Just when you think the Angels are ready to finally put Texas away, both teams show that the race isn't over. The Rangers swept two games from the Blue Jays yesterday. Coupled with the Angels loss to the Mariners, the AL West lead now stands at only 4.5 games with a month left in the season.
The Angels' offense, prolific in Monday's series opener, failed to create many opportunities, and squandered the opportunities it did create. Mariners rookie Doug Fister allowed just five hits and two walks over 7.1 innings, and the bullpen closed the deal for the home team. The Angels put the lead-off hitter on base in six of their nine at bats. Three times the runner was erased via the double play (including a strike-him-out throw-him-out double play in the first inning), and three times the runner advanced no further than the base at which he started.
The night's largest failure came in the eighth inning. With the Angels trailing 2-1, Maicer Izturis led the inning off with a double to right field. But Erick Aybay fouled out, failing to move Izturis to third. Consecutive fly-outs from Mike Napoli and Chone Figgins stranded Izturis at second.
Ervin Santana became a victim of low run support for the second straight game. He lasted six innings and allowed only one run. But he was also a victim of his own high pitch count, leaving after 100 pitches even. Darren Oliver relieved him in the seventh inning, and allowed a two out double to Jose Lopez which scored Franklin Gutierrez from first base for the eventual winning run.
Scott Kazmir makes his Angel debut this afternoon, and he's tasked with outpitching King Felix, who goes for the Mariners. A bit of a tall order, and a reason last night's game was so important.
Thoughts on the game:
- Ervin Santana has quietly put together five consecutive quality starts. The Angels are only 3-2 over that stretch, but he's put up an ERA of 2.45 in those games. He needs to start working a little deeper. In the last four of those five starts, he's only lasted six innings. Still, he's starting to look like a guy who Angels fans can trust in the playoffs.
- The Angels offense has been inconsistent of late, and they're struggling to find the form that they showed in late July and August. Games like this are unfortunate reminders of what we've seen in the playoffs the last couple years.
- While all eyes have been on Texas, the Red Sox have been surging. They now sit one game behind the Angels and 3.5 ahead of the Rangers. This is meaningful for two reasons. First, they look more and more likely to win the wild card, which means they'd probably face the Angels in the first round, and I probably don't have to tell you what that means. Second, because the Angels can't seem to beat the Rangers this year, the wild card was a nice fall back option in case of a late season Texas surge. That option looking less likely, and if the Rangers nip the Angels at the wire, it probably means there won't be a 2009 post-season in Anaheim