Results tagged ‘ Athletics ’

Can the Angels ‘respond’ to the aggressive A’s? …

Arte Moreno, Jerry DipotoI asked Jerry Dipoto recently about watching the A’s, not just where they’re at in the standings but what moves they make, and how that affects whether the Angels win the division or have to play for one of those do-or-die Wild Card spots. He said they have to focus on what’s best for them, and that if you try to react to other teams and get wrapped up in a game of scenarios, “you’ll talk yourself into bad decisions.”

Fair enough.

But the A’s just got Jon Lester. It was the ultimate “win-now” move, sending fan favorite Yoenis Cespedes to the Red Sox in exchange and bringing former fan favorite Jonny Gomes back. Now Lester — three-time All-Star, big-time postseason performer — joins a rotation that includes recent addition Jeff Samardzija along with Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir and Jesse Chavez.

The A’s have better starting pitching than the Angels (that almost goes without saying). They also have a better record (leading by 2 1/2 games when play began on Thursday). On top of that, they have a far more favorable schedule (I went into that here). And the last thing the Angels want is for their season — a great season, with the second-best record in baseball, amid an ever-shrinking championship window — to come down to one elimination game because they had to settle for the Wild Card.

But here’s the problem: It would be really hard for the Angels to “react” to the aggressive A’s, even if they wanted to.

Lester going to Oakland won’t magically inject the Angels’ farm system with a bevy of prospects necessary to get a top-of-the-rotation starter. They just don’t have it. What little they had was sent to San Diego in exchange for closer Huston Street. Prior to getting Street, the Angels checked in on David Price (again), and they tried to acquire teammate Ian Kennedy. And the message they received was clear: Their farm system isn’t getting them a major rotation upgrade. So, they went the bullpen route, and created one of the best relief corps in baseball.

It seems there are only two ways for the Angels to truly beef up their rotation …

1. If they want to do it before 4 p.m. ET, they’d have to part ways with Major League players. Asked about that late last week, Dipoto said, “I don’t want to break up this group.” That, of course, was before the A’s traded for Lester. Maybe he changes his mind on this; but that remains doubtful.

2. Wait until August. And this is a legitimate possibility, because the Angels have money left over (they’re somewhere between $10 and $15 million under the luxury-tax threshold, if my math is correct) but don’t want to give up more prospects from a thin farm system they’re trying to cultivate. The former plays in August, when teams can put in claims on anybody who goes through waivers and players can’t be traded unless they clear; the ladder, not so much.

So this is where the Angels stand moving forward. Tonight, they’ll play another game against another contender, and they’ll try to avoid a sweep from Oriole Park at Camden Yards. They can look forward to the possibility of C.J. Wilson likely rejoining the rotation by Saturday, and hope that he’s fixed whatever it was that caused him to give up 19 runs in 16 2/3 innings from June 24 to July 9.

And that, still, may be the best acquisition they make.

Alden

Scioscia wouldn’t change playoff format …

Mike SciosciaA lot of season remains and a lot can still happen, but if the schedule ended today, the Angels would easily have the second-best record in the Majors – they were five games better than the third-place Tigers when play began Tuesday – and still their season would come down to one game.

It’s the misfortune that comes with playing in the same division as baseball’s best team – the A’s, who the Angels trail by 1 1/2 games – and it’s the bad timing of playing in an era with two Wild Card teams in each league.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia has long been a proponent of divisional play, believing teams that win their division should have clear advantages over those that make the playoffs as a Wild Card. And the fact that his club is on the other side of that isn’t making him change his stance.

“I think the weight that is on winning a division is warranted,” Scioscia said prior to the series opener from Oriole Park at Camden Yards. “I think that if you’re going to have divisional baseball, you have to really make winning a division the first objective of any team that’s contending. And if you don’t quite reach that goal, and you play well enough, then you have the opportunity to work your way into the playoffs.”

One alternative to a team running into the scenario the Angels are currently in is to extend the Wild Card into a three-game series, but Scioscia said that would penalize the division winners because “you will lose your edge, no doubt about it, with that much time off.”

Another would be to eliminate divisional play, which the Angels’ long-time skipper doesn’t like. And a more unconventional one would be to have four divisions, something Scioscia floated out as a possibility if more expansion takes place.

The ladder isn’t necessarily feasible right now, which makes the current goal pretty simple.

“Win your division,” Scioscia said. “Let’s just put it that way.”

Some notes from today …

  • C.J. Wilson gave up two runs in 5 1/3 innings in a rehab start for Double-A Arkansas on Monday, scattering four hits, waling two and striking out seven. His ankle feels good, and he should be lined up to start this weekend in St. Petersburg, Fla., but Scioscia wants to wait until Wilson gets through his bullpen to make any determinations. Wilson also discovered some tightness in his left hip that was limiting a flexibility, a problem he fixed and an issue he believes will get him back on track.
  • Josh Hamilton moved from left field to designated hitter, but it wasn’t injury related. Hamilton didn’t get much sleep while flying to North Carolina to deal with a family emergency in his native North Carolina.
  • Grant Green (lower back) and Collin Cowgill (thumb, nose) stayed in Arizona rehabbing.
  • Mike Trout is currently in Baltimore, which is about a two-hour drive from his hometown of Millville, N.J., but he doesn’t expect a huge crowd. Trout said he left like 15 tickets.

Lineup …

Kole Calhoun, RF
Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Hamilton, LF
Erick Aybar, SS
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Efren Navarro, DH
David Freese, 3B
Hank Conger, C

SP: RH Jered Weaver (11-6, 3.36 ERA)

Alden

To catch A’s, Angels must overcome schedule …

Albert Pujols, Mike TroutThe Angels and A’s are each playing their 100th game tonight, and when the day began, Oakland’s lead in the American League West remained at two. The Angels have been one of baseball’s best teams for most of the season, currently sporting the second-best record in the Majors, but they have the misfortune of playing in a division with the best team. And of playing in an era when winning your division is crucial (nobody wants their season to be decided by a singular Wild Card game, especially if that game comes against Mariners ace Felix Hernandez).

So it goes without saying that the Angels’ goal is to catch the A’s, who only got stronger by adding Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to their rotation. To do that, they’ll have to continue to make up ground.

And they’ll have to overcome a far less favorable schedule.

Below is a categorical look at the remaining games for each team, starting Thursday. The first line is the amount of games each has against teams that would make the playoffs if the season ended today, the second is the amount of games against teams with records above .500, the third is the amount of home games left, and the fourth is the combined number of games above/below .500 from each of their remaining 62 opponents.*

The Angels and A’s play each other 10 more times — Aug. 22-24 in Oakland, Aug. 28-31 in Anaheim and Sept. 22-24 in Oakland, making up the second-to-last series of the regular season. The A’s lead the season series, 6-3.

Athletics

Playoffs: 19
Above-.500: 19
Home: 30
Combined: 246 games below .500

Angels

Playoffs: 28
Above-500: 29
Home: 28
Combined: 2 games below .500

* a few teams hadn’t finished their Wednesday games by the time I tallied this

Alden

Grant Green starts at third, but just for one day …

Adam Eaton, Grant GreenGrant Green made his first start Major League start at third base on Wednesday, but no, he hasn’t supplanted David Freese as the everyday guy at the hot corner, and Angels manager Mike Scioscia said Green won’t necessarily be cutting into his playing time, either.

Green is starting simply because Freese’s left elbow is “a little sore” after a hit by pitch in Tuesday’s eighth inning, Scioscia said, adding that Freese will “still get the lion’s share of the third-base starts.”

“He’s hit the ball much better than some of his numbers show,” Scioscia said. “He’s hit a lot of hard outs. Really what David does is give you that great at-bat with guys in scoring position. We’re starting to see a little bit more of that. That being said, I don’t think he’s hit stride, or there’s a comfort level of what he did a couple years ago. That just hasn’t materialized. But he’s giving us good at-bats, and if he can get close to where we project him to be, he’s going to be a huge boost to the depth of our lineup.”

So far, that hasn’t happened.

Freese sports a .226/.305/.282 slash line overall and a .170/.270/.170 mark with runners in scoring position, and he’s basically been treading water recently, with a .256 average, 14 strikeouts and one walk in his last 11 games.

Green, meanwhile, enters hitting .333/.347/.435 in an interrupted 25-game stint in the big leagues, but is still getting acclimated to third base — one of five positions he currently plays.

The 26-year-old — a natural shortstop who’s most comfortable at second base, received the majority of his starts in left field earlier this season and has most recently been experimenting with first base — hadn’t spent much time at third base when the Angels acquired him from the A’s for Alberto Callaspo last July. But Green got some time there in the Minors down the stretch last year, spent a lot of time in the hot corner during Spring Training and played third in four of his last six Triple-A games.

“I felt good there when I first came up,” Green said. “When I first came up, I played a lot of third. When I went back down, I didn’t feel rusty. It was just getting back into it, getting back into taking grounders game-speed.”

Twins (36-39)

Danny Santana, SS
Brian Dozier, 2B
Joe Mauer, 1B
Josh Willingham, LF
Kendrys Morales, DH
Oswaldo Arcia, RF
Eduardo Escobar, 3B
Eric Fryer, C
Sam Fuld, CF

SP: RH Yohan Pino (0-0, 2.57 ERA)

Angels (42-33)

Kole Calhoun, RF
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Josh Hamilton, LF
Erick Aybar, SS
Howie Kendrick, 2B
C.J. Cron, DH
Grant Green, 3B
Chris Iannetta, C

SP: RH Garrett Richards (7-2, 2.79 ERA)

Alden

Takeaways from a 14-inning thriller …

Collin CowgillTuesday night’s game will be remembered mostly for Collin Cowgill‘s walk-off homer, which set up the Angels’ fifth straight win and put them 2 1/2 games back in the American League West, and for Yoenis Cespdes‘ throw, one of the best anybody has ever seen. But here are some other takeaways from one of the most interesting games of the season …

  • This was the Angels’ best pitching performance of the year. Hector Santiago provided six scoreless innings in his return from Triple-A Salt Lake, scattering three hits while walking one and striking out eight. Then, six relievers (Kevin Jepsen, Mike Morin, Joe Smith, Cam Bedrosian, Fernando Salas and Cory Rasmus) combined to give up one run in eight innings, scattering five hits, walking two and striking out six, going toe-to-toe with an A’s bullpen that ranks third in the Majors in relief-pitcher WHIP.
  • The Angels, as Mike Scioscia said, “were fortunate tonight.” They made two critical baserunning blunders, with Albert Pujols running through a Gary DiSarcina stop sign in the sixth to easily get thrown out at home by Brandon Moss, and Kole Calhoun trying to advance to third in the 11th on a ground ball to shortstop Jed Lowrie, who flipped to Josh Donaldson for the easy out.
  • Scioscia made a questionable decision to have Calhoun bunt in the 13th, after Mike Trout drew a leadoff walk. Calhoun did his job, which meant Trout advanced to second, but with first base open, the A’s opted to walk Josh Hamilton (even though they had a lefty, Jeff Francis, pitching). The sac bunt took the bat out of the hands of one of the Angels’ best players, and paved the way for an inning-ending double play from David Freese.
  • The Angels and A’s play a lot of extra innings. In five matchups between the two at Angel Stadium, they’ve now gone to extra innings three times. That, in addition to the 19-inning game played in Oakland on April 29 of last year.

Alden

Skaggs headed to DL; Santiago coming back up …

Tyler SkaggsAngels lefty Tyler Skaggs has been scratched from his Tuesday start against the A’s because of a strained right hamstring, prompting Hector Santiago to come back up from Triple-A Salt Lake and start in his place.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia said Skaggs, who will be placed on the 15-day disabled list, “felt it a little bit” during his Thursday outing in Houston and “came out of the start a little bit sore.”

The 22-year-old Skaggs – 4-4 with a 4.34 ERA in 12 starts – can be activated as early as June 21, which would have him missing two or three starts. And Scioscia doesn’t anticipate this being a prolonged injury.

“We’re doing this more as a precaution to make sure it gets behind him,” Scioscia said. “Hamstrings, they have a life of their own. You never know. But we don’t anticipate it being longer than [the extent of the DL stint].”

Santiago was optioned to the Minor Leagues shortly after going 0-6 with a 5.19 ERA in his first seven starts with the Angels. The 26-year-old left-hander had a 6.43 ERA, a 2.14 WHIP and a 1.29 strikeout-to-walk ratio in the three starts that spanned 14 innings during his time in the Pacific Coast League. Santiago last pitched Thursday – he gave up six runs (four earned) on 11 hits in six innings – and will take the mound on his normal four days’ rest.

“He’s making progress with his command,” Scioscia said of Santiago. “He feels much better about what he needs to do on the mound, so hopefully he’ll bring it into the game tomorrow.”

Athletics (39-24)

Coco Crisp, CF
John Jaso, DH
Josh Donaldson, 3B
Brandon Moss, RF
Yoenis Cespedes, LF
Jed Lowrie, SS
Stephen Vogt, C
Alberto Callaspo, 1B
Eric Sogard, 2B

SP: RH Jesse Chavez (5-3, 3.04 ERA)

Angels (34-28)

Kole Calhoun, RF
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Josh Hamilton, LF
David Freese, 3B
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Erick Aybar, SS
Raul Ibanez, DH
Hank Conger, C

SP: RH Garrett Richards (5-2, 3.25 ERA)

Alden

Garrett Richards’ second inning: Immaculate …

nolanNolan Ryan and Garrett Richards.

That’s it.

Those are the only two guys in Angels history to record an immaculate inning, which consists of nine pitches and three strikeouts. Ryan did it on June 9, 1972, in the second inning against the Red Sox. Richards did it on Wednesday, in the second inning of a 4-0 win over the Astros.

“That was my guy growing up,” Richards said after eight shutout innings. “It’s cool. It’s cool to be put in a group with a guy like that. I didn’t even realize it until after the game. It was fun. It was a fun game to be a part of.”

Yes, Richards is way too young to grow up idolizing Ryan. He’s 26, which means he was 5 years old during the Hall of Famer’s final season with the Rangers in 1993. But his father was a big fan of Ryan, and that made Richards, raised in Southern California, a fan, too.

“I met him one time in Texas,” Richards said. “It was awesome.”

Here’s how the bottom of the second went (video here) …

Jon Singleton: 96-mph fastball (foul), 88-mph slider (swinging), 79-mph curveball (swinging).
Matt Dominguez: 95-mph cutter (looking), 97-mph fastball (swinging), 97-mph cutter (looking).
Chris Carter: 97-mph cutter (swinging), 79-mph curveball (swinging), 88-mph slider (swinging).

Three others have thrown an immaculate inning this season (Justin Masterson of the Indians on June 2, Cole Hamels of the Phillies on May 17 and Brad Boxberger of the Rays on May 8), and Richards’ is the 55th in Major League history. Thirty-three have come in the National League, twenty-two have come in the American League. Ryan also accomplished it with the Mets in 1968, and Lefty Grove did it twice in one season (1928, with the A’s). Nobody has ever done it more than once in the same game (here’s the full list).

“That’s just the type of stuff you rarely ever see,” catcher Hank Conger said. “But with a guy like Garrett, that’s the type of things that can happen, especially with his type of stuff.”

Alden

Trout misses second straight with back issue …

Mike TroutBack stiffness forced Mike Trout to miss his second straight game on Sunday afternoon.

Trout woke up with the stiffness around the middle of his back on Saturday morning, got scratched from the lineup after originally being slated to start at designated hitter, was laid up in the athletic trainer’s table as the Angels went about an 11-3 loss and didn’t feel quite good to play in the finale against the A’s on Sunday morning.

Trout said the back is “a lot better than yesterday,” but “I still feel a little bit in there.”

“It sucks,” Trout said about missing two games against the first-place team in the American League West. “I want to be out there. I just want to get it better.”

Trout was hooked up to a handheld electric stimulation machine pregame, and Angels manager Mike Scioscia was hopeful that he could be available to him off the bench.

“If he can swing the bat, to start at DH, we would’ve considered it,” Scioscia said. “But right now, it’s a little bit too stiff to do that four or five times. We’ll see if he’s got one [at-bat] in him. If not, hopefully he’ll be ready on Tuesday.”

Trout – batting .294/.380/.549, with 11 homers and an American League-leading 63 strikeouts – has now been out of the Angels’ lineup three times, also missing the May 21 game against the Astros out of precaution over a tight left hamstring. The Angels have an off day on Monday before starting a three-game series in Houston, and Trout isn’t concerned about the back issue lingering.

“It definitely feels better than yesterday,” he said. “But it’s still there. I don’t want it to get worse.”

  • Josh Hamilton, 4-for-9 in his last two games for Triple-A Salt Lake, is apparently done playing rehab games. He’ll work out with the Minor League team in Albuquerque, N.M., for the next two days in anticipation of being activated for Tuesday’s series opener in Houston.

Here’s the Angels lineup …

Kole Calhoun, RF
Erick Aybar, SS
Albert Pujols, DH
Raul Ibanez, LF
Howie Kendrick, 2B
David Freese, 3B
C.J. Cron, 1B
Hank Conger, C
Collin Cowgill, CF

SP: RH Jered Weaver

Alden

Trout out of the lineup with back stiffness …

Center fielder Mike Trout was a late scratch from Saturday’s lineup due to stiffness in his upper back that was giving him a hard time rotating, Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.

Scioscia originally had Trout in at designated hitter, then took him out entirely after he spent all of pregame laid up in the trainers’ table. The 22-year-old superstar was fine on Friday, going 2-for-5 with a homer to straightaway center field in the 9-5 loss, but woke up feeling stiff and got his second day off this season.

Trout was also bothered by a tight left hamstring earlier this week, which prompted him to start at designated hitter against the Astros on May 20 and miss the May 21 series finale for precautionary reasons.

“We were going to try to see if he could go out there and swing, but it’s just not quite loose enough to where you want him to risk any further injury,” said Scioscia, who put Grant Green in Trout’s place at the No. 2 spot. “Hopefully it’s something that quiets down and he’ll be ready to go tomorrow.”

Here’s the full lineup …

Erick Aybar, SS
Grant Green, LF
Albert Pujols, 1B
David Freese, 3B
Howie Kendrick, 2B
C.J. Cron, DH
Chris Iannetta, C
Kole Calhoun, RF
Collin Cowgill, CF

SP: LH Tyler Skaggs

Calhoun sits after breakout game …

Kole CalhounAngels right fielder Kole Calhoun finally broke out on Thursday, going 2-for-4 while drawing a couple of walks and admittedly seeing the ball better than he has since returning from a sprained right ankle nine days ago.

And for that, he earned a spot right back on the bench.

The left-handed-hitting Calhoun sat against lefty Drew Pomeranz against the A’s on Friday, and may sit again when another lefty – Tommy Milone – starts on Saturday. Calhoun historically has even splits — .750 OPS versus lefties, .749 OPS versus righties – but Angels manager Mike Scioscia continues to platoon with his outfield corners, going with right-handed hitters Grant Green (left field) and Collin Cowgill (right field) in the series opener.

Scioscia said in the past that Calhoun is “too good a hitter” to platoon.

But not against a guy who has limited lefties to a .168/.245/.224 slash line this season, at least.

“Today is really just a matchup day against Pomeranz,” Scioscia said. “His splits are really tilted toward giving more of a right-handed look to our lineup. It might be different versus Milone. Kole took a huge step forward yesterday. Just the fact of him seeing so many pitches and getting on base so much is why in the first place we considered him as a potential leadoff candidate. I think our best lineup is a look that will eventually have him up there, but at times, we’re going to have to adjust off of it.”

The lineups for a showdown between the two best teams in the AL West …

Angels (30-23)

Erick Aybar, SS
Mike Trout, CF
Albert PUjols, 1B
David Freese, 3B
Howie Kendrick, 2B
C.J. Cron, DH
Chris Iannetta, C
Grant Green, LF
Collin Cowgill, RF

SP: Garrett Richards (4-1, 3.00 ERA)

Athletics (32-22)

Coco Crisp, CF
John Jaso, DH
Josh Donaldson, 3B
Brandon Moss, 1B
Yoenis Cespedes, LF
Jed Lowrie, SS
Josh Reddick, RF
Derek Norris, C
Alberto Callaspo, 2B

SP: Pomeranz (4-2, 1.38 ERA)

Alden

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