Friday, June 1, 2012

The Rangers are coming ... but so are the Angels

When last the Angels faced the Texas Rangers, they lost two of three while the Rangers scored 25 runs. The Angels left Arlington eight games down in the AL West. Now, the Rangers are in Anaheim this weekend. The Angels, 11-6 since they left Arlington, are presented a serious opportunity to put themselves into the divisional race.

By BILL PETERSON
Big Leagues in Los Angeles


Man, we were really weepin' and wailin' back in middle May, when the Angels left Arlington, TX, at the end of a very frustrating encounter with the defending American League champions.

The Angels lost two of three to the Texas Rangers, who were so locked in at the moment that they seemed unstoppable. Their 13-6 win to close out the Angels series was their fourth trip to double-digit scoring in seven games. Scheduled early against some of their more serious rivals, the Rangers beat most of them to a pulp. A very for real ball club.

That final loss in Arlington intensified the sense that maybe the Angels are up against a little too much this year. Though the Rangers won it by a touchdown and the extra point, the game had a “just missed" feeling about if for the Angels. They had their ace, Jered Weaver, pitching for a chance to win the series, and Weaver continuously worked ahead of the Texas hitters. But the Rangers were so focused that they consistently turned 0-2 into long at-bats ending with singles and doubles. Weaver left the mound in the fourth inning talking to himself.

The loss left the Angels at 15-20. Maybe it was going to be that kind of year. And, maybe, the Rangers are just too good, anyway.

Since then, the Angels are 11-6. The Rangers are 8-8. And the Rangers are in Anaheim this weekend, starting with a game Friday night at Angel Stadium. The Angels are doing much better now. They might even be favored to pass this weekend’s audition for Pennant Race Theater.

Since the Angels left Arlington, they have picked up 2 1/2 games and now they are down 5 1/2 games to the Rangers in the American League West, where they now are the second-place team instead of the last-place team. The Angels have picked up ground within the division, going 7-2 against Oakland and Seattle since they left Arlington. During that same period, the Rangers are 3-5 against Oakland and Seattle.

Returning home on May 14, the Angels split two games with Oakland. The A's then moved straight on to Texas and split two games with the Rangers in Arlington. The Rangers went to Seattle May 21-23 and lost two of three to the Mariners. The Angels immediately followed the Rangers into Seattle and swept four games.

That's sort of the head-to-head picture, within the division, at this moment. Which club is better, right now? You decide. Or, we can just see what happens when they play.

Friday night, the Angels send Jerome Williams (5-2, 3.81) against Colby Lewis (4-3, 3.58) for the Rangers. The Texas hitters are 12 for 19 with four homers and eight RBI against Williams. The bulk of that came on May 12, when Williams came in for C.J. Wilson after a rain delay in Arlington. See what Williams does when he pitches against the Rangers on his own night. Mark Trumbo is four for ten and Peter Bourjos is five for 16 against Lewis, but the Angels hitters are otherwise undistinguished against the Texas right hander.

The middle game on Saturday will feature a rematch of Wilson (6-4, 2.77) and Texas right hander Yu Darvish (7-2, 3.25), for whom Wilson was essentially shown the door by the Rangers at the end of last season. They were the pairing on that night of the rain delay. Let's just say that Darvish received more accolades for coming back out after the rain than Wilson received for starting the next day. Saturday, they might actually pitch a full game against each other.

Sunday, the series closes with a mystery pitcher for the Angels. It's Weaver's turn, but the ace is out with back trouble. The Angels haven't announced rookie right hander Garrett Richards (0-0, 0.00) as the starter, but he seems the likely pick. Richards, 24, was the Angels' No. 1 pick in 2009 out of the University of Oklahoma. He has come quickly, covering all levels of minor league baseball with a 32-10 record and a 3.31 ERA in less than three years. The Rangers will counter with lefty Matt Harrison (6-3, 4.41).

Ending that series in Arlington early last month, we saw nothing to make us believe the Angels could become a going concern in the American League West. They were eight games behind already and trending downward, while the Rangers trended upward. Seeing no hitting, we saw no resilience. After all, you can’t be resilient if you can’t hit back.

But now the Angels are able to hit back, and that has enabled them to bounce back. And if they can summon a sweep of the Rangers this weekend, they will have bounced back to within 2 ½ games of the AL West lead.

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