Just when you think it's safe to start counting the Angels out again, they pound the Texas starters like Irish Car Bombs, then rake "All-Star" Mark Buehrle for six runs and three solo shots, and just like that, the Angels have followed a three game losing streak with a three game winning streak. I hate to sound like someone who roots for misfortune, but the Angels got good news when they learned that Bartolo was done for the year. A healthy Joe Saunders is much better than an injured Bartolo, and quite frankly, right now he's pitching better than a healthy Bartolo. The Angels AAA starters have combined to go 11-0 this season, with only one less than average start factoring in. They've given the team a tremendous lift. Matt Welch made the point the other day, and it bears repeating, that for all of the handwringing over Scioscia's supposed preference for veterans, the Angels have broken in four rookies into starting roles this season between Napoli, Kendrick, Weaver, and Saunders. How many other contending teams do you think have done that?
I've thought all along that this was essentially a rebuilding year for the Angels. They've got some veterans on the downside of their careers, ready to be replaced by kids who appeared to be just short of completely ready. But Juan Rivera, Maicer Izturis, and Robb Quinlan have filled some gaps rather nicely, while the aforementioned rookies have made huge contributions. The Angels are ahead of schedule, and though I don't think they're legit World Series contenders this year, they're poised to dominate the AL West for the rest of the decade.
On to Cleveland, New York and Texas for the next ten games before heading home to face Seattle, Boston and New York. A realistic expectation for this trip is 6-5. 7-4 would be fairly productive, and 8-3 would be tremendous. But with Oakland hitting a soft spot in their schedule, anything worse than 5-6 could really mean disaster.
FYI - I just finished reading Robert Goldman's excellent book Once They Were Angels, and I'll be reviewing a little later this week. Aside from some tiny factual errors which I was only able to pick out due to my freakish memory (trust me, they're incredibly inconsequential), the book was a great read, and I dare any long time fan to read it without tearing up once or twice.