Sunday, September 16, 2012

Angels going great, but others are just as good

Since falling to 62-60 on Aug. 19 and all but eliminating themselves from the playoff race, the Angels are 18-7. And it has been barely enough to keep them alive, because Oakland and Baltimore have been as good or better. Now, the Angels are righted with about two weeks left, but Baltimore has a clear schedule advantage for the second wild card.

By BILL PETERSON
Big Leagues in Los Angeles


When last we left the Angels four weeks ago, they had suffered three weeks of unfathomably poor pitching, lost 13 of 18 and fell from wild card leader only two games down in the AL West to 62-60 and 4 1/2 games short of any playoff spot.

With 12 of their next 15 coming on the road, including a series each at playoff contenders Detroit and Oakland, the obituaries were being written for the Angels when they began that run on Aug. 21.

Since then, the Angels are playing about as well as anyone in the game, 18-7, including 11-4 on the road. And they've needed every bit of it. If the Angels were 15-10, we would be saying it's too little too late. The Angels would be about six games down for the second wild card with three teams to jump. As it is, they are 2 1/2 behind Baltimore for the second wild card, and no one stands between them.

One has to love how the Angels are playing while also lamenting that it hasn't helped very much. Often enough, a club goes on a hot streak and some feeble nemesis helps out by going on a cold streak. But it doesn't go like that for the Angels.

All the clubs the Angels are or would be trying to catch are as hot as they are, including AL West leader Texas (17-9), first wild card leader Oakland (19-7) and second wild card leader Baltimore (16-9). Thus, for going 18-7, the Angels have only gained 1 1/2 games in the AL West (they are down 7 1/2 games now), they have gained only one game on the first wild card (they are down 4 1/2 games) and they have gained two games on the second wild card (they are down 2 1/2 games).

But the good news runs deeper for the Angels, because they now have their starting rotation back in order, making those wins possible. Since Aug. 19, Zack Greinke has a 1.70 ERA, eating 37 innings with his five starts. Since then, Dan Haren has a 2.35 ERA in five starts covering 30 2/3 innings. Jered Weaver has a 2.73 ERA in four starts. Ervin Santana has a 3.00 ERA in five starts. The worst of the lot is C.J. Wilson, who has a 4.40 ERA in his last five starts, but the Angels have won all five of those starts.

And, again, the Angels will need all of it to stay in the race to the end, because outside factors are not in their favor. It seems they never are this year.

The Angels play three at home this week against the Texas Rangers, then three at home against the Chicago White Sox. That’s two division leaders. Baltimore, the team the Angels are trying to catch, stays on the road this week for three at Seattle and three at Boston. That’s two teams that are playing out the string. Next week, the Orioles go home for four against Toronto and three against Boston. The Angels start next week at home against Seattle, then they go to Texas for three.

Remember, the Angels need to gain 2 ½ games on the Orioles, basically in the next two weeks. Those schedules are not promising. The Orioles will close out their season with three at Tampa Bay, while the Angels will close with three at Seattle. But it’s hard to believe the Angels will be in striking distance as the last series begins.

The playoff race is shaping up as something of a hard luck story for the Angels. The moment they went to the trouble to trade for Greinke, the pitching rotation tanked. Then, the Angels righted themselves and went on a roll, but everyone they needed to catch matched them practically win for win since Aug. 20. So, now the Angels have crawled into view of the playoffs, but that view is obstructed by Baltimore’s very easy schedule.

Wait ‘til next year for the Angels? Probably, but with all the talent they’ve put together, we’ve still got two interesting weeks of this year. This club still has a chance. It just isn’t a very good one, unless Baltimore unaccountably collapses.

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