Aug 4, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Garrett Richards (43) gets a powerade shower from first baseman Albert Pujols (5) shower after a compete game shut out against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Angels won 5-0. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sportss

2014 Freeway Series: What Went Wrong for the Angels?

After the first game of the 2014 Freeway Series, things were looking good for the Los Angeles Angels. Garrett Richards threw his first career complete game shutout. The Halos had won 8 of their last 12 — shocking, considering their overall 10-11 slump since the All-Star Break. And the club was only one game back of the first place Oakland Athletics. Then, things just kept going the Dodgers’ way. I’m not going to lie. The Dodgers got most of the breaks. Not to take away any credit — they’re a good team. But the Boys in Blue had a lot of plays end up in their favor, and had more chances to make great plays in one four game series than I’ve seen in a long time. However, the one glaring problem that either team exposed was the Angels’ struggles with runners in scoring position. At the All-Star Break, the Halos climbed to second in the American League in batting average with runners in scoring position. Their offense was white hot. But the four-day layoff seemed to cripple their rhythm, and in just three weeks the team fell to fifth in that spot. That has been the root of their struggles lately. And those problems were made obvious against the Dodgers this past week. The Dodgers outscored the Angels 14-10. The Halos left 15 men on base, but the Dodgers left 31. Yes, the blue team has struggled almost all season with runners in scoring position. But the Dodgers also outhit the Angels in this series, and that helped them outdo the Angels in games two and three, and then blow the red team out 7-0 in game four, to take 3 out of 4. The Angels just didn’t hit. Mike Trout struggled. Josh Hamilton struggled. Albert Pujols was okay — he’s parked it between .273 and .279 for the past three weeks.  Overall, their offense has developed a problem since the All-Star Break of wasting good at-bats and taking too many pitches is key situations. In fact, the Halos lead the American League in strikeouts with runners in scoring position. So even though the Angels climbed to second in batting average with runners in scoring position; are far ahead in the Wild Card standings; and would be running away with four of the other five divisions, they still have one glaring weakness: strikeouts. One would think that Don Baylor as hitting coach would remedy such things. The “Groove” hates the strikeout. But players need to apply his teachings, and their skills. Obi Wan Kenobi could only do so much to teach Luke Skywalker. In the end, Luke was the one who had to let go and use his skills to blow up the Death Star. That’s a metaphor for these types of situations. Letting go, knowing you’re good, and executing is the key. The Angels have lost sight of that as an offensive unit. As far as exposed weaknesses, that’s clearly what happened in this series. Then again, don’t take any credit away from Matt Kemp stepping up his game and practically stealing the go-ahead run in game two. That was heads-up baseball; and Kemp took that opportunity to continue proving to the Dodgers (and to himself) who Matt Kemp is. I think baseball needs Matt Kemp. Back to the Angels… The bullpen was the Halos’ brightest spot. They didn’t allow a run until the seventh inning of game four. The starting pitching did its job until CJ Wilson’s struggles continued, also in game four. My favorite moment though was Albert Pujols teaching Yasiel Puig a lesson in how to conduct one’s self when considered a threat with the arm in the outfield. And of course reminding Puig of his place, and of who Albert Pujols is. But I think one real positive aspect we should also take from this series, is the Angels continuing to show the baseball world that they are not intimidated by Clayton Kershaw, or any other ace they’ve hit well against in 2014. That’s a statement the Halos have been making all season long. And that could be a major factor in the postseason, especially if these two teams finally meet in the World Series for the first time ever. Please, Baseball Gods! Make it happen. So there actually were quite a few positives for the Angels in this series, which could’ve (and should’ve) been split. Or, it was really that close to the Angels taking three out of four by virtue of their newly refurbished bullpen. So what really did go wrong for the Angels in the 2014 Freeway Series? I guess with two teams displaying good starting pitching — and both struggling right now with runners in scoring position — this whole series just came down to which team could scratch and claw for one more run than the other. Games two and three were decided by one run, and that is pretty much it. Mike Scioscia and Don Mattingly had to match wits. In the end, it really came down to who blinked first in the 2014 Freeway Series.

Tags: Albert Pujols Garrett Richards Los Angeles Angels Los Angeles Dodgers Mike Trout MLB Yasiel Puig

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