As I write, the rain has stopped, crickets have infested the Angels’ dugout and the Rangers’ grounds crew is working on the field. Angels manager Mike Scioscia felt comfortable that the field would be playable come game time, which is in about 90 minutes. The field drains well here, and the weather is supposed to hold up the rest of the day.
Here’s some other notes from our session with the skipper …
- Kendrys Morales, listed as the designated hitter and in the No. 4 spot, is a game-time decision after he exited Friday’s game early with soreness in his right ribs. If he comes out of BP feeling fine, he’ll start.
- Chris Iannetta, starting behind the plate in Game 1, is unlikely to catch both games.
- Scioscia will mainly stay away from using his other three starters, since C.J. Wilson, Dan Haren and Jered Weaver (respectively) are slated to start the final three regular-season games. He believes that with the off day, and Zack Greinke and Ervin Santana hopefully going deep, they have enough. Jerome Williams and Nick Maronde can provide length if needed.
- Greinke probably won’t be pitching past that 110-, 115-pitch threshold he’s been limited to before. “That’s a full start for a pitcher, especially this time of year,” Scioscia said. “Hopefully if he’s pitch-efficient, he’s getting us to a point in the game where hopefully we can hold a lead. But I don’t think anything’s changed from where he’s been really this whole season as to what functional length he has.”
- Angels lead the season series against the Rangers, 9-8.
OK, so Sunday’s doubleheader at Rangers Ballpark is really important for the Angels. I mean really important. Like, make-or-break-their-season important. All in one day. The Angels (87-70) enter with a 2 1/2-game deficit of the A’s for the second AL Wild Card spot. After Sunday, they have three regular-season games left in Seattle. The A’s host the Mariners at 1:05 p.m. PT on Sunday, then host the Rangers for three to finish their regular season.
Here’s a look at the scenarios for Sunday …
Angels win both; A’s lose: Angels are one game back.
Angels win both; A’s win: Angels are two games back.
Angels split; A’s lose: Angels are two games back.
Angels split; A’s win: Angels are three games back and the next Angels loss or A’s win eliminates them from postseason contention.
Angels lose both; A’s lose: Angels are three games back, the next Angels loss or A’s win eliminates them, and the Rangers clinch the AL West.
Angels lose both; A’s win: Angels are four games back and thus mathematically eliminated from the postseason.
This match-up sure doesn’t seem to favor the Angels on paper. C.J. Wilson is coming off an outing that saw him give up three runs and last 2 2/3 innings against the Rangers; Felix Hernandez is a clear Cy Young contender. But Wilson pitched six innings of one-run ball in his only start against the Mariners this year and the Angels, for some weird reason, have hit King Felix in 2012, scoring 15 runs in 20 1/3 innings against him.
Lineups, as the Angels look to build on a four-game winning streak and improve on a mark that has them two games back of the second Wild Card spot, with eight games left …
Pitching: RH Hernandez (13-8, 2.85 ERA)
Pitching: LH Wilson (12-10, 3.82 ERA)
- Trumbo showed some good signs on Tuesday, flying out to deep center field, getting robbed of a hit on a diving play by Ackley and lining out to right field. Mike Scioscia said he’s made a mechanical adjustments with his hands in order to have a shorter path to the ball and keep things simple. When you swing as hard as Mark does to try to elevate the ball, there’s a lot of moving parts, which can lead to hitters taking a step back and going to the fundamentals.
- Scott Downs had some rare struggles on Tuesday, giving up three quick runs while recording only two outs in the seventh inning. Scioscia felt location, not stuff, was the issue. Asked if his stuff is the same since returning from the shoulder injury, Scioscia said: “I think now it is. I think when he first got back, there were some things we was working through and he was healthy but maybe wasn’t quite where he was. I think right now, he’s throwing the ball with the same crispness as we’ve seen at any time during the season.”
- Callaspo is in no way a prototypical No. 5 hitter, but he’s started there in five of the last six games. “When Mark’s swinging it well, he’s a natural guy to hit fifth,” Scioscia said. “But right now, with the options that we have, I think Alberto’s going to work a tough at-bat, put the ball in play. he’s proved throughout the course of his career he can hit with guys in scoring position. When you combine Alberto, Howie and Erick, it gives you a good situational look through the middle of your lineup.”
- Kevin Jepsen is available, even after throwing 1 1/3 innings last night. So is everybody else.
- Jered Weaver is set to start Friday and Zack Greinke came out of his Tuesday start feeling fine. He’s slated to go Sunday, against Yu Darvish.
Do you think it’s better to resign Zack Greinke, or Dan Haren and Ervin Santana in the off season? — @alexanderck12
The Angels’ preference, I’m told, is still to resign Greinke. A source familiar with the team’s thinking told me recently that he expects the Angels to cut ties with both Santana and Haren this offseason and focus their efforts on signing him to a multi-year extension. So, I expect the Angels to decline their team options on Santana ($13 million) and Haren ($15.5 million) during the exclusive negotiating window and go hard after Greinke (six years, $125 million is the price tag many have associated with him). But if they can’t resign him, perhaps then — and only then, in my mind — they try to bring back Haren and/or Santana.
Perhaps the Angels are, in a very small way, indeed in control of their own destiny. Yeah, they enter today two games back of the final playoff spot, with only nine games left and none of them against the teams ahead of them in the Wild Card race. But if they win out, they would at the very least be guaranteed a tie for the final playoff spot, because the A’s and Rangers play each other six more times (including tonight, in Texas) and the Angels have three remaining against the Rangers. (Thanks to Twitter follower @Monyett88 for passing that along). Now, of course, the likely scenario is that they don’t win out. That would give them a 12-game winning streak to end the season. Their longest winning streak of the year has been eight. So, in the end, they probably will need help. The Angels are 22-8 in their last 30 home games against the Mariners …
Dustin Ackley, 2B
Franklin Gutierrez, CF
Kyle Seager, 3B
John Jaso, DH
Justin Smoak, 1B
Eric Thames, RF
Miguel Olivo, C
Trayvon Robinson, LF
Brendan Ryan, SS
Pitching: RH Erasmo Ramirez (1-2, 3.28 ERA)
Pitching: RH Zack Greinke (5-2, 3.51 ERA)
- Mike Scioscia opted to push Ervin Santana back for a second straight time this week. Dan Haren will pitch Thursday’s series finale, on normal rest, and Santana will pitch at Rangers Ballpark on Saturday, on seven days’ rest. The reason is two-fold: Santana has been pitcher pretty well and is seems he’d prefer to have him face the Rangers’ lineup; the extra rest will come in handy if Santana needs to be available out of the bullpen in the season’s final series.
- Izturis is starting in place of Howie Kendrick against a right-handed starter once again, but Scioscia said it has more to do with today’s pitching match-up and isn’t any sort of long-term plan. “It’s a smaller sample size with this pitcher tonight,” Scioscia said, “but right now it looks like he’s really just doing a good job against righties. He’s pitching well against lefties, but there’s a little bit of a spread there.”
- Asked why it appears Garrett Richards has jumped ex-closer Jordan Walden in the bullpen depth chart, Scioscia said: “In that area that they’re in right now, the depth isn’t as important as just the production. It’s not like you’re going to a guy in the sixth inning or whatever on a nightly basis. We’ve been able to get past that at times. Garrett’s been fresh and has really been bringing some good stuff into games, so he’s getting maybe a couple more of the looks than Jordan does. We definitely need Jordan, he’s got a big arm, and hopefully he’s going to bring that stuff into games that he’s shown he has.”
- The only other active player, besides Pujols, with 10 or more triple-digit RBI seasons is Alex Rodriguez (14).
- Trout is the fourth rookie in history since 1964 to reach 120-plus runs and is two runs shy of matching the Angels’ single-season record of 124 by Vladimir Guerrero in ’04.
- The Angels announced one of their Class A affiliates will no longer reside in Cedar Rapids. For the next two years, it’ll be the Burlington Bees.
Ervin Santana wasn’t too happy about having to start on eight days’ rest, because he had been pitching so well lately and because the come-backer he took to the right wrist wasn’t that big an issue. “Why, if I was pitching good? I don’t need any extra time. I don’t know, that’s their situation, what they want to do with the rotation. I have nothing to do with that. I’m just here to pitch. When they tell me to pitch, I pitch.” And Santana will pitch against the first-place White Sox, with the Angels holding onto their postseason hopes by the skin of their teeth. They’re 4 1/2 games out with 12 left.
White Sox (81-68)
Pitching: RH Jake Peavy (11-11, 3.26 ERA)
Pitching: RH Ervin Santana (8-12, 5.08 ERA)
- One night after Ernesto Frieri lost a second straight game — and Zack Greinke‘s opportunity for a win — by giving up the home-run ball in the ninth inning, Angels manager Mike Scioscia said he’ll “match up more” in the ninth inning. “His confidence isn’t quite where it should be,” Scioscia said, “but we need Ernie and we need him in the back end in some capacity, no doubt.”
- Peter Bourjos has been bothered by flu-like symptoms since Wednesday. He says he’s “achy, tired, low fever — exhausted, really.”
- Scioscia re-hashed the decision to not pitch Greinke (again) with 109 pitches. Here’s what he said: “I’m very comfortable with the decision we made in Kansas City and last night. Of where Zack is in the season, with the amount of mileage, as every pitcher has, I don’t think it’s worth in a guy’s career to try to stretch him in a game that he might or might not get through an inning. That’s the bottom line. … We’re not out here trying to lose games. We didn’t put Peter Bourojs in to pitch, we didn’t yank him to pitch Howie Kendrick. We put in guys who we feel are going to go out there and do a job as well as anybody that we’re going to send back out there on a high pitch count. That’s what we’re looking at.”
Does Sosh hate Greinke? — @gizmosol
Well, no. But Mike Scioscia sure does hate it when Zack Greinke gets to a certain point in the game. As did Ron Roenicke in Milwaukee, apparently. Why exactly is that? I don’t know. Scioscia and Greinke weren’t willing to go into much detail after a heartbreaking 3-1 loss, when Greinke was once again pulled after throwing 109 pitches in a gem. In 11 starts with the Angels, Greinke has surpassed 110 pitches five times, but no more than 115. In 52 career starts with the Brewers (that includes three postseason ones), he’s surpassed 115 three times: 118 in 2012; 116 two times in 2011.
Here’s what Greinke said: “I just pitch as long as I can. We talked about stuff when I first got here of what I feel best in, and he makes his decision from there. … I don’t want to get into the exacts of what I’ve talked about behind closed doors.”
And here’s what Scioscia said …
“I think he’s got a range that he’s comfortable in, we’re comfortable in, and we’re not going to extend anybody. We didn’t lose this game because of what Zack didn’t do out there. He pitched a terrific game, got us to a certain point, and I think when you start to get in a certain range, you want to be careful. He was pushed back once this year, too. You have to balance things out.”
“I don’t know if it’s 110 [pitches], but it’s a certain point in the game. And if we’re stretching him to 115, 120, we’re going to start to push him not only for what he’s going to do bouncing back, but for his career. And I don’t think we’re at that point right now where we want to push that envelope with him.”
Well, the A’s already won, beating the Tigers, 12-2, to salvage the series and put the Angels an even four games out of the second Wild Card spot entering play today. But the Rangers are without Josh Hamilton and Adrian Beltre once again. Then again, it surely didn’t hurt them last night.
UPDATE: Beltre talked his way in and is indeed in. Here’s the new lineup …
Pitching: RH Yu Darvish (15-9, 4.02 ERA)
Pitching: RH Zack Greinke (5-2, 3.78 ERA)
- C.J. Wilson and Mike Scioscia had yet another “strategy meeting” on Thursday afternoon, a few hours after he gave up three runs and walked three in a 66-pitch, 2 2/3-inning outing. Scioscia didn’t want to go into details, saying only that they’re trying to “get his best stuff out there on the field” and that they “have a lot of confidence in what he can do” and just “try to refine some simple things.” Wilson will stay in the rotation. Asked if it was about game plan or execution, Scioscia said: “I think it is all intertwined. I think if you’re trying to execute things that aren’t things that you’re doing comfortably, at a certain time, then maybe you have to make some simple adjustments. Now, when he’s pitched some great baseball, part of what his talent is is to be able to do so much with the baseball. Hopefully he’s going to get comfortable and eventually get back to that. You can’t overstate how much we need our starters to do what they’re capable of, and that’s important.”
- Scioscia, on taking Jerome Williams out after 4 1/3 innings last night: “There are a number of reasons for the decision. We had some matchups coming up that we were looking at. I thought Jerome pitched great baseball and got us to a certain point, and obviously was an important part of keeping us in that game. But he went 4 1/3 innings and hasn’t been stretched out past that point for a long time. We didn’t feel there was a need to stretch him, and going to the eighth inning, we had some arms that we felt were going to go out there and hold the deficit and unfortunately it didn’t happen.”
- Peter Bourjos has been dealing with an intestinal problem the last couple of days, hindering his availability for “anything significant,” Scioscia said. Of course, it’s not like he would’ve been given the opportunity to do anything of significance regardless.
- Scioscia won’t get into the politics of the AL MVP, but he will say one thing for sure: “Torii Hunter should win the Gold Glove,” he volunteered today. “No doubt. There’s some good right fielders. [Josh] Reddick is good, obviously, [Jeff] Francouer. But to see what Torii has brought on range, and what he’s done on the first and third, there aren’t many guys better. There aren’t many guys in my time in baseball that I’ve seen do what Torii does.
The AL MVP race between Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera has been a hot topic of late. The Angels, for the most part, have taken a politically correct approach. Trout talked Wednesday about how “first on the list is getting to the playoffs,” and Mike Scioscia said, “They’re both putting up extraordinary numbers in some different areas.”
But the Tigers, particularly ace Justin Verlander and manager Jim Leyland, haven’t been shy about expressing their desire to see Cabrera win the hardware.
Leyland, when asked about the sabermetric numbers being in Trout’s favor …
“Well, I’m going to answer that this way: I will not use the player’s name, but according to the sabermetrics, there’s a player that is better than Miguel Cabrera. When the guy that gave me the sabermetrics told me that, I said, ‘Well then, should we trade Miguel Cabrera for the player you’re talking about?’ And he said, ‘Oh no, you can’t do that.’ And I said, ‘Well then, you don’t believe in sabermetrics, and neither do I.’”
Verlander, when told about the possibility that Cabrera gets the Triple Crown and Trout still wins the MVP …
“That’s ridiculous. When was the last time there was a Triple Crown winner? Sixty-seven? OK.”
Verlander, on Ted Williams winning two Triple Crowns and not winning the MVP either year (1942 and ’47) …
“Ted Williams lost because of what’s his name? Joe DiMaggio [in '47]? Which goes down as one of the worst MVP votings of all-time, I think, in my opinion. His statistical year wasn’t nearly as good as Ted Williams’. … That would be a joke in my opinion.”
Verlander, on whether this would be the worst MVP decision if Cabrera didn’t win …
“Yeah. [The Triple Crown] hasn’t been done since 1967. Come on. Even the fact that he’s one home run away is just absolutely absurd. I mean, just watch him. Watch him when we need him down this home stretch. Oh my God. You want to talk about MVP, compare their numbers the last two months of the season. Big difference.”
Verlander, last year’s MVP, has gone as far as creating T-shirts to tout Cabrera’s MVP case.
Cabrera simply lauded Trout, saying …
“He’s amazing, man. You need to give some credit to him. At that age what he’s done is very amazing. That’s why everybody talk about him. That’s unbelievable, man. There’s nothing we can do, him and me. We’ve both got a great year. We can’t control that. We go out there and play hard, win some games. He’s focused on winning some games with Anaheim. I’m focused on winning some games here in Detroit. We’ll let you guys decide what’s gonna happen.”
The game hasn’t even started yet, but it feels like the Angels already have the lead. That’s because things aren’t looking very good on the Rangers side this afternoon. Not only are Josh Hamilton and Adrian Beltre not in the lineup, they’re not even present at the ballpark right now. Hamilton keeps having vision problems, related to the sinus infection that knocked him out of Tuesday’s game, and Beltre has some intestinal problems that have him at home. It’s very likely that neither could play in tomorrow’s series finale, either …
Pitching: LH Derek Holland (10-6, 4.50 ERA)
Pitching: LH C.J. Wilson (12-9, 3.73 ERA)
- Pujols, as you’ve noticed, is back with the team after spending Tuesday in Kansas City to be with his wife and newborn. Everything went well with the pregnancy; it was just hospital policy that his wife stay an extra day, and Pujols wanted to make sure he was there for her. “I think everyone knows that after God, family is the most important thing. I wanted to be with the team, but I put family before anything. Anyone who knows me knows that’s the most important thing. It’s a blessing to play baseball every day, but when it comes to family, I put that first.”
- Jim Leyland recently said he’d be “shocked” if the AL MVP didn’t go to Miguel Cabrera, who’s darn close to a Triple Crown with only two weeks remaining. Mike Scioscia isn’t as committal, saying: “There’s so many things. Miguel Cabrera being so close to a Triple Crown. He has that team in a pennant race. Mike Trout plays a premium defensive position every day and brings presence out there that is incredible. What he’s done as a leadoff hitter and the amount of runs he’s scored, the stolen bases – there’s so many things for each guy. Each guy is having an extraordinary season.
- Ervin Santana, dealing with some soreness tightness, is feeling fine now and is set to start on Friday against the White Sox. He’ll be followed by Dan Haren and Jered Weaver, respectively.
- Speaking of Weaver, who notched his 100th career win on Tuesday — his career winning percentage of .662 (100-51) is tops in Angels history.