Results tagged ‘ Athletics ’

Pujols’ hamstring ‘no worse,’ but not much better …

Albert Pujols’ tight left hamstring was “no worse” on Thursday morning, which Angels manager Mike Scioscia considered a good sign. But there’s still no telling how long the veteran first baseman will be out.

Pujols only got treatment Thursday, hours after his hamstring grabbed on him while jogging down the first-base line on a sixth-inning single on Wednesday night. The Angels transition to a National League park in San Francisco for the weekend set, eliminating the designated hitter and potentially ruling Pujols out until Monday, at the earliest.

“It’s obviously sore,” Scioscia said of Pujols’ hamstring. “We’re going to take it day-by-day for now.”

Pujols’ absence had a pretty sizeable impact on Scioscia’s lineup, which was struggling to score runs even while he was in there. Mike Trout settled into the No. 3 spot, Erick Aybar moved from fifth to first, Johnny Giavotella went from ninth to second and Kole Calhoun – 13-for-32 in his last eight games heading into Thursday’s series finale – moved from leadoff to cleanup.

“Out of all the guys you’d want to hit behind Mike, right now it’s Kole,” Scioscia said. “… It’s a deviation from what we really want to do in our lineup, but I think the circumstances are very clear. Right now, there’s a lot of guys trying to find their game. And with Albert out of the lineup, we have to make some adjustments.”

Also …

Fernando Salas was initially credited with the win on Wednesday, but the official scorer and Elias Sports Bureau decided Thursday morning to instead give the win to Mike Morin, who retired the final batter in the bottom of the sixth before the Angels took a three-run lead in the top of the seventh. Salas kept the A’s scoreless in the bottom of the seventh of the Angels’ eventual 6-3 victory.


Pujols exits with hamstring injury …

Albert Pujols’ left hamstring grabbed on him after a sixth-inning single on Wednesday night, prompting the first baseman to exit early in the Angels’ eventual 6-3 win over the A’s.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia doesn’t anticipate the hamstring injury to send Pujols to the disabled list, but said, “There’s some soreness in there, definitely.” Pujols isn’t expected to start Thursday’s day game and there’s a decent chance he won’t play the rest of this week, with the following three games coming in a National League venue – AT&T Park in San Francisco – that eliminates the designated hitter.

“It feels more like a cramp, but it’s really sore right now,” Pujols said after the game. “We’ll see tomorrow.”

Pujols screamed in pain while jogging halfway down the first-base line after a bloop single off Dan Otero and was immediately checked on by the Angels’ training staff. The 35-year-old felt a little better after loosening his left leg, but Grant Green took over as a pinch-runner nonetheless.

Initial tests checked out fine and Pujols probably won’t require an MRI – but he will need to sit out a little while.

“It’s weird,” said Pujols, batting .208 through the Angels’ first 21 games. “I don’t have that much history on the hamstring.”

For the Angels, it’s coming at a tough time.

Their offense has been slow out of the gate, Wednesday’s three-run seventh inning notwithstanding. They scored three runs or less in 12 of their first 20 games and entered Wednesday ranked 22nd in the Majors in runs and 25th in OPS.

With Pujols out, Mike Trout is expected to slide into the No. 3 spot and Erick Aybar could bat second, behind leadoff man Kole Calhoun.

“It’s tough losing Albert, one of our big guys,” Trout said. “Hopefully it’s just a cramp.”


Shoemaker on bereavement list, Tropeano up

Nick Tropeano was called up from Triple-A Salt Lake and will start Thursday’s series finale against the A’s, with C.J. Wilson getting pushed back to Saturday’s start against the Rangers. Wilson came out of his last start with stiffness in his left (pitching) elbow, but Angels manager Mike Scioscia said it’s nothing serious and he could’ve taken his normal turn on Thursday if needed.

Pushing Wilson back also buys extra time for Matt Shoemaker, who was placed on the bereavement list to deal with the death of his grandfather. Shoemaker was originally slated to make that Saturday start, but is now tentatively slated for next Wednesday’s game in Oakland, putting him on extended rest a second straight time. Shoemaker pitched on six days’ rest Monday, giving up five runs in three innings, and would be on eight days’ rest Wednesday.

Garrett Richards, Hector Santiago and Jered Weaver will keep their normal turns. So, here’s the order …

Thursday: Tropeano
Friday: Richards
Saturday: Wilson
Sunday: Santiago
Monday: OFF
Tuesday: Weaver (starting tonight)
Wednesday: Shoemaker

Tropeano has given up five runs on 10 hits and two walks in 11 innings during his first two starts for Triple-A Salt Lake, striking out 12.

“I think I just need to keep working hard and showing consistency,” Tropeano said. “Going down to Triple-A, getting those innings in and getting that work in kind of matured me and sent me into this spot now.”

Some additional notes …

  • Scioscia said the date of Josh Hamilton‘s arrival in Arizona for extended spring is “really fluid.” “It could happen this weekend, it could happen next week. But the process is there. He’s going to be evaluated. The process is starting.”
  • Cam Bedrosian pitched two scoreless innings of mop-up duty on Tuesday and has been used as a multi-inning reliever since going down to Minor League camp midway through Spring Training, compiling eight innings in four appearances. Scioscia said Bedrosian has “the potential to be in the back end of the bullpen, but right now he needs a little bit of length to do the kind of things he did last night.”
  • C.J. Cron had only his second multi-hit game of the season on Tuesday, then found himself out of the lineup on Wednesday. Scioscia opted to go with Collin Cowgill as his right-handed hitter against Sonny Gray — with the left-handed-hitting Matt Joyce at DH, but dropped from fourth to sixth against a right-hander — to get better defense in left field for Weaver, a fly-ball pitcher.


The tougher AL West …

canotroutThe American League West was tough last year — by a very reliable measure, it was the toughest by a wide margin — and it should be even more difficult for the Angels to capture a division title in 2015.

In a nutshell, three of their competitors should be better and one of them could be just as good.

The Mariners added Nelson Cruz and Seth Smith to a club with an outstanding rotation and a bullpen that had the fourth-lowest WHIP in baseball last year. The Astros have added Colby Rasmus, Evan Gattis, Hank Conger, Luke Gregerson and Pat Neshek to an emerging young core. The Rangers added Carlos Corporan and Yovani Gallardo to a star-studded roster that will be healthier. (I mean, they can’t get any more injured, right?) The A’s have shuffled the deck, and while they parted ways with Josh Donaldson, Jeff Samardzija, Brandon Moss and Derek Norris in prospect-laden deals, they also added Billy Butler, Ben Zobrist and Tyler Clippard, and now — amazingly — figure to be just as much of a threat in 2015.

The Angels’ offseason could best be described by some imagery general manager Jerry Dipoto recently used, while talking about the industry in general: “The beautiful thing about baseball is that it’s kind of like the ocean. It looks the same, but it changes every millisecond.”

On the outside, the Angels’ Major League roster essentially looks the same, minus Howie Kendrick and Kevin Jepsen but with Matt Joyce and Cesar Ramos. Their biggest change came in their farm system, as Dipoto continued to build layers of depth to make the Angels more sustainable moving forward. In other words, they’re definitely better for the future, but they may not be better — and may even be worse — for 2015.

The AL West ranked second in combined win-loss records last year …

AL East: +12
AL West: +10
NL Central: +8
AL Central: +4
NL East: -2
NL West: -32

But was easily No. 1 in run-differential …

AL West: +140
AL East: +29
NL East: +21
AL Central: -62
NL Central: -63
NL West: -65

That was with the Rangers ranking dead last at minus-136 and the Astros 27th at minus-94. It’s a pretty safe bet that both Texas teams will be better than that; probably way better than that.

It’s impossible to predict what will happen in 2015, of course, but we can sure try. I used Steamer’s Wins Above Replacement projections for each AL West team’s starting lineup, top four starters and best three relievers. Below is the projected fWAR for each team’s 16 most important players (for the Angels I included Garrett Richards; for the Rangers I included Jurickson Profar; for the A’s I included A.J. Griffin and Jarrod Parker) …

Mariners: 33.4
Angels: 32.6
A’s: 29.2
Rangers: 27.7
Astros: 23.4

Steamer can’t account for any freak injuries that may occur, or in-season additions that can be made, or all sorts of other randomness that occurs throughout every baseball season. But I think it’s a pretty good general overview of where teams stand.

It’ll be interesting.

If you’re curious, here’s what Steamer projected for each Angels player, ordered by highest fWAR: Trout (8.7), Aybar (3.1), Calhoun (3.1), Pujols (3), Iannetta (2.7), Richards (2.3), Freese (1.8), Hamilton (1.7), Wilson (1.4), Shoemaker (1.3), Joyce (1.2), Rutledge (1.1), Weaver (0.8), Smith (0.3), Morin (0.1), Street (0).


Cool stuff from Mike Trout …

Mike Trout won the American League’s Most Valuable Player Award on Thursday, collecting all 30 first-place votes from the Baseball Writers’ Association to become the youngest unanimous MVP in Major League history. In tune with that, I’ve compiled all the cool stuff Trout did this season in video form below. Enjoy.

March 31: Trout’s first at-bat of the season, after securing a six-year, $144.5 million extension, is a home run against King Felix

April 4: Solo homer at Minute-Maid Park gets out in a mesmerizing 111.6 mph …

… Two innings later, he throws out a runner at home for his first outfield assist since September 2012

April 15: Trout does everything possible to win, hitting a ninth-inning, game-tying homer (shown here), then reaching on an infield single and stealing second in extra innings in an eventual loss to the division-rival A’s …

April 29: (Sort of?) robs a home run …

May 15: Diving catch in the first …

… first career walk-off in the ninth …

June 7: Game-tying grand slam off a dejected Chris Sale

June 11: Robs Yoenis Cespedes of a home run (maybe) …

June 17: Trout hits two home runs in Cleveland, the last of which came on a low and inside pitch that shocked Hank Conger, who concluded Trout has “the fastest hands west of the Mississippi”

June 27: Hits one 489 feet to dead center into the fountain at Kauffman Stadium, good for the longest home run in the Majors since 2012 …

July 3: Stumbling, shoestring catch, then finishes on his feet …

July 4: Another walk-off homer, this one on a Tony Sipp slider that almost hit the dirt (note: don’t pitch him low) …

Sept. 12: A triple on a standard liner in the gap …

Sept. 13: Another two-homer game …

Sept. 21: “I got hops,” Trout said, channeling the playground scene from “He Got Game” …

Sept. 27: Leaping, twisting, no-look catch to rob Kendrys Morales

Oct. 5: Solo shot off James Shields, the lone highlight of a short-lived postseason debut


What Wednesday meant to the Angels’ postseason

Hector SantiagoThe American League Division Series kicks off from Angel Stadium next Thursday, Oct. 2. Between now and then are eight days, three regular-season games and a couple of workouts in Anaheim, at which point Josh Hamilton (right ribcage) will hope to see some live pitching and Matt Shoemaker (left oblique) will hope to get off the mound. Who knows; maybe they’ll even face each other!

At any rate, games aren’t necessarily about wins and losses anymore — they’re about looking ahead to October.

With that in mind, here are some takeaways from Wednesday’s 5-4 win over the A’s

Hector Santiago: Mike Scioscia wouldn’t commit to Santiago getting a start in the ALDS postgame, but he provided some encouraging signs while throwing 5 1/3 scoreless innings after recording a combined nine outs in his previous two starts. The problem with Santiago — and C.J. Wilson, for that matter — is that you’re still not quite sure what you’ll get from start to start. But he did finish the year with a 3.81 ERA, and he did post a 2.71 ERA from June 10 to Sept. 9. That’s a very solid three-month stretch.

Howie Kendrick: Scioscia is committed to Kendrick batting cleanup, at least to start the ALDS. Part of it has to do with Hamilton not seeing much live pitching, and part of it has to do with how well Kendrick has hit there while Hamilton has been out. The veteran second baseman had a couple of key two-out hits on Wednesday and is now batting .403 (27-for-67) with 18 RBIs in 18 games behind Albert Pujols.

Joe Thatcher: It remains to be seen whether the Angels will carry their veteran lefty specialist on the postseason roster. Thatcher has a 3.41 ERA on the year, but lefties are batting .300 against him this year and the 32-year-old is still affected by the left ankle sprain that forced him to miss more than seven weeks. Said Scioscia: “I don’t think we’re seeing him at his best yet, but he’s going to get the ball, and hopefully he’ll make some pitches. He looked a little more crisp today.”

Vinnie Pestano: I didn’t list him as a candidate, but perhaps there’s a spot for the 29-year-old sidearmer, who recorded the last two outs of the sixth inning and has allowed just one run while striking out 13 batters in 9 1/3 innings with the Angels.

Gordon Beckham: He started at shortstop, ahead of the birthday boy, and has now made five appearances there this month. Beckham came in as a solid defensive second baseman and has played well at third base, and Scioscia clearly wants to give him some reps at shortstop for his forthcoming role as the Angels’ utility player in the ALDS.


Hamilton, Shoemaker progressing; Kendrick fine …

Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton “feels pretty good today,” manager Mike Scioscia said prior to Monday’s series opener in Oakland. The 33-year-old hasn’t started doing baseball activities, but he did hit off a tee. Hamilton previously said he hopes to play on Wednesday, but Scioscia said that’s “a little aggressive.” Friday looks like his earliest return date.

Matt Shoemaker, out since last Monday with a strained oblique, said he’s “very optimistic about getting on a mound again.” The 27-year-old rookie continues to make steady progress and played light catch prior to Monday’s game, Scioscia said.

“Last two days,” Shoemaker said, “I’ve noticed the best progress, getting into a lot of physical activity, moving around, getting ready to go.”

Still, Scioscia said it’s “very remote” that Shoemaker appears in a game before the end of the regular season. So he’d probably have to throw in some sort of simulated game to get ready for the postseason, if healthy.

Howie Kendrick was held out of the lineup as a precautionary measure for the left hamstring injury that forced him out of Sunday’s game. Kendrick said he felt good enough to play, and went through all the pregame activities.

“I don’t think it’s anything major,” Kendrick said. “I’m going to go out and do what I would normally do. He just told me I wasn’t going to play today. There was no need to really push it.”


Sound bites from the Angels’ clincher …

Jered WeaverHere’s what several members of the Angels had to say after clinching the American League West on Wednesday night

Leadoff man Kole Calhoun, on popping the first bottle of champagne after the A’s lost: “I was more nervous to pop that first bottle of champagne than I was to play baseball.”

Catcher Hank Conger, on watching the game from the clubhouse: “They came back that ninth inning, and everybody was like, ‘Don’t jinx anything, don’t pop anything yet.’ As soon as they made that last out, that groundball, everyone erupted, man. Everybody was hugging each other, champagne was flowing everywhere, man, it was unbelievable.”

President John Carpino, on the fans sticking around to watch: “It’s so special. It’s so special. Look at these people. It’s 11:15 and the game has been over for an hour and a half. Angels fans have a lot of passion.”

Third baseman David Freese, on battling adversity: “You look at every team, up and down the league, and every team goes through adversity, things like that. This group just keeps plugging away. It shows. To win a division like this, it’s unbelievable. What a great group.”

Ace Jered Weaver, on coming out and seeing the fans: “Indescribable, really. This is the only reason why they’re here; they want to see us win. It’s been long overdue. Hopefully we can make a good push here in the postseason.”

Owner Arte Moreno, on his favorite part about the team: “There’s probably not one sentence you can say. They all love each other, they all like each other, they have fun together, and we have a really great mix of veterans, and we have a lot of young people. People were questioning how many young people we have in the organization, but just a lot of young guys stepped up this year.”

Manager Mike Scioscia, on returning to the playoffs after a four-year absence: “It feels great. We had gotten close, but we won our division, and we couldn’t be prouder of these guys.”

Center fielder Mike Trout, on playing in the postseason: “I’m just going to go out there, play my game and help my team win. I’m not going to put too much pressure on myself. I know the atmosphere is going to be awesome, and it’s going to be fun for sure.”

First baseman Albert Pujols, on the group: “Great chemistry. Like I’ve said before, you don’t just win with one or two guys. It takes 25 guys for us to accomplish our goals. We have a great group of guys, starting in Spring Training. I’ve been saying it all year long. And we believe in each other. We’re picking each other up.”

Starter C.J. Wilson, on his start: “It’s good. It’s what I need to do. If we’re going to win, I need to pitch like that.”

General manager Jerry Dipoto, on what it took to turn it all around: “It’s just a thrill. Mike and the staff had a great year. They did an unbelievable job, kept everybody together and cohesive. Obviously we made some changes along the way, but most importantly it was the character and the makeup of the guys. When the boat left the dock this spring, that’s what we talked so much about, and that’s what these guys did. They really did. They bound together. Very proud of them.”


30 days have made a 12-game difference …

Albert Pujols, Mike Trout

For further proof on the sheer unpredictability of baseball, look no further than what has transpired between the A’s and Angels since the end of July.

The A’s had already beefed up their rotation by acquiring Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, then took a step further by adding Jon Lester on July 31 — at a time when they held a two-game cushion in the division — because they wanted to make sure their season didn’t come down to a one-game playoff. The Angels added no such starting pitcher to a staff that was already at a disadvantage, then suffered a couple of crippling injuries to said rotation, with Tyler Skaggs succumbing to Tommy John surgery on Aug. 10 (an injury that predated to July 31) and Garrett Richards suffering a season-ending torn patellar tendon on Aug. 20.

On Aug. 10, the Angels trailed the A’s by four games.

Since then, they’ve picked up 12 games in the AL West standings, and now they have a firm grip on the division, leading the A’s by a whopping eight games with only 19 left to play.

With a deep bullpen, an offense that seems to be coming on strong once again and a rotation that uses a concoction of relievers in Richards’ spot every five days, the Angels have reeled off five straight victories and won 11 of their last 13 games. The A’s, struggling mightily offensively since trading their cleanup hitter, Yoenis Cespedes, to acquire Lester, have dropped nine of their last 11, including four in a row at Angel Stadium.

Here’s a look at how both teams have fared in a few categories over that 30-day stretch, with their Major League rankings in parenthesis …

Angels: 20-7 (1st)
A’s: 8-19 (T-29th)

Angels: 4.8 (7th)
A’s: 1.6 (22nd)

Angels: 3.19 (7th)
A’s: 4.24 (23rd)

Angels: 1.10 (5th)
A’s: 1.09 (3rd)

Angels: 5.11 (4th)
A’s: 3.41 (24th)

Angels: .735 (9th)
A’s: .633 (25th)

Angels: +52
A’s: +20

The A’s conclude their seven-game road trip this week, with three in Chicago followed by three in Seattle over the weekend. They then have a nine-game homestand against the Rangers, Phillies and Angels, then finish on the road with four in Arlington, a prime opportunity to pick up some games at the end.

The Angels are finishing their 10-game road trip this week, with three in Arlington, then have a 10-game homestand against the Astros, Mariners (four games) and Rangers. Their season ends with a six-game road trip through Oakland and Seattle, with an off day sandwiched between the two series.


‘Wake Me Up When September Ends’ …

Josh Hamilton, Mike TroutThe Angels’ impressive four-game sweep of the A’s put them 30 games above .500, five games up in the American League West and 3 1/2 up (on the Orioles) for the best record in baseball. They’ll start September with five more wins than they had all of last year and a realistic chance of capturing the franchise record in wins. They’d have to play .692 ball over the season’s final month; they’ve played .610 ball through the season’s first five months.

Here’s a look at how the Angels have to fare in September for certain milestones.

90 wins: 7-19
95 wins: 12-14
100 wins: 17-9
101 wins (club record): 18-8

This is the ninth time the Angels have held sole possession of first place in the AL West to start September. On five of the previous eight occasions, they went on to win the division. They blew 2 1/2-game leads in 1985 and ’98, and epically blew a 7 1/2-game lead with one month left in ’95.

So Angels manager Mike Scioscia has good reason to not look ahead.

“I know a lot of people are counting down, under 30 games — not us,” he said. “We know we have a long way to go. You want to ask me [about the standings] in about three weeks, we’ll sit down and talk. Right now, we are still in the heart of the pennant race. We need to chew this off one inning, one pitch, one game at a time.”

The Angels are off on Monday, then start a bizarre 10-game, four-city road trip through Houston (two games), Minnesota (four games), Cleveland (one game) and Arlington (three games). The Angels’ bullpen will continue to do some heavy lifting in September.

Some additional tidbits from Sunday …

  • Angels pitchers had a streak of 29 consecutive scoreless innings snapped in the eighth inning. It was tied for the longest in team history. … Sunday marked the fourth four-game sweep by the Angels this season, the most in their history. … Nineteen wins in August matched a franchise best (also done in 1986 and 2004). … This is the Angels’ largest division lead and their most games above .500 since the end of the 2009 season (10 games up, 32 games over). … At 83-53, the Angels have matched the best pace in club history after 136 games.
  • Mike Trout hit his 31st homer on Sunday and drove in three runs, giving him 97 on the year. All of those home runs and all but two of those RBIs have come from the No. 2 spot in the lineup. Among No. 2 hitters throughout history, the 23-year-old center fielder heads into September tied for ninth in homers (Eddie Mathews leads with 46 in 1959) and 10th in RBIs (Mathews and Alex Rodriguez in 1998 each had 114).
  • Matt Shoemaker is the first rookie with 14-plus wins and 115-plus strikeouts before September since CC Sabathia in 2001. He’s been a great story.
  • Chris Iannetta now leads the Angels in on-base percentage at .380 — six points higher than Trout.
  • Erick Aybar‘s hitting streak is now at a career-high 16 games. The veteran shortstop is batting .458 (27-for-59) during that span.



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