Hamilton seventh, Cron eighth vs. Vargas …
The Angels trotted out basically the same lineup they fielded down the stretch for Game 1 of the American League Division Series on Thursday, with a couple of notable, expected tweaks: Josh Hamilton batting seventh and playing left field, and C.J. Cron batting eighth while serving as the designated hitter.
Hamilton played in only one of the team’s last 23 regular-season games due to ailments in his right shoulder and right side and has hardly seen any live pitching in the meantime, so Angels manager Mike Scioscia is batting him lower in the lineup to put less pressure on him. Scioscia also went with the right-handed bat of Cron against Royals starter Jason Vargas, a lefty who held opposing lefties to a .661 OPS during the regular season.
Howie Kendrick has been red hot since taking over for Hamilton in the cleanup spot on Sept. 5, batting .403 with 18 RBIs over that 21-game stretch. David Freese, batting fifth, finished September with a .315/.367/.562 slash line. Scioscia opted to go with Chris Iannetta’s high on-base percentage (.373) in hopes of turning the lineup over to Kole Calhoun and Mike Trout.
Here’s the full lineup behind starter Jered Weaver (first pitch from Angel Stadium is 6:07 p.m. PT on TBS):
Kole Calhoun, RF
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Howie Kendrick, 2B
David Freese, 3B
Erick Aybar, SS
Josh Hamilton, LF
C.J. Cron, DH
Chris Iannetta, C