Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Angels Sweep Rangers

Finally a bit of a return to normalcy after the way the Rangers took the Angels apart in the second half of last season. They got a decent start out of Ervin Santana on Monday, who looked like the road version of last year's model in the first inning. From there he settled down and tossed six scoreless innings before turning it over the bullpen.

Yesterday they got a less than adequate start out of Dustin Moseley, who gave up four runs in four innings, and really did himself in with five walks. It was the type of start that normal teams expect out of a fifth starter. The good news for the Angels is that Moseley is their seventh starter. The key for the April Angels is to get this team into May without a lot of damage done so that when Lackey and (God willing) Escobar return, they'll be poised for the mid-season run that puts the division away in late July/early August.

Don't look now, but over the last two days, the bullpen has provided seven innings of earned run free baseball, the only blemish coming when Erick Aybar's throwing error in the eight inning on Monday led somewhat indirectly to Frankie Rodriguez's save opportunity. Speaking of Frankie, two innings, two base runners (both walks), two strikeouts, and two scoreless saves, yesterday's being of the 1-2-3 variety. They actually looked like the real Angels bullpen this series. And don't forget Scot Shields' 1.2 IP, 0 baserunners, 2 Ks performance in the two games. It's no secret that the bullpen is going to be essential to the Angels' success this year, and if they can get the 7-8-9 inning guys going, things may turn out OK.

On the offensive side of things, Chone Figgins picked up three more hits in nine at bats, and saw his average drop 10 points. After two straight games without a free pass, he picked up number 13 in 69 plate appearances yesterday. His ability to get on base (currently a .507 clip) is probably THE reason the Angels have the top scoring offense in the league to this point, well, that and the fact that they've played as many or more games than everyone else. Mike Napoli (four homers) continues to pour on the power when he's in the lineup, and Casey "he'll top out at 20-25 homers" Kotchman also hit his fourth of the season. Maybe the experts are right, but my gut tells me he's got 35 homer power in him. Maybe not this year, but at some point.

Next up will be a contrast in styles as the Angels head home to take on the surprising Royals, who aren't plating many runners (3.5 per game), but are allowing even fewer to cross (just over 3 per). Fortunately they miss Brian Bannister and Zack Grienke, but Gil Meche is better than his ERA shows to this point (though Brett Tomko likely isn't). The Angels counter with Jered Weaver and Jon Garland, who could use a game against a low scoring opponent just about now. Just a quick two game set before another showcase series with Seattle this weekend. It would be nice to see them keep the momentum going.

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