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Los Angeles Angels Hitting Stride and Racking Wins

The Los Angeles Angels have turned around fan doubt and fear into momentum that is building to its highest point of the 2012 season.

The power of Mark Trumbo earning everyday play and phenomenal abilities of Mike trout have lifted the spirits and energy from Angel Stadium to the locker room.

Early season struggles of an Albert Pujols without a home run and losing record are melted away by the team carrying the hottest record in baseball through the month of June thus far. Optimism is settling in, evidenced Friday by Torii Hunter guaranteeing a playoff spot for the team come September in an interview with Joe Acaba form the International Space Station (via Fox Sports West).

When Dan Haren gave up a five-run lead to the cross-town rival Dodgers Friday, something in the marine layer gave the feeling the game was not decided. The Angels fought back and won the game, beginning what could be yet another sequential series victory for the club through this weekend.

The return of Jered Weaver, consistency of spot starter Garrett Richards and recent run support all point toward an overall improvement in club performance. Bullpen solidarity has helped hold leads and keep games within reach lately as well—behind the superb efforts of Ernesto Frieri.

The below average number of Maicer Izturis, Erick Aybar and rotating catchers at the plate are still concerning. The bottom of the lineup is a liability. Also important to note is that the Angels have only two players batting above .300, Trumbo and Trout.

Keep an eye on the halos to see how many times they can light up “The Big A” in the Angel Stadium parking lot.

Texas still holds the lead in the American League West, though recently they were swept by the Oakland Athletics, who do not have a batter above .280 this season.

For now, it seems like the Angels are hitting stride and will look to continue strong through the All-Star break building their chemistry and record while Chasing the Rangers.

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Los Angeles Angels vs. San Diego Padres Preview

The San Diego Padres stand as the worst injury-bitten team in Major League Baseball. Mark Kotsay becomes the latest player to be added to the injured list, as the Los Angeles Angels make the 90-minute drive further south in California to visit the Padres Saturday night.

Albert Pujols has rebounded from his early-season woes by opening a seven-game hitting streak and launching his first home runs of the season to the relief of Angels fans. The Padres send a number of prospects into the mix, having utilized nine starting pitchers so far in 2012.

Mark Trumbo and Mike Trout of the Angels boast the best batting averages and are a threat to power long shots at Petco this weekend. The Padres will need to strategically scout the Angels’ weaknesses—something they failed to do on Friday when the Padres yielded seven runs to the Angels, while Angels’ ace Jered Weaver proved dominant.

With more than 100 games remaining, both teams have an uncertain future. The Padres have one of the best farm systems and lowest payrolls in baseball. The Halos lie on the other end of the spectrum. Trades could be likely for both franchises to acquire key pieces necessary to propel them through the year.

The aforementioned Mike Trout has sparked his team as a leadoff man. During his short tenure, the Angels’ winning percentage has been .588 when Trout leads off. Peter Bourjos watches from the bench, seeing his own speed left underutilized for the present time.

Dan Haren takes the mound Saturday night for the Angels, hoping to get the club closer to the .500 mark. San Diego’s Eric Stults will make his first start after being waived by Chicago on Wednesday. 

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Kurt Suzuki Walk-off Grand Slam: My Favorite Baseball Memory

One of the great pieces of Americana is taking in a baseball game. At 16, my first real job was at a new baseball stadium, Banner Island Ballpark, to work for the Stockton Ports, Single A Minor League affiliate for the Oakland Athletics. On a day where the temperature topped 100 degrees, I was working the stands as an usher.

One of my absolute favorite memories came on the Fourth of July. This is traditionally a sold-out game for any minor league team, with a grand fireworks display following the game.

With the Ports losing the game, catcher Kurt Suzuki blasts a center-field home run with two outs to win the game. More than 5,000 fans came to their feet. I stood behind home plate ushering people to their seats. I looked up after hearing the indistinguishable crack of the bat that accompanied a blast to the outfield. The crowd goes into a frenzy, and following the win, one of the greatest displays of fireworks and music began—a moment I will never forget. Suzuki’s blast was a tremendous moment for a special day.

Suzuki now catches for the Oakland A’s and is having success in the major leagues. It is a pleasure to see good people like Kurt Suzuki work hard and achieve their goals. I wish the best to Kurt and all of the Stockton Ports that I saw rise through the ranks to become stars.

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2011 Los Angeles Angels: 5 Reasons the Halos Make the Playoffs

Saturday night, the American League West separation between the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels was just two games. Mike Scioscia’s club now controls its destiny and postseason potential.

Here are the five realistic reasons that the Angels will surpass the record of the Rangers to make the 2011 Playoffs.

The battle for the American League West Pennant will not be easily decided. The Rangers are stacked offensively and filled pitching gaps that make them a formidable team. Begin this slideshow to find out why the Angels are up to the Texas-sized challenge.

Begin Slideshow

Bartolo Colon and Jered Weaver Battle for Yankees, Angels on a Memorial Weekend

Before Thursday night’s game began, Angel ace Jered Weaver (16-7, 2.49 ERA) was an undefeated 3-0 against the Yankees at Angel Stadium. Weaver’s fastball coming off the curveball struck out Curtis Granderson, indicating that Weaver was back to top form after a few shaky outings. Game 1 of the Los Angeles Angels series with the New York Yankees, during the weekend of the 10th anniversary of September 11th, was underway.

Bartolo Colon (8-9, 3.72 ERA) won the 2005 American League Cy Young award with the Angels, and has had a mixed-bag season with the Yankees in 2011. Reggie Jackson complemented Weaver’s control during the telecast, while Weaver retired the Yankees’ second-inning hitters without incident.

Howie Kendrick drove in the first Angels run in the bottom of the fifth to score Peter Bourjos from third. This was the 52nd run-batted-in for Kendrick in his All-Star season. This tied the game from a Yankee lead courtesy of a solo home run by Jesus Montero, the third of his young career.

During the game, the Texas Rangers kept the pressure on for the American League pennant hopes of the Angels, by defeating the Oakland Athletics 14-3. This brought the deficit to three games back for the Halos, struggling once again to produce runs Friday night.

Jered Weaver was fully in command mixing speeds and locations. In the top of the sixth, Weaver struck out Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira back-to-back before inducing a ground ball from Alex Rodriguez to Alberto Callaspo. Weaver recorded eight punch outs in the first six innings of work.

A combination of intuitive pitching by Bartolo Colon and poor offense from the Angels left eight runners on base through six innings. Weaver looked confident striking out the leadoff batter, Robinson Cano. He finished the inning striking out Andruw Jones. Jered Weaver allowed only two hits and struck out 10 through seven innings with his pitch count at 101.

In the bottom of the eighth inning, Mark Trumbo was called out looking on strike three on a ball inside out of the zone, thrown by reliever David Robinson (3-0 1.23 ERA). The Angels failed to get a runner on board.

In the ninth, Jordan Walden (4-3, 2.55 ERA) was brought into the game. In his previous game against the Yankees he earned a save. Mark Teixeira grounded out to start the inning. Walden walked Alex Rodriguez on a full count struggling to command his slider. Eduardo Nunez entered the game as a pinch runner who was thrown out stealing by Jeff Mathis. Cano struck out on the next pitch to end the inning, tied 1-1.

Alberto Callaspo, Vernon Wells and Peter Bourjos were due up in the bottom of the ninth inning for the Angels. The Yankees called Aaron Laffey (2-1, 4.05 ERA) in to pitch in his fourth game as a New York Yankee. Alberto Callaspo reached on a single and was subbed out for Jeremy Moore to run.

Laffey was removed from the game at that point. Luis Ayala (1-2, 1.85, 43 G) was called to the mound to face Vernon Wells. Wells drove a base hit on which Moore advanced to third with no one out for Peter Bourjos at the plate. Wells advanced to second after the first ball inside.

Ayala retaliated with a strike on the outside corner, a second strike, and then coming inside to brush Bourjos on his left elbow pad. Maicer Izturis pinch hit for Jeff Mathis.  A sacrifice fly to center brought a Halo victory Friday night, 2-1 to remain two-and-a-half games behind the Rangers in the American League West.

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Bobby Wilson Blasts Two Homers, Los Angeles Angels Beat Blue Jays

Angels catcher Bobby Wilson was not a surprise starter on Saturday evening given his success in battery combination with starting pitcher Ervin Santana.

Wilson entered the game with only two major league home runs on Saturday and belted a three-run blast early on to boost the Angels chancing of taking game two against the Toronto Blue Jays. The score was 5-0 after the home runs by Bobby Wilson and Hideki Matsui, who smacked the ball out for the first time in a month.

The Jays would have only one run on the board headed to the bottom of the sixth inning when Bobby Wilson benefited from an errant call in a series of questionable decisions by home plate umpire Joe West.  Wilson returned to the plate after the foul ball and crushed his second home run of the game to roaring applause from Angel Stadium.

Cecil was removed from the game after the run-clearing hit by Wilson, and the Angels were on their way to cutting the Texas Rangers lead in the AL West to 7 1/2 games assuming Boston would finish Texas having had the lead. 

With the two hottest bats of the Angels out of the lineup in Maicer Izturis (.391 BA this week) and Juan Rivera (.329 BA over last 30 days), solid starting pitching and brilliant defense from speedster Peter Bourjas in center field helped the lead the Angels to even the weekend series with Toronto.

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Chicago White Sox-LA Angels: Sox Explode for Late Fireworks

Alexei Ramirez launched a solo home run in the bottom of the first inning against the Angels’ Scott Kazmir, letting the Angels know that the 11-run shutout game against the Royals the night before was over.  A phenomenal warning track diving catch by White Sox right fielder Carlos Quentin moments earlier brought a standing ovation to Chicago that would pull the White Sox for the early portion of Monday evening’s game.

New call-ups Cory Aldridge and Paul McAnulty both found themselves in Mike Scioscia’s starting lineup Monday.  Jeff Mathis, Mike Napoli, and Juan Rivera were out of the lineup, as Hideki Matsui took left field for the second consecutive night.

Floyd’s second strikeout assisted a one, two, three top of the second inning, as Chicago looked to add on early.  Scott Kazmir came into the game with 55 strikeouts in 81 innings. Kazmir allowed a five-pitch walk and put leadoff hitter Andruw Jones on base for A.J. Pierzynski, who flew out to Matsui in left. Viciedo popped a foul ball out, followed by Lillibridge, who hit an RBI double after Jones stole second base to make it 2-0 Chicago.

Howie Kendrick, snubbed for the 2010 All-Star Game by the Baltimore Orioles representative, Ty Wigginton, drove his second hit into the outfield in the top of the fourth, leading off the inning for the Angels. Abreu hit into the second double play of the game to that point. Four hits and no runs through five frames made the two-run Chicago lead more significant as the game pressed on.

The defense helped reduce further damage with the Angels’ second double play in the bottom of the fifth inning, as Kazmir settled down from his shaky start. Erick Aybar’s leadoff double was a promising start to the sixth inning, and Kendrick grounded out to advance Aybar to third base.  Aybar then scored on a sacrifice by Bobby Abreu to make the game 2-1 Chicago.

Kazmir looked a little rattled again, walking Juan Pierre with four straight throws in the bottom of the sixth.  Pitching coach Mike Butcher came out to settle Kazmir down, but White Sox captain Paul Konerko was able to drive in the third run on a slider that scored Pierre on the 90th pitch from Kazmir. Quentin smacked a two-run home run on a full count to make it a 5-1 lead.

With the Angels unable to answer in the top of the seventh, Dayan Viciedo added another solo home run, the first of his career, down the line to make the game 6-1 White Sox.  Lillibridge was walked on four pitches and stole second base for his first steal.  A walk to Pierre ensued and Rich Thompson was called in to relieve Kazmir. 

The game that was already busted open got worse with a base hit, scoring Lillibridge.  This made seven runs, a season high for Scott Kazmir.

Kendrick added his third hit to bring the deficit to five runs and score Bobby Wilson, who walked to first base against Bobby Jenks.  Jenks was pulled after walking Torii hunter and his 24th pitch of his first outing in a few weeks.

Erick Threets, of Hayward, California, replaced Jenks in his 13th career big league appearance.  Threets walked Matsui and the bases were loaded for pinch-hitter Mike Napoli, as Threets was pulled for Sergio Santos.  Napoli was a career .222 with the bases loaded and failed to drive in any, striking out on a Santos slider to end the inning.

Quentin added his second home run in the ninth to continue his stellar performance as the White Sox went up 8-2.  Viciedo picked up another RBI on a base hit, scoring Jones from second base and giving the White Sox a 9-2 advantage.

The Angels were unable to score in the top of the ninth to end the ballgame.

Game two of this series between the White Sox and Angels will take place on Tuesday evening, pre-game starting at 4:00 p.m. on AM 830 KLAA, first pitch at 5:05 PT. Jered Weaver will take the mound against Jake Peavy.

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Halo Report: Los Angeles Angels and Kansas City Royals Duel Speedy Starters

After three innings of starting pitching giving up little excitement besides a Brandon Wood vault to catch a line drive at third base, it was evident that fans at the Big A were in for another duel of starting pitchers on Saturday night.  Starters Ervin Santana and Bruce Chen brought their stuff to shine as bright as the Fourth of July white on each team’s caps for the holiday weekend.

The first three innings of the game passed in less than 50 minutes as batters were retired almost in order.  The only hit to that point was the leadoff for Kansas City.  Santana walked one in the top of the fourth before re-asserting his control over the game by sitting down Wilson Betemit on strikes, putting down 10 of the previous 11 batters.

Bruce Chen had also sat down the first nine of 10 Angel batters when he entered the bottom the fourth inning.  Groundouts from Erick Aybar and Howie Kendrick, brought up Bobby Abreu, who flew out to David DeJesus. DeJesus robbed Abreu by diving on the warning track to grab the flyout, his second diving catch of the game at center field.

Second baseman Howie Kendrick made two consecutive catches for outs in the top of the fifth inning.  Yuniesky Betancourt grounded out to Brandon Wood to end the top of the fifth inning less than an hour after first pitch.

Even a 1-4-3 groundout off the pitcher Chen’s foot bounced into favor of the starter as the Royals defense stood toe to toe with their counterparts.  Napoli and Matsui were easy outs to follow as Chen put the first 15 Angels down in order in the bottom of the fifth.

A Jason Kendall sacrifice bunt moved Podsednik to second base in the top of the sixth inning.  DeJesus lined out to center for the second out, bringing up Butler, who stood in for 10 pitches before taking a walk for the second time.  Guillen stepped in with two runners on and it was Reggie Willits taking his turn at a diving catch to end the inning.

Chen’s first strikeout sat down leadoff man Jeff Mathis in the bottom of the sixth. Chen then  popped out Brandon Wood and grounded out Willits to continue his perfection through 18 at bats without breaking 90 miles per hour. 

Scott Podsednik failed to get his third hit in the top of the seventh as the Royals sat down in order, continuing seven shutout innings for Ervin Santana.

In the bottom of the seventh, Aybar drilled the first Angel hit for a single between second and third. Howie Kendrick dropped a sacrifice bunt, bringing up Bobby Abreu, who struck out on an 85 mph fastball with Aybar on second.  With two outs, Torii Hunter was intentionally walked, and Mike Napoli popped out to end the first threat to Chen’s shutout.

Kendall’s two-out hit in the top of the eighth was followed by a DeJesus single and hit batter Butler for the Royals to load the bases for the hitless Jose Guillen, who drove in two runners.

The shutout for Chen was ended by Jeff Mathis’s second home run of the season, making it 2-1 Kansas City. The Royals brought in reliever Kyle Farnsworth, who struck out Brandon Wood. Reggie Willits then grounded out for the second time.

Heading into the ninth with the score from the previous game, 2-1 in favor of Kansas City, the Royals looked to add insurance runs. A bunt followed by a bloop hit for Betancourt put two runners with one out on before Santana was lifted for Francisco Rodriguez, who walked the bases loaded.  A force out at second brought in a third run for Kansas City.  Betancourt then scored on a wild pitch to make it 4-1 Royals before the end of the inning.

The Angels took the bat down three runs with three outs remaining to keep pace with their rivals in Texas, who had beaten the White Sox.  Joakim Soria had converted his previous 12 save opportunities with an overall 2.35 ERA. 

Aybar led off with an infield hit, his second of the game.  A botched bunt by Kendrick made the first out as Abreu stepped in with a base hit, making Torii Hunter the tying run at the plate.  Hunter walked to load the bases with one out.  Napoli popped a sacrifice fly ball to foul territory making it a 4-2 Royals lead.  Matsui followed with runners on second and third with two outs but he struck out to end the game.

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Joe Saunders’ Eight Innings Strong Not Enough To Finish Royals

While lefty starter Joe Saunders came out strong through eight innings on Friday night at Angel Stadium, Brian Fuentes was not able to slam the door on a 1-0 lead with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning. 

Kansas City’s Mike Aviles was able to break through the shutout attempt with an RBI hit, his second hit of the ballgame, forcing the Angels to extend into extra innings where the Halos would fall short 2-1 to the Royals in Game 1 of a holiday weekend in Southern California.

A tide-turning attempt to steal home by Torii Hunter in the bottom of the 8th affected the outcome of the ballgame.  Hunter scored the only run for the Angels in the bottom of the fourth driven in by a Mike Napoli drive.  Each team had nine hits in the game but struggled to advance runners from scoring position.

A pitcher’s duel turned to a seven-inning gridlock between Davies and Saunders which was disrupted in extra innings by a Bloomquist RBI which brought in Betancourt for the game-taking lead which the Angels could not respond to in the bottom of the tenth inning.

The Angels hope to tie up the holiday series on Saturday night when they send Ervin Santana to the mound, seeking his ninth victory on the season as he faces off with Bruce Chen of the Royals. 

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