By Pete Zarustica/Garden Grove Journal
This wasn’t in the script. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, with the best starting pitching in the big leagues, was going to continue to turn the American League West into its own little playground with yet another division flag.
The timeline? Oh, say can you see by the end of June?
Things haven’t quite worked out that way, but as May winds down and June gets underway, the Halos are starting to resemble the team that was odds-on favorites to grab the ALW.
The Angels took two of three from the Toronto Blue Jays in Anaheim, and two of three from the Seattle Mariners, also in Anaheim. Monday’s 7-1 victory over the Kansas City Royals show that the breaks are starting to go the Angels way, closing in on the division-leading Texas Rangers.
All of this in spite of a tragic and bizarre injury Saturday to star hitter Kendry Morales, who broke a bone in his left leg as he stepped on home plate at the conclusion of a game-winning grand slam home run. The Angels picked up the win, 5-1, but lost Morales, possibly for the season.
The next night, when Howie Kendrick blasted a three-run homer to lift the Angels to a 9-7 victory, the home plate greeting was “safety-first.” Players stood well clear of the base runner as he finished his trot.
“Fortunately, we got through this celebration unscathed,” said manager Mike Scioscia.
“I thought the way we celebrated was fine,” said Mike Napoli. “It was an unfortunate thing yesterday. One of the best hitters went down because of some silly thing like that, and it can’t happen again. So this is how we’re going to celebrate from now on.”
Monday’s game lacked the drama of the previous two wins, but the victory felt good all around. The Halos got four home runs (including a two-run shot by Napoli) and Ervin Santana pitched seven strong innings as the Halos beat the Royals for the 10th time in 11 games.
Scioscia was especially happy about the production from the bottom third of the lineup, which combined for six hits.
“I’m not asking them to be Superman, just get into their normal game,” said Scioscia. “There’s been a lot of guys who haven’t been maybe as crisp as they can be and we got contributions from a lot of them.”
On Tuesday, the Angels’ winning streak came to an end. The Halos lost 6-3 to the Royals, sparked by a two-run triple over the head of Torii Hunter by David DeJesus.
At the plate, the Angels were led by Matsui Hideki with two hits (including a double) and Maicer Izturis, who homered. Joel Pinero didn’t pitch badly, but picked up the loss as several close plays went against the Halos.
The loss dropped the Angels to 26-28, got for third place but still only two-and-a-half games behind Texas and Oakland, who are virtually tied for first place in the AL West.
The series with the Royals continued Wednesday (results too late for our deadline) and concludes today (Thursday).
A three-game series in Seattle runs Friday through Sunday, and then the Halos are in Oakland Monday through next Thursday (June 10).
THE WEEK’S NUMBERS: Over the seven days including Monday, the Angels did a little better at the plate, batting .265. Top batters included Napoli (.368 with two homers), Bobby Abreu (.348 with six RBIs) and Morales (.313 with five RBIs).
The pitching staff posted a quite-decent 3.60 ERA. Santana was the standout, with two wins, 16 innings pitched and a 2.25 ERA for the week. What’s more, he struck out 16 batters and walked just one. Opposing hitters batted just .186 against him.