By Chad Stewart
The Angels bounced back from getting swept in Minnesota by beating the White Sox 7-0 on Monday. Then, they scored one run in the next two games combined, and finished the series with 3-2 victory on Thursday to earn a series split.
Monday’s game was impressive, and surprising, from both a pitching and hitting perspective. Lefty Carlos Rodon started for the White Sox, and six singles, two walks, and out later he was out of the game, allowing five runs while recording just one out. The Angels tacked on two more runs later in the game on a pair of C.J. Cron RBI singles, beating the White Sox in the series opener by a score of 7-0. Hector Santiago toed the rubber for the Halos, and he was phenomenal. He tossed seven shutout innings, allowing just two hits and striking out ten. Santiago showed his potential last year by being selected to the All-Star team, but he could never really be counted on to make it deep into games, and he sort of fizzled out in the second half of the season. If he can sustain this success, he may be even better this year than last, as he has already gone 7+ innings in two of his three starts. He only did so in seven of his 32 starts in 2015. On top of going deeper into games, Santiago is striking out batters at a higher rate than he has since 2012 when he was still a reliever. Both of these factors should lead to an even better year for the left-hander.
On Monday, the Angels recorded 13 hits. On Tuesday, they managed just three. Tuesday’s game was a face off between two Matts. Well, a Matt and a Mat. Matt Shoemaker started for the Halos, and Mat Latos did so for the White Sox. Shoemaker was effective and gave his team an opportunity to win, allowing two runs on a pair of solo home runs by sluggers Todd Frazier and Jose Abreu in 6 1/3 innings. Latos threw 6 1/3 innings of his own. Only difference is that he allowed two hits and no runs. The Angels’ only scoring opportunity came in the seventh when Andrelton Simmons doubled with one out, chasing Latos out of the game. Cron followed by shooting a single through the right side off of the third pitcher of the game named Matt (Albers), but Simmons was thrown out at the plate by right fielder Adam Eaton. The White Sox put the game out of reach with three runs in the eighth, and the Angels fell, 5-0.
Game three was a classic pitcher’s duel between the two teams’ aces, Garrett Richards for the Angels and Chris Sale for the White Sox. For a team that got shutout the day before, Sale is probably not who they wanted to see on the mound. Sale dominated for the seven innings he pitched, allowing one unearned run on two hits. Interestingly, he only struck out three batters. For one of the most prolific strikeout pitchers in the league, that seems oddly low. Obviously it did not matter much, as he still shutdown the Angels for seven innings, but it is indicative of another trend. Angels’hitters have struck the fewest times in the the MLB, and 19 fewer times than the next closest. Their strikeout percentage, also lowest in the league, is down almost five percent compared to last year. It hasn’t translated into more runs yet, but putting the ball in play should result in more hits and runs, and maybe they’ll begin to get a little luckier soon. The first inning of Monday’s game was a perfect example of this when they hit six singles that were all just out of an infielder’s reach. That is the benefit of making contact rather than striking out. Where did the Angels rank in strikeout percentage in 2002 when they won the World Series, you ask? 3oth. Lowest in the league. The same as the World Champion Royals in 2015. Just sayin’.
Anyway, Garrett Richards was also fantastic on Tuesday, allowing two runs (one earned) on four hits, striking out six and walking four in 6 1/3 innings en route to a 2-1 loss. The starting pitchers can only do so much. At some point, the offense has to start scoring runs. And they will. Eventually.
Thursday’s game was important because a win secured both a series split and a 5-5 record for the road trip; not great, but it could’ve been worse. In order for that to happen, the Angels needed a strong performance from Jered Weaver, and he delivered. Weaver held the White Sox to one run on three hits in seven strong innings, lowering his ERA on the season to 3.12. He has been sensational in two of his three starts this year, and you could not have asked for — — or expected — much more from him so far this season. At the very least, he looks to be getting back to his 2014 form (18-9, 3.59 ERA). Opposing Weaver for Chicago was John Danks. Danks only allowed two runs in six innings, but it could have been much more than that, as he walked five batters. The Angels were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position, and grounded into four double plays, one downside of a contact-heavy approach. However, it did not matter, as Mike Trout crushed a two-run homer in the fifth. He now has seven hits in his last eight at-bats, and he seems to be putting his abysmal start behind him and getting back to his usual self, which bodes well for the offense going forward. The Angels tacked on an insurance run in the top of the ninth when Carlos Perez and Kole Calhoun executed a suicide squeeze to give them a 3-1 lead. This run proved to be vital, as Huston Street allowed a two-out solo home run to Frazier to cut the lead to 3-2. Street walked the next two batters, but escaped the self-imposed jam by getting Austin Jackson to fly out to the warning track.
The Angels finished the road trip just as they began it, two games below .500 — now 7-9. They return to Anaheim on Friday to begin a six-game homestand against the division-rival Mariners and reigning World Champion Royals before heading back on the road again.