Rejoice, Angels fans! Your team isn't just hot, it's probably the best team in the American League right now. The Angels reached the halfway point in the regular season Tuesday with a doubleheader sweep of the Chicago White Sox, and when they return home Thursday night to face the Houston Astros, they'll be brimming with confidence. Here are six players who are making a difference in the team's surge.
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We can't say it enough: Richards is deserving of a spot on the AL All-Star team. The right-hander opened July with an 8-4 win over the White Sox after completing June with a 4-0 record and a league-best 1.05 ERA. He became the first Angels pitcher ever with 35 or more strikeouts, a sub-1.10 ERA and an opponents batting average of .175 or lower in a single month. Any dissenters?
The right fielder has become a solid producer in the leadoff spot. In Tuesday's second game victory over Chicago, he hit his eighth home run, scored twice and had two RBIs, helping the Halos to their first doubleheader sweep since 2009. Calhoun is hitting .350 (34 for 97) in his past 28 games and seems like a good fit at the top of the order.
Big three: Trout, Pujols, Hamilton
OK, it doesn't happen often, but when Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton each homered Tuesday, it marked only the second time the Angels trio had gone deep in the same game -- and the first time since May 2013. Trout is having another spectacular season, and Pujols is delivering home runs (17) and RBIs (50), but if Hamilton (.315 batting average) can hop on the power bandwagon, the Angels will have the offense they've dreamed about.
The Angels shortstop is another All-Star-worthy candidate. He leads the AL in fielding with just five errors, and offensively he's been a strong producer, driving in 42 runs, most in the league by a shortstop and most by an Angels shortstop since Orlando Cabrera had 51 in 2007. No reason he shouldn't get considered for a berth in the All-Star Game in two weeks.