …

Some AL West links …

And the Heat will need support from their front line to beat the Pacers in Game 5 today.

Alden

Question of the Day, 5/21 …

When will Mark Trumbo start playing third again? –@jthuskies99

Trumbo has continued to get some work at third base so he doesn’t lose touch with the position, but he hasn’t started a game there since May 3. I don’t think the Trumbo/third base experiment is over. I think he’ll continue to get looks at the hot corner once Torii Hunter returns and becomes a fixture in right field because — as Mike Scioscia admitted pregame today — the Angels are at a point where Trumbo has to be in the lineup every day. Once Hunter returns, I can see Trumbo playing third when the matchups favor it (i.e., Jered Weaver on the mound), with Scioscia using those days to get Peter Bourjos in the lineup.

Alden

Game 43: Angels-Athletics …

Angels (18-24)

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

Pitching: RH Jerome Williams (4-1, 3.86 ERA)

Athletics (21-21)

Jemile Weeks, 2B
Coco Crisp, CF
Josh Reddick, RF
Kila Ka’aihue, DH
Seth Smith, LF
Josh Donaldson, 3B
Daric Barton, 1B
Kurt Suzuki, C
Cliff Pennington, SS

Pitching: LHP Tommy Milone (5-3, 4.09 ERA)

Some pregame notes …

  • So Vernon Wells (right thumb) will go under the knife, undergoing a procedure Tuesday that will keep him away from baseball activities until at least early August. Ryan Langerhans (separated right shoulder) will not require surgery, but was placed on the disabled list. With those two out, the Angels called up Kole Calhoun, who will be the fourth outfielder, and reliever Bobby Cassevah, who will help out a bullpen that had to account for 6 2/3 innings in Sunday’s 3-2, 13-inning loss.
  • As for how long the Angels will go with 14 relievers? Mike Scioscia was non-committal. “We’ll see how these couple days go, and then we’ll make a determination of where we want to be with our roster, the complextion and what our needs are.”
  • Scioscia’s also still unsure about Torii Hunter, who he hopes will join the Angels during this week’s road trip but can’t pinpoint a date. “He has a lot of things that he’s working through back home. As soon as he’s comfortable to get back, he will. We don’t have a definitive timeline.”
  • Wells’ loss and Torii’s absence means the Angels’ starting outfield is the same one that took the field today. When Hunter returns, it’s very clear that Trumbo will play left, Trout will play center and Hunter will play right field, with Bourjos only playing when Trumbo plays third. Trumbo has to play every day at this point.
  • Michael Kohn (Tommy John) was transferred to the 60-day DL to create room for Calhoun on the 40-man roster, btw.

Some Angels.com links from Sunday …

  • Angels suffer a crushing loss (on multiple levels) at Petco
  • Notebook, on Wells and Langerhans injuries, the Angels’ creativity in the 11th and Aybar taking steps forward
  • Williams looking for fifth straight win vs. A’s

Some AL West links …

And LeBron James and Dwyane Wade had a BIG game on Sunday.

Alden

Calhoun coming up

Minor League outfielder Kole Calhoun will be up with the Angels Monday, a day after outfielders Vernon Wells (right thumb) and Ryan Langerhans (right shoulder) left the series finale against the Padres with injuries, a source familiar with the situation told MLB.com.

Wells and Langerhans are both expected to go on the DL, so the Angels will have to call up a second player. Mike Scioscia indicated Sunday that one of those could be a reliever, after the bullpen accounted for 6 2/3 innings in Sunday’s 3-2, 13-inning loss.

If that’s the case, Bobby Cassevah, Kevin Jepsen or Ryan Brasier could be options.

Calhoun, a 24-year-old left-handed hitter who can play all three outfield spots, was hitting .296 with five homers and 31 RBIs for Triple-A Salt Lake — after starring in A ball and impressing in Spring Training.

The Angels would have to make room for him on the 40-man roster.

– Alden Gonzalez

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