By Chad Stewart
Despite all of the injuries they have sustained, the Angels have been showing signs of life recently, winning six of seven last week. They lost two out of three games to the Orioles this weekend, but the way they competed with a first-place team was encouraging.
The Orioles got out to a quick start in the first game, hitting back-to-back home runs in the first inning off Angels starter Hector Santiago. The Angels got one back in the second, but former Angel Mark Trumbo extended Baltimore’s lead to 4-1 with a two-run shot in the third. After the count went to 3-0 to the next batter, Santiago complained about a call to home plate umpire John Tumpane. The situation appeared to be cooled down when Carlos Perez began walking out to the mound. However, when Santiago appeared to motion at Perez to return to the plate, Tumpane ejected him as if Santiago was motioning to him. Obviously, we don’t know what was said between the two, but it certainly looked like Tumpane should have a had a bit of a longer leash with Santiago.
Because of the ejection, an already over-worked bullpen was forced to absorb the remaining 6 1/3 innings. Mike Morin and Cam Bedrosian combined for 3 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing the Angels to get back in the game.
Mike Trout and Albert Pujols reached base to lead off the sixth, and, with one out, Johnny Giavotella lined a single up the middle to score Trout. Rafael Ortega reached on an error to load the bases, and Perez hit a sacrifice fly to bring the Angels within one. That brought Gregorio Petit to the plate with two outs and runners on first and second. After battling to a 3-2 count with reliever Mychal Givens, Givens fooled Petit on a slider that was nearly in the dirt, but Petit reached out as far as he could, releasing his bat as it contacted the ball, and flaring the ball into shallow right-center. The ball fell into no man’s land, allowing the tying run to score.
Jose Alvarez entered the game in to begin the seventh, and, after striking out Joey Rickard, Yunel Escobar committed his eighth error of 2016, allowing Manny Machado to reach. Alvarez struck out the next batter, but Chris Davis crushed a two-run home run to left-center to give Baltimore a 6-4 lead. The Angels’ offense went silent for the rest of the game, and reliever A.J. Achter gave up three runs. The Angels dropped game one, 9-4.
On Saturday, Matt Shoemaker made his best start of the year — and possibly his career. Shoemaker permitted just three hits and struck out 12 across 7 1/3 scoreless innings. Shoemaker’s counterpart, Baltimore’s Kevin Gausman, was also fantastic. He allowed one run on eight hits in 6 2/3 innings. The game remained scoreless until the seventh when the Angels finally broke through. With two outs, Petit doubled on a ball over center fielder Adam Jones’ head. Escobar followed by smacking a single up the middle to score Petit, and give the Halos a 1-0 lead.
Shoemaker struck out the first batter of the eighth, and he did the same with the second batter, Jonathan Schoop, but the ball got past catcher Jett Bandy, allowing Schoop to reach first. This prompted Mike Sciosscia to take Shoemaker out of the game. Fernando Salas came in and quickly dispatched of the final two batters of the inning. Joe Smith was brought in in the ninth to close the game. Chris Davis reached on a two-out single, and Mark Trumbo walked, which brought Matt Wieters to the plate. It was Wieters’ 30th birthday, so Smith decided to gift-wrap a fastball up and over the plate for him. Wieters seemed grateful for the gift, depositing it over the left-center field wall to give the Orioles a 3-1 lead.
I doubt Sciosscia would have sent Shoemaker out for the ninth even if he had finished the eighth, but, with the way he was dominating and the amount of innings the Angels’ bullpen has soaked up this year (this was just the third time an Angels starter worked into the eighth), it would not have been a bad idea to give him a shot at a complete game.
Petit led off the bottom of the ninth with a four-pitch walk, but a couple of awful strike calls by the home plate umpire thwarted any hope of a comeback, and the Angels dropped game two by a score of 3-1.
On Sunday, the Angels were able to avenge the heart-breaking loss from the night before, scoring twice as many runs as the first two games combined. They scored once in the second inning courtesy of a Perez RBI single. Then, they exploded for five runs in the third with RBI singles by Kole Calhoun and Giavotella and RBI doubles by Albert Pujols and C.J. Cron. Baltimore starter Ubaldo Jimenez was charged for six runs in 5 2/3 innings.
Schoop homered to narrow the lead to 6-2 in the seventh, but the Angels got one of those runs right back on a Giavotella single in the bottom half of the inning. Perez put the finishing touch on it with a three-run shot later in the inning, and the Angels won the series finale, 10-2.
Jered Weaver started for the Angels, and he was sensational. Weaver permitted two runs on five hits while striking out six, keeping the Baltimore Orioles off balance all day. Weaver has been inconsistent this year, so it remains to be seen if he can replicate this performance his next time out, but it is certainly a sight for sore eyes.
The Angels’ bullpen has been surprisingly effective despite the losses of Huston Street and Corey Rasmus. They have struggled recently, but they rank seventh in the American League in earned-run average while racking up the second-most innings. Bedrosian has been the greatest revelation thus far. After Sunday’s scoreless outing, Bedrosian now has a 0.68 ERA and 15 strikeouts in 15 1/3 innings. He has become especially valuable because he has shown the ability to come into a situation when the Angels are in desperate need of a strikeout, and do just that, which is something the Angels have sorely lacked in recent years.
In the past week, Perez has begun to turn his season around. He capped off a solid week (8-for-25 with a pair of doubles and home runs and nine RBI) with his best game of the year. He went 3-for-4 with five RBI on Sunday. Because of the loss of Geovany Soto, he will be receiving the bulk of the playing time, so his resurgence will be key.
The Angels lost two out of three this weekend, but they have won seven of their last ten and are now 20-24 on the season. Although, they are now 6.5 games back of first-place Seattle who have won four in a row.
The Angels begin a three-game road series against the Rangers on Monday. Texas is coming off of a three-game sweep of Houston and are now 25-19 overall. The Rangers are third in the American League in runs scored and eighth in ERA. Rangers ace Yu Darvish is set to make his first start of the year on Saturday, so the Angels will just miss him. They will also miss their second ace, Cole Hamels. That’s too bad. They will face lefty Derek Holland who threw six shutout innings against the Angels on April 30th. Holland has struggled mightily in three starts since, however, permitting 22 runs in 11 innings.
Saturday night’s loss was as tough as they come, but the way they responded the next day is just another example of the resilience of this team. All things considered, the Angels could be in a much worse position. All they have to do is continue to stay afloat, and they should receive a mid-summer boost when some of these players (hopefully) begin returning from injuries.