Is this finally what we’ve been waiting for? Can we breathe now?
In case you haven’t heard, the Los Angeles Angels are doing pretty darn well at the moment. Winners of seven straight, they’ve leapt from dead last in the American League West to second place. The Angels now stand at six and a half games behind the Texas Rangers. It’s still a long hill to climb, but it’s good to see the Angels chipping away at Texas’ lead. And unthinkably, the Angels are at .500 for the first time since April 9.
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Considering their horrific start to the season, things are looking mighty sunny at the Big A.
But what the heck is driving the Halos forward? It would have to be the one element missing all year: clutch hitting.
Yes, it sounds obvious, but the fact is the Halos haven’t been able to buy a hit with RISP all season long. It sure seemed like it, anyway. They could not seem to muster the big, game-changing hit late in games. Then something clicked, and now it seems we’ve got a whole new club.
Alberto Callaspo helped spark this newfound ability to drive runners home with an RBI double in the 11th inning on May 25 against Seattle. He put the Halos ahead again the next day with a pinch-hit grand slam in the sixth inning against none other than Felix Hernandez.
Since then, the Angels have shown they can not only win games, but win them close. Monday’s big walk-off homer from Mark Trumbo exemplifies this newfound swagger.
Speaking of Trumbo, I can’t say enough about the guy. Last year was rough for Trumbo, but all of a sudden he’s pushing the team forward with an MVP kind of swing. Only time will tell if the utility man can keep up his torrid pace, but he’s a heck of a lot of fun to watch at the plate these days.
Trumbo’s partner in crime, 20-year-old Mike Trout, provides his fair share of pop with some fantastic defense to boot. Trout is batting .302, good for second best on the team behind Trumbo’s .324. It’s a refreshing sight for Angels fans, whose memories of Brandon Wood surely cause an occasional shudder.
It’s a tad surprising to see the Halos led by these two young bucks, especially with the roster of veteran talent they’ve accumulated. Albert Pujols appears to have finally figured things out, but his average continues to hover around the low .200s. Vernon Wells struggled to start 2012, but he had a string of great games leading up to his wrist injury. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I was very disappointed to see Wells leave the game on May 20. Torii Hunter has performed admirably, but he’s been out since May 12 for very public personal reasons. And Kendrys Morales is batting a pretty darn good .294, though it’s clear he’s lost a good amount of power since breaking his leg.
Altogether, though, these veterans and up-and-comers make a very good Angels lineup. We saw it in action on Monday, after all.
As the offensive side of the Angels hits its stride, though, the Angels have a huge concern in the rotation. Jered Weaver left Monday’s game early due to back pain. As of this writing, Weaver’s condition is still uncertain. All the Angels faithful hope the injury is minor; any time Weaver misses would be a huge blow to the team. Their formidable stockpile of pitching talent could carry the Angels while Weaver is gone, but losing one’s ace is a situation no team wants to endure.
So, here they are: .500, winners of seven straight, lineup mashing, ace’s health in doubt. Anything can happen between now and October, but it looks like the Angels have finally found the recipe to keep them nipping at the Rangers’ heels. Whether they can stop nipping and finally overtake Texas is uncertain, but it’s going to be a whole lot of fun finding out.