Monday, July 16, 2007

Catching up

Coming to you tonight from my work laptop on a stolen wireless connection (yay for apartment living) mostly because I'm too lazy to plug my router in. When I got home tonight, my old Gateway desktop, just shy of its sixth birthday, appears to have passed away. It was a fine soldier, surviving one apartment move, and a great deal of neglect where maintenance is concerned. Such is life, I guess.

Anyway, over the last few weeks, the Angels have seen a comfortable 7-8 game lead or so dwindle to three, two in the loss column. Their poor play has coincided with a bit of a hot streak from the Mariners to close the gap. It's also coincided with injuries to Casey Kotchman, Howie Kendrick, and Mike Napoli. It hasn't helped that Chone Figgins and Reggie Willits cooled off at the same time. And while Lackey, Weaver, and Escobar have been as advertised (save for a rough one here or there), Santana and Colon have struggled mightily.

So where's the good news? The Angels are still in first place. Willits and Figgins appear to be rising back to an acceptable level. Also promising has been Garret Anderson, who is hitting 382/417/471 in the month of July, and has gone for two hits in six of his last seven games. Even Kotchman has had hits in four of his last five. Sure, it's only been a hit at a time, but he appears to be emerging from the horrendous slump that followed his concussion. And as a 24 year old, Kotchman is streaky. We've learned that this season. He's had his recent bad streak, and he's due for a hot streak. Couple those with the return of Juan Rivera, hopefully next month, and the return of Justin Speier to the bullpen, and the Angels are primed for a run that takes them into September with a solid lead.

Also key will be late July and August series at Seattle, especially the July series. I can't see a change of more than a game or two in the current standing before then, and if they Angels go in up three and leave up one, it gives Seattle hope, and the Mariners' belief in themselves might be the Angels biggest enemy right now. They have 10 games left with the Mariners, and only four of them are in Anaheim (fortunately all in late September). Those 10 games will decide the division.

So that's where we're at. Napoli and Kendrick will be back soon. Rivera shortly thereafter. They're poised to make a run, and they have a nice mix in their starting lineup of guys who've been there before and guys who should be hungry to get there. Santana and Colon can't possibly be any worse, so that's a plus as well. It's the second half. It's time for scoreboard watching. And it's time for the Angels to get moving.

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