Will all the attention being focused on their rivals 30 miles north, the Dodgers, these Angels have been doing something that their fans have expected them to do all along this season:
Win games, as Mike Scioscia’s club has taken nine of their last ten contests, including a 11-2 shellacking of the Tampa Bay Rays at Angel Stadium on Monday night.
Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo have done their thing, as Trout is currently second in the American League in hitting with his .335 average, and though he’s only batting .237, Trumbo leads the Angels with 29 home runs and 84 runs batted in.
Even Josh Hamilton has stepped it up a bit as the big free agent signing has managed to get his average up to .236 with 19 homers and 61 RBIs.
The key to this red-clad Orange County team’s recent fortunes has been with their young players, as guys like J.B. Shuck, Kole Calhoun, Colin Cowgill and Hank Conger have been playing hard and experiencing success in place of injured stars like Howie Kendrick and Albert Pujols.
The lack of pitching for much of the year, along with the injuries, is a prominent factor for these Halos being perhaps the most disappointing team in baseball this year; at 9-7 with a 3.30 earned run average, ace Jered Weaver has done better, but C.J. Wilson has definitely taken up the slack as the left hander leads the team in wins (14) and strikeouts (159).
Jason Vargas has done fairly well of late too, with his 8-5 record and his solid 3.54 ERA.
And although he has blown some crucial saves, namely in Texas when he gave up winning home runs, you can’t argue with Ernesto Frieri’s 30 saves.
This hot streak that the Angels have been on, sweeping the Seattle Mariners and Milwaukee Brewers while taking two of three from the Rays on the road, tells me one thing:
That at 64-72 and 14 1/2 games out of first place in the A.L. West, these Halos are loose and playing like they have nothing to lose – which they don’t; despite their good play, it’s more or less a matter of too little, too late as they are still out of contention with no chance of making the post season.
However, things look potentially good for 2014 as not only will Pujols and Kendrick return, kids like Conger, Shuck, Calhoun, Cowgill, second baseman Grant Green and third baseman Chris Nelson will have gained invaluable experience, which will bode well going forward.
All the Angels will need is more quality pitching, starters to complement Weaver and Wilson and particularly a bullpen that won’t put gasoline on fires like these relievers have done this year.
If general manager Jerry Dipoto can make that happen, perhaps 2014 will be a whole lot different than 2013.