Results tagged ‘ Athletics ’

‘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.

Alden

‘All hands on deck’ for the Angels’ bullpen …

That’s the bullpen’s catch phrase these days. It’s what Jason Grilli said this morning, in the wake of the 2-0 victory that was made possible by eight Angels pitchers taking the mound in nine innings: “All hands on deck.”

Prior to the game, the Angels surprisingly called up a position player (Grant Green) and sent down a pitcher (Cory Rasmus). Angels manager Mike Scioscia said they’re fine on the pitching side for Sunday’s series finale, given the fact that there’s an off day on Monday. Rasmus was sent down only as a formality, since he can be called up when rosters expand by Tuesday (they expand Monday, but the Angels’ next game is Tuesday).

Sunday is the last day to acquire players from outside the organization that would be eligible for the playoffs, and Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto isn’t planning on acquiring a starter. They’ll try to “cobble” it together, Dipoto said. And they’ll sort of do that on Sunday. Closer Huston Street (coming off appearing in four straight days) and setup man Joe Smith (three straight) are likely not available.

Here’s a look at who is …

LH Hector Santiago: Santiago said he put his spikes on last night, but never walked out to the bullpen. He will on Sunday. Santiago last started on Wednesday, and he’ll be backed up to start on Thursday, so he can give Scioscia an inning or two out of the bullpen if needed.

LH Michael Roth: Roth’s turn to start in Double-A was Saturday, and he only faced four batters (one an intentional walk) that day in the Majors. He can give Scisocia lots of length if the game gets out of hand or goes extras.

RH Yoslan Herrera: Herrera faced only one batter, and got two crucial outs, on Saturday. And he took the mound on three days’ rest. He can give Scioscia multiple innings, as well.

RH Jason Grilli: Grilli has only pitched twice in the last six days, including Saturday. He could be a candidate to close, unless it’s …

RH Kevin Jepsen: Jepsen would be appearing in his fourth game in five days if he pitches on Sunday, but I bet Scioscia doesn’t hesitate to go to him if he needs him.

RH Mike Morin: The 23-year-old right-hander is actually pretty fresh. He’s had two days off, which is an eternity in this bullpen. He’s someone who can give Scioscia two innings if needed.

RH Fernando Salas: Salas is basically on the same schedule as Jepsen, having appeared in two of his last three games. The fact he only threw one 11-pitch inning on Saturday, when he could’ve easily come out for a second, makes him available for the series finale.

If the Angels have a lead after six, and Scioscia goes to the bullpen to relieve Matt Shoemaker, my guess is Morin, Grilli, Jepsen get the last three innings, respectively.

Alden

 

Trying to clear up this ‘light wave’ stuff …

lightsNobody really knows when it started, or why it even became a thing. But some time around late May — or maybe it was early June — a group of Angels fans thought it’d be a good idea to start shining the LED lights of their smartphones in the late stages of night games at Angel Stadium. It started with a small segment of the crowd, then grew more and more prominent until it spread throughout the ballpark on almost a regular basis.

On Thursday night, in a packed house for a tight division race and in front of the national-TV cameras of MLB Network, the phase became a talking point like never before, with A’s fans and even several media members chalking it up as a strategic, somewhat-disrespectful ploy to distract the Oakland hitters.

So, I thought it’d be a good idea to clear a couple of things up: The craze is nothing new, and it’s actually something Angels fans often do when their own hitters are up in the box.

You can argue that it’s silly, and you’d probably be right. But it doesn’t seem to be strategic, and the hitters actually don’t seem to have a problem with it. I asked Albert Pujols about it earlier in the year, because it seemed the light wave grew really intense during one of his seventh-inning at-bats, and he said he didn’t even notice it. Howie Kendrick said the same thing a few nights later, when it was his turn to bat while lights blinked throughout the ballpark.

“You don’t really notice it, because the batter’s eye is so big here,” Kendrick said, referring to the large patch of grass that sits beyond the center-field fence.

The Angels’ official Twitter account has a hashtag for it, as you probably noticed last night, which reads #LightWave. But they said they’ve never promoted the event and that they tweet it out only as a reaction to it happening — not as a signal for fans to do it.

“It’s something that has been at our ballpark for a few months now,” said Tim Mead, Angels vice president of communications. “Last night was not unique. And quite honestly, when it first started, it was unique to us regarding its origin, as it is each and every time it happens. … There’s no rhyme or reason to when it happens.”

The problem, as some have pointed out, would come if fans start bringing laser pointers and point them in the direction of the players. That would cross the line.

Alden

No Garrett Richards against the A’s …

Garrett RichardsGarrett Richards starts the series opener against the Rangers on Friday, which means his next turn will be Wednesday in Boston, which means his next turn after that will be Monday, at home against the Marlins.

And that means the Angels’ best starting pitcher of 2014 won’t be starting against the team they’re chasing.

The Angels are in Oakland next weekend, and it’ll be Hector Santiago, C.J. Wilson and Jered Weaver starting on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, respectively. The only way Richards – 12-4 with a 2.54 ERA – could start against the first-place A’s would be to either skip his next turn or go on short rest.

It’s too early for that, Angels manager Mike Scioscia said, and that’s too dangerous for someone who’s in his first full year in a Major League rotation.

“We have a lot of baseball left,” Scioscia added, “and I think you want to make sure guys are rested and they come back. Most of those guys are going to be going on five days’ rest now – we don’t have many breaks – and if we have to reserve the right to bring them back on three days at the very end, if it’s meaningful, that’s something for the last week to 10 days of the season.”

If Richards pitches every five games the rest of the season, he’d start against the A’s at home on Aug. 30, then miss them in Oakland during the second-to-last series of the regular season. But the Angels have an off day on Sept. 1, their last one until Sept. 25, which Scioscia could use to line up his rotation for the final month.

But it isn’t time for that yet.

“I think it’s too early,” Scioscia said, “and where our guys are, we still need five guys going out there and throwing the ball to their capabilities.”

Here’s the Angels lineup …

Kole Calhoun, RF
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Josh Hamilton, LF
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Erick Aybar, SS
Brennan Boesch, DH
David Freese, 3B
Chris Iannetta, C

SP: RH Richards

Alden

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

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