The Angels and their three-game winning streak start a three-game weekend series in Seattle tonight, where they’ll try to win six straight at Safeco Field for the first time since taking seven straight from 2004-05. The Angels are 6-4 overall against the Mariners this season, having dropped two of three against them at home in early August. The last time Dan Haren pitched here, on May 24, he threw a complete-game shutout, striking out 14 and walking none …
Pitching: RH Haren (8-10, 4.82 ERA)
Pitching: RH Kevin Millwood (4-11, 4.28 ERA)
- Scott Downs, who left the team on Sunday night to attend to a family issue, is en route to Seattle and will be activated from the bereavement list tomorrow.
- Andrew Romine was here today, just in case Howie Kendrick (sore right knee) couldn’t go. But he went through pregame activities and is expected to be fine. So, Romine will be activated tomorrow — the first day of September callups.
- Thinking ahead never hurt anybody, right? Mike Scioscia essentially has his rotation for the rest of the month mapped out, and he has it so that he can use Jered Weaver for the last day of the regular season or — if the Angels already clinch by then — the first day of the Wild Card. Of course, they have to get there first.
- Scioscia doesn’t believe he’ll go to a four-man rotation at any point this month. The starters are pitching better and some of the guys, he said, “have been nicked up,” so they can use that normal/extended rest. “The way it’s working out, I don’t know if there’s going to be a need for that,” Scioscia said. “That would entail bringing some guys back on early rest. Our preference would be to not do that. That would be a last resort. Right now it doesn’t look like we’re going to have to do that.”
- Pujols still hasn’t played first base since returning from a calf injury on Tuesday, though he did take ground balls there yesterday. Asked about when Pujols can return to his normal position, Scioscia said: “Tough to put a timeframe on it. He came out of it fine taking ground balls. If it takes a week, it takes a week. If it takes two weeks, it takes two weeks. We need his bat in the lineup. And also, Albert’s a presence at first base, is a terrific defensive first baseman, and you’d like to get that defensive presence.”
What must the Angels do to sustain the level of ball they’ve been playing against Boston long enough to clinch a Wild Card? — @aaronburkart
It’s actually very simple: Continue to get solid starting pitching. Like any team, starting pitching rules the day. But with an Angels team that has invested so much money, resources and hope on a star-studded rotation, that’s especially the case. Over a 42-game stretch that began July 3, the Angels’ rotation had a 5.71 ERA and the team went 17-25 in that stretch. Last nine games, the Angels have won seven, and the rotation has a 3.99 ERA with starters going at least six innings seven times (and seven innings five times). The deeper starters get into games, the less of a factor a thin bullpen is and the more of a chance the team has. And it’s not as if they’re asking them to do more than they’re expected.
With a win tonight, the Angels can sweep their first season series against the Red Sox in club history. The Angels have won seven straight against Boston dating back to May 4 of last year, representing their third-longest winning streak ever against them. While going 5-0 against the Red Sox this year — sweeping a three-game set at Fenway Park at the start of last week, taking the first two here — the Angels have outscored them 42-27.
Red Sox (62-69)
Pitching: LH Jon Lester (8-10, 4.98 ERA)
Pitching: RH Zack Greinke (2-2, 5.22 ERA)
- No further updates on Scott Downs, who left the team Sunday night and was placed on the family medical emergency list prior to their next game. Mike Scioscia spoke to him, but wouldn’t go into details about his situation. Asked if he could return for the weekend series against the Mariners, Scioscia said: “We’ll see. It’s going to be one step at a time with Downs. We’ll just see whenever he’s ready to go.”
- Pujols, as you probably noticed, is at DH for the third straight game since returning from a right calf injury on Tuesday. Still no word on when he’ll return to first base, but Scioscia was thinking he could take grounders pregame.
- It seems like the Angels’ rotation (minus the one constant, Jered Weaver) struggled mightily as a group, and recently has turned it around as a group. Over a 44-game stretch beginning in July, they combined to post a 5.48 ERA that ranked 13th in the American League. Over their last eight games, it’s been a 4.18 (with the Angels going 6-2 in that span). Not great, but not terrible. Along the way, Ervin Santana has been much better, with C.J. Wilson, Dan Haren and Greinke each coming off starts you can consider a step forward. “I think there’s definitely some positive momentum that can be created, but one good thing about it is the teams we’ve had here, we’ve always been able to limit the downside of some of the things going on here because we’ve had, especially on the pitching side, we’ve had deep staffs that can go out there and limit some stuff. And that’s what we anticipated this year. We just haven’t seen it as much as we need to.” Maybe they’re starting to?
- Kendrick heads into today’s game riding a 15-game hitting streak (three shy of his career-high) and is batting .344 in August. Quietly, his slash line is .292/.332/.405 for the year. “It’s just been a process, trying to get better. I’ve just been watching some of the guys around me, getting ideas from them, and just trying to get better overall. Trying to be more patient at the plate has helped. And just getting pitches to hit.” More on him later.
Should the Angels sign Torii Hunter again? — @rlara1092
If you’re asking me … SURE! But I’m biased. Because I — like every other member of the media — simply love having Hunter around because he’s so great to talk to and he’s such a great person. That, along with the fact he’s still very productive for his age, is a leader in the clubhouse, Arte Moreno loves him and, as Hunter will openly say, he’s willing to take less money and a lesser role to come back here, are all reasons why the Angels would want to bring him back. Right now, though, it’s hard for me to see that happening unless either Peter Bourjos or Vernon Wells are moved. Simply put, if the Angels already have four outfielders on the roster, they’d probably prefer to allocate their money elsewhere. Just my speculation, though.
Red Sox (62-68)
Pitching: RH Zach Stewart (0-0, 0.00 ERA)
Pitching: LH C.J. Wilson (9-9, 3.83 ERA)
- C.J. Cron came into Wednesday with 123 RBIs for Class A Inland Empire, one shy of the Angels’ Minor League record. And it’ll stay that way. Cron decided to undergo season-ending labrum surgery on his right shoulder Wednesday. Angels assistant general manager Scott Servais expects him to return early next season, but his timeline is still very much uncertain.
- Still no word on when Scott Downs will return from his stint on the family medical emergency list, manager Mike Scioscia said.
- Arizona Fall League rosters were announced. Representing the Angels will be infielder Kaleb Cowart, outfielders Randal Grichuk and Travis Witherspoon, catcher Carlos Ramirez (taxi squad), and pitchers Buddy Boshers, Ryan Chaffee, Kevin Johnson and Nick Maronde. They’ll play for the Scottsdale Scorpions.
Why was Torii Hunter trying to bunt [in the seventh]? — Alex P., Huntington Beach, Calif.
Hunter would make up for it later, knocking in the game-winning run on a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth, but he had many Angels fans scratching their heads in the seventh. With one out, Mike Trout on second and his team trailing by one, Hunter tried to bunt for a hit, instead popping it up behind the plate for catcher Ryan Lavarnway to make a diving catch. Hunter has done a good job bunting for hits this year, but that did not look like the time to go for it.
Here’s how he explained his rationale postgame: “I had a plan. I saw the guys back deep. All I have to do is bunt, get a base hit, [Trout] goes over [to third base]. The best hitter in the game [Albert Pujols] was behind me. All he had to do was hit a fly ball and he did — but there was two outs. My plan didn’t work. But in baseball, as long as you have a plan, that’s all that matters. And if you don’t execute your plan, then at least you had one. I didn’t go up there without any plan. I had one.”
Coming off a 4-2 road trip, and back-to-back losses to put a sour end to it, the Angels return home (rather briefly). They’ll play three against the Red Sox team they swept at Fenway Park last week before opening up a six-game road trip through Seattle and Oakland.
“That was a tough loss, Saturday was,” veteran outfielder Torii Hunter said. “Sunday, we were either going to hit him [Max Scherzer] or we weren’t. But Saturday, I think we should’ve come through with that game. We had the lead in the eighth inning and just blew it.”
But with his team still 4 1/2 out of the Wild Card and a solid 10 games back in the AL West, Hunter prefers to look at the positive.
“Four of six on the road,” he said. “That’s pretty good for baseball. And now we’re coming home with four [wins] in our last six, it’s just like we won two series.”
Red Sox (62-67)
Pitching: RH Clay Buchholz (11-4, 4.47 ERA)
Pitching: RH Jered Weaver (16-3, 2.74 ERA)
- Pujols still doesn’t feel 100 percent, but he showed enough during some pregame agility and baserunning drills to return to the lineup for the first time since suffering an injury to his right calf at Fenway Park on Wednesday. “Obviously, I’m not where I want to be,” Pujols said, “but it’s good to be back in the lineup. I’m still going to be taking it easy. It doesn’t bother me swinging, but running I’m still a little bit sore.”
- Asked when he could return to first base, Pujols said: “I don’t have a magic ball, so whenever I feel good. If it’s tomorrow, where I can go and take some grounders and feel good, I’ll go and play my position. But I don’t think that’s a problem here. We have two good first basemen here who can play the position, so as long as I’m in the lineup, that’s more important than anything else.”
- Mike Scioscia couldn’t divulge much regarding Scott Downs‘ departure from the team, saying only: “Right now we’re not sure [how long he’ll be out]. Hopefully as a little time goes on, we’ll get a little more clarity as to Scott’s situation.” Downs left Sunday night, flying back home to Kentucky.
- Without Downs, and with Hisanori Takahashi being claimed by the Pirates on Friday, the Angels have no lefties in their bullpen. The Red Sox, at least, are without lefty sluggers David Ortiz (DL) and Adrian Gonzalez (trade).
- Garrett Richards has had three stints as a reliever. One went well (a two-out save against the Tigers on Friday), but he gave up two runs to the Red Sox on Thursday and three to the Tigers on Saturday. Asked about his bullpen role moving forward, Scioscia said: “I think he’s got a power arm that can possibly play in the back end of a ‘pen. We’ll slot him in where we think he can help us, depending on who’s available on a given night.”
Any news on Jered Weaver? It seemed like there were some issues between him and Chris Iannetta. — @Halofan25
Weaver admitted postgame that they just weren’t in sync, saying: “It was just one of those weird nights. Obviously me and Chris have been rolling here for a while. I just couldn’t get on the same page. It was just a bad feeling, going into it, and it was a bad feeling coming out of it. It’s going to happen.”
Iannetta shouldered the blame postgame for the first pitch to Jeff Keppinger — a curveball that resulted in a wild pitch and put runners on second and third with none out — but he said that was the only time they were crossed up. “I made a mistake,” he added. “I put down the wrong sign. It’s on me; it’s my fault on that one pitch. I thought we were using a certain sequence and we weren’t, so that one’s on me.”
Heading into this game, Weaver had been matched up with Iannetta (who missed significant time due to wrist surgery and a forearm strain) nine other times, posting a 1.50 ERA in that span. In 12 starts with Bobby Wilson, his ERA is 2.88.
OK, the Angels are going to score against the Rays at some point, right? I mean, they can’t be shutout again, can they? The Angels have been shutout three straight games against Tampa Bay — the latest being Thursday night, courtesy of David Price and Co. — and you can stretch it back to 32 innings if you go that route. Active hitters on the Angels’ roster are hitting .192 this season against Rays pitchers, which rank second in the Majors in ERA (3.29). Thanks to that, the Angels have lost nine of their last 10 against Joe Maddon’s crew …
Pitching: RH James Shields (10-7, 4.02 ERA)
Pitching: RH Jered Weaver (15-2, 2.22 ERA)
- Dan Haren (12 runs in seven innings during his last two starts) won’t necessarily be skipped; he’ll be pushed back.With the off day on Monday, manager Mike Scioscia has decided to move Haren back to Saturday, against the Tigers in Comerica Park. That would mean Ervin Santana goes on extended rest, but everyone else is on normal rest leading in and Haren gets eight days in between to work on his release point. “I think he is past the physical ailment,” Scioscia said. “This is a mechanical thing and it could’ve arisen from trying to make some adjustments in his delivery to get pitches in places when his back was bothering him.”
- Scioscia said it’s too early to go to a four-man rotation, but that it is possible for September. “There’s no doubt that as we get into September, we’re going to have the option. I don’t think it’s going to happen the first of September, but definitely as we start to get into where that end point is … we’ll have the ability to adjust for matchups.”
- Jordan Walden (neck, right biceps) is back with the team after hurling back-to-back 1-2-3 innings for Triple-A Salt Lake. He’ll throw a bullpen today in anticipation of getting activated shortly thereafter. My guess is he’ll be back Sunday. Scott Downs is looking very likely for Saturday.
- Three shutouts against one team has happened only three other times in Angels history. This is the first time all three of those games took place at home.