Thursday, May 23, 2013

Grounding one out: Angels 7, Seattle 1

Some are saying the Angels' 7-1 win against Seattle in Anaheim Thursday demonstrates that they are exploding offensively. Really, though, the Angels just took what Seattle gave them, which was practically every ground ball they hit.


C.J. Wilson pitched another beauty for the Angels Thursday, and finally won one of them (Keith Allison/Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike Generic 3.0 license).

By BILL PETERSON
Big Leagues in Los Angeles

The game: May 22, Seattle at Angels, American League. Seattle entered the game 20-26, third place AL West, nine games behind Texas. The Angels entered the game 18-27, fourth place AL West, 10 1/2 games behind Texas.

The pitchers: Seattle, Brandon Maurer, right hander (2-5, 5.75). Angels, C.J. Wilson, left hander (3-3, 3.72).

The result: Angels 7, Seattle 1 (Baseball-reference box score).

Summary: The Angels swept their two-game series against Seattle by the continuation of trends that preceded it -- strong Angels hitting and weak Seattle pitching (and defense). Cumulative score over the two games: Angels 19, Seattle 1. The Angels have won four games in a row.

The pitching: Angels starter C.J. Wilson had lost his two most recent starts, despite pitching well, because, in each instance, his own hitters were overmatched by Chicago left hander Chris Sale. Against the considerably less formidable Brandon Maurer, Wilson received considerably more offensive support, and Wilson fed off of it. Wilson retired the Mariners in order in the second, fourth and seventh innings. In the third, fifth and sixth innings, Wilson retired the first two hitters before the Mariners put someone on, only for Wilson to retire the next batter and finish the frame. Through seven innings, Wilson struck out eight and walked one, despite throwing only 89 pitches ... He briefly lost control in the eighth, when he walked leadoff hitter Brendan Ryan, then threw a wild pitch, which, combined with a throwing error by catcher Hank Conger, placed Ryan on third. A ground ball plated Ryan with Seattle's only run, then Wilson ended his night characteristically, picking up his tenth strikeout of the game to set down Justin Smoak and finish the eighth inning ...

Seattle starter Brandon Maurer, who went to high school at Orange County Lutheran, fell behind, 5-0, before he could get three hitters out and eeked out three innings. But don't blame Maurer, who would have been out of that inning without damage if he had decent infield play behind him ... His replacement, Charlie Furbush, struck out three in three innings, tossing 23 strikes out of 27 pitches. But the game was all but over by the time he entered to start the fourth inning ...

The hitting: Is the Angels hitting really surging? Or is the Seattle pitching and defense really tanking? The Angels have scored 37 runs in their last four games, while Seattle has allowed 35 runs in its last four games ... We're going with the latter, because the Angels received a lot of help from the Seattle infielders -- and the official scorer at Angel Stadium. In the first inning, hits by Albert Pujols and Mark Trumbo were easily playable by Seattle infielders, and the inning stayed alive because the Mariners muffed a double-play ball and could only get a force at second. In the second inning, Mark Trumbo's infield single was a ground out that received a favor (see below, "The fielding") ... Of the six hits the Angels put together in the first inning, the worst count on any of those was 2-2. Four of the hits came with hitters ahead in the count, and Mark Trumbo hit his single on the first pitch ... First-pitch hitting is quite Trumbo’s style this year, when he is 14-for-33 (.424) with five homers on that first offering. For his career, Trumbo is hitting .323 (52-for-161) with 15 homers on the first pitch, .367 (97-for-264) with 19 homers when he is ahead in the count, .277 (133-for-480) with 33 homers when the count is even, and .196 (106-for-540) with 19 homers when he is behind in the count ...

Mike Trout hit for the cycle Wednesday night in the Angels' 12-0 win against the Mariners, becoming the sixth youngest player ever to cycle at 21 years and 288 days. The Angels attributed the following to ESPN Stats & Info: Trout became only the third player in history to cycle, drive in five runs and steal a base in the same game, and the first since 1932. The others were Babe Herman with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1931 and Tony Lazzeri with the New York Yankees in 1932 ... Thursday, Trout was two-for-four with two runs. The Angels are 15-9 when Trout scores and 4-18 when he doesn't ... Since April 29, when the Angels lost, 10-8, in 19 innings at Oakland, Trout is batting .359 (28-for-78) with five doubles, four triples, seven homers and 22 RBI in 21 games ... When Albert Pujols scored in the first inning, it put him at 1,400 runs in his career, 90th on the all-time list ... Pujols appears to be waking up at the plate, with five multi-hit games in his last eight. His average in those games is .333, bringing his average for the season up to .253 ...

The base running: In a game like this for the Angels, the manager need only fill out the lineup card and let them play ... Erick Aybar led off the first inning with a walk for the Angels, then got thrown out trying to steal, and the Angels still scored five runs in the frame ... With all the infield hits for the Angels, this game was a simple matter of station-to-station base running ...

The fielding: Wednesday's performance by Seattle infielders had to be among the worst in Major League Baseball this season ... In the first inning, Albert Pujols singled on a popup that really should have been caught by Seattle second baseman Dustin Ackley. Next, Mark Trumbo hit a ball to the hole between short and third. Mariners shortstop Brendan Ryan, who usually is a sure hand, had the ball in his glove and dropped it. Two hitters later, Howie Kendrick hit a tailor-made double-play ball to Ackley, who dropped it, and the Mariners could only get a force at second. In the second inning, Mark Trumbo's ground ball to third baseman Robert Andino found a glove, then lost it ... No errors scored in any of that ... The Angels defense came frayed late in the game. Angels left fielder J.B. Shuck appeared to get at least slightly lost on a Kendrys Morales double, which dropped to Shuck's right. In the ninth, Angels shortstop Erick Aybar dropped a pop-up fly in short left field by Brendan Ryan ...

Strategic moves: The Angels were good enough in this game, but they were even luckier enough. Luck isn't what you would call a strategy, but the Angels didn't generally push their luck, and that is a strategy. They just put the ball in play and let the Mariners drop it ... Try putting this together: The Mariners are 15-10 when Jesus Montero is their starting catcher, and 5-17 when he isn't. Yet, Montero is having a terrible season, batting .208, dropping pitches and throwing out only one out of 24 runners who have attempted stolen bases against him. By at least one report, the Mariners are about to send him down ...

What now: The Angels improved to 19-27, still fourth in the AL West and 10 1/2 games behind Texas. But they are breathing heavily on Seattle, which is the third-place team in the AL West at 20-27, 10 games down ... The Angels now go to Kansas City, which is really flagging since winning two of three in Anaheim May 13-15. Since then, the Royals have lost five of six, scoring one run in three of those losses. They just lost two out of three at Houston ... Friday night's series opener (5:10 p.m. PDT) illustrates a real twist of fate for the Angels, who decided that their rotation would be better off if it included Joe Blanton and didn’t include Ervin Santana. The right hander Blanton (0-7, 6.62) will take the ball for the Angels against the right hander Santana (3-3, 2.77) for the Royals.

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