We’ve got a heck of a dogfight out West.
The Los Angeles Angels and Texas Rangers are embroiled in a race for first place in the American League West, with the Angels now four and a half games out of first place behind the Rangers.
The Angels, whose slow start made waves around the league, have finally parlayed their expensive roster into a consistent winning formula. But while the Angels figured things out, the Rangers only made themselves better.
Give Texas credit. They’re the defending American League champions for a reason. While the Angels found their stride, Texas did what they could to protect their lead in the West. Signing Roy Oswalt was a savvy thing to do.
And in addition to Oswalt, Josh Hamilton has made his triumphant return to the Rangers lineup, bolstering what was a scary row of hitters from the start. And sure enough, Texas is 8-2 in its last 10 games. The red-hot Rangers own the most wins in baseball.
Still, it looks like the Angels aren’t going away for a while.
Los Angeles has won seven of their last 10 to keep the pace with Texas. The Angels own the best team ERA in the American League (and fourth place overall – thank you, Senior Circuit). They’re playing a more complete game of baseball these days with a clutch offense to back up their stellar pitching staff.
By the way, this is a pitching staff no longer dominated by its starters. The bullpen has put forth a tremendous effort in keeping opponents in check when the starters run out of gas.
Most exciting, though, is the resurgence of the Angels’ lineup. Mike Trout leads the Angels – and the American League – with an incredible .338 batting average. Trout’s rare combination of power, speed and patience could put him in the MVP discussion if he can keep up the inhuman pace. Let’s not forget his brothers-in-arms including Albert Pujols and Mark Trumbo. Nobody on the Angels will take kindly to being outdone by a 20-year-old.
The Angels still have quite a hill to climb. The Rangers won’t give the Halos too many breaks. But if the Angels can maintain the steady yet successful pace they’ve set so far, they may pull through and outlast the Rangers.
The wild card might be an option down the line, but for now the Angels are concerned with catching the defending American League champs.
As they should be. This team has come too far and overcome too much to think of anything less than first place.