The first day of summer arrives on Friday, but somehow it feels like the dog days have already come and gone. The baseball season is almost three months old, and neither the Angels nor the Dodgers have gotten hot, or even tepid.
They are, as Dodgers manager Don Mattingly frequently says about his team, treading water — a combined 19 games under .500 and 18½ games out of first place in their respective divisions. But the water is rising fast.
It doesn’t mean the Angels and Dodgers are finished. Far from it. But it does mean there needs to be a sense of urgency for both teams, if not now then very soon. Like tomorrow.
They need winning streaks.
The Dodgers haven’t won more than two consecutive games since the first week in April. The Angels ran off eight in a row in late May, but have gone 7-12 since. Their low point came when they were swept at home in a four-game series by the Houston Astros, a divisional opponent whose $21-million payroll pales against their own, which stands at $148 million.
As both teams are learning, oversized salaries don’t ensure success.
But it can get better, and it should. The Angels and Dodgers have been hit by injuries, but as they get healthy, they will need their stars — and there are plenty on both clubs — to step forward.
The Angels lost No. 1 starter Jered Weaver for 50 days after he suffered a broken bone in his left elbow in his second start, but he has lost each of his past two starts, has a 6.94 ERA over that span and owns just one victory this season.
The Dodgers lost No. 2 starter Zack Greinke for five weeks after he went down with a fractured collarbone in a fight with San Diego’s Carlos Quentin, but his results have been mixed since his return. He has pitched fewer than six innings in five of seven starts and given up four or more earned runs four times in that span.
It goes beyond those two starters.
The Angels are still waiting for Josh Hamilton to emerge, and the Dodgers are hopeful that Matt Kemp will find his hitting stroke when he returns from the disabled list at some point in the next couple of weeks. Hamilton hit 43 home runs last season in Texas, but has just nine this year to go along with a .213 batting average in his first 67 games in Anaheim. Kemp has two homers in 51 games.
When your big boppers aren’t providing their expected power, it can have a ripple effect throughout the batting order. And even when other hitters are getting on base, it doesn’t really matter if there’s no one to drive them in.
Both teams are receiving contributions elsewhere.
Through weekend games, Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick was tied for second in the AL in batting average at .335, and Mark Trumbo’s 15 homers put him in the American League’s top 10. Mike Trout is proving that his phenomenal rookie season was real; the next run he scores will be his 200th in 248 games, making him the fastest to 200 since 1940.
Trout accomplished this in Monday night’s win over Seattle.
Yasiel Puig, the Dodgers’ wunderkind, remains en fuego, hitting .479, while Adrian Gonzalez has kept his batting average above .300 for all but three days, although he’s hitting just .236 in June.
But important days lie ahead.
The Angels open a four-game series Monday night against the Seattle Mariners, who are third in the American League West but just one-half game ahead of them in the standings. This season, the Angels are 9-19 against division opponents and 21-20 against all other teams, so winning the series carries heavy implications.
The Dodgers have enormous ground to make up, but the National League West is hardly an intimidating group. The first-place Diamondbacks are just 37-32, and the Dodgers, despite residing in last place, are a mere 7½ games out of the lead. But they also are the only team in the West with a losing record.
The Dodgers lost two of three in Pittsburgh, but now head to Yankee Stadium to play a two-game series against a Yankees team that has dropped five of its past six. After that, they play seven in a row against National League West opponents: four at San Diego and three at home against the San Francisco Giants.
Time is running out.
The Angels and Dodgers aren’t dead yet, but to make it an eventful summer with some promise, they’ll have to get moving soon.
If not, it’s only going to get hotter around here.