Five reasons why Angels are the real deal this season
The Angels may have gotten off to a rough start on their road trip in Seattle, but so far their season has been impressive – a far cry from their slow starts the previous two seasons. It’s possible that by the time they return home next weekend, the Angels could own first place in the American League West. The reasons for such positive thinking? Here are five:
Second baseman Howie Kendrick has batted leadoff over the past five games and it looks like a good fit. His patience at the plate -- he has 21 walks this season compared to 23 for all of 2013 -- has helped him to a .379 on-base percentage, eighth best in the American League through Sunday. In the eight games in which he's hit in the No. 1 hole, Kendrick has a .619 on-base average with four walks and three stolen bases.
There's a newfound confidence in the Angels clubhouse, partially as a result of their collective resilience. They believe they're never out of a game, a fact that's proven by their 15 come-from-behind wins among their 28 victories. No other team in the majors has more. Credit goes to the starters, who have kept them in games, and a bullpen that's rounding into shape.
All about Albert
First baseman Albert Pujols set out to prove he was fully recovered from the plantar fascia tear in his left foot, and so far he has. Although he's hitting just .267, Pujols has hit safely in eight of his last 10 games, and his power stroke appears back. He hit a career-low 17 home runs in 99 games last season but already has 14 and 31 RBI this season. At 34 years old, he's also benefiting from an occasional start at designated hitter.
APPablo Martinez Monsivais
Bullish on the bullpen
A healthy Sean Burnett is important to the Angels' bullpen success, although he was pulled in the seventh inning Tuesday at Seattle with an elbow injury and could be headed back to the disabled list. Burnett missed virtually all of 2013 with an elbow injury, but when healthy he gives manager Mike Scioscia a strong late-innings lefty to go along with back-end specialists Joe Smith and Ernesto Frieri.
USA TODAY SportsDenny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
It's no surprise that center fielder Mike Trout is the leading AL vote-getter for July's All-Star Game. His 764,000 votes are more than even Derek Jeter or Miguel Cabrera. Trout hasn't quite warmed up -- he was hitting .279 through Sunday -- but his 10 homers and 34 RBI rank in the top 11 in each category, and his defense is spectacular, as usual. No reason to think he won't heat up along with the summer weather. If he does, the Angels could be primed for a late-season run at their first postseason in five years.