Despite loss, Angels keep AL West interesting

ANAHEIM, Calif. — It looks like we’re finally going
to have a race in the American League West.
The Angels and Texas Rangers have played six times this season, and so far all
they’ve determined is that they stand on equal ground. Each has won three
games, but they’ve really just begun.
There are still 13 games left between them, including six meetings in 13 days
in late September. That’s a lot of baseball, and a lot of time to establish
which team is poised to win the AL West.
The Rangers took the series finale 7-3 on a bright Sunday afternoon at Angel
Stadium, but the Angels won the first two games and made it clear this is
indeed a two-team race.
“We won the series,” Angels pitcher Dan Haren said. “We’ve got
to look at the big picture. I don’t think guys should be hanging their
A sweep would have been nice, but the Angels had to be content with pushing
first-place Texas off course a bit. The Rangers, who opened the season with a
15-4 record, are 17-18 since April 27. The Angels, who once trailed by nine
games, are now within 4½.
They did just enough to win on Friday and Saturday nights, but they have yet to
sustain an offensive punch over an extended period. Maybe, that’s what’s
holding them back.
They rank 11th in the AL in runs and slugging and are 12th in on-base
percentage. Unless they can put runners on base and drive them home, their
pitching will have problems keeping games close.
“The one thing through this stretch that has not blossomed has been our
offense,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “We’ve been doing it really
with just a minimal amount of offense, but we’ve been pitching well, playing
great defense, and our bullpen has been lights out. That’s a nice combination
to have, but we still need that offense to take a step forward.”
The Angels stranded runners at second and third base in the sixth inning and
left the bases loaded in the seventh when Rangers reliever Alexi Ogando used a
99-mph fastball to retire Albert Pujols on a fly out to left field.
“He opened up that carburetor for Albert,” Scioscia said of Ogando,
who has no trouble reaching 100 mph on the radar gun. “He turned it loose
Haren labored through five innings, throwing 104 pitches and yielding up two
runs. The Rangers kept the pressure on offensively and finished with 14 hits,
including a two-run homer by Nelson Cruz off reliever Bobby Cassevah that went
an estimated 484 feet and landed on the grassy slope near the palms and rocks
in left-center.
“Any time you throw 100 pitches in five innings it’s going to wear you
down,” Haren said. “You’re not going to be at your best if you’re
throwing 25, 30 pitches an inning.”
He wasn’t, but the Rangers don’t go down easily to anyone. They out-hit the
Angels in the three games by a 30-18 margin, although Josh Hamilton was kept in
check (2-for-13, no RBI).
“Their seven, eight, nine9 hitters could probably hit three, four, five in
a couple of National League lineups,” Haren said. “They never let you
breathe. You’ve got to be at your best the whole way through.”
The Angels weren’t, at least not Sunday, but they know they’re certainly
capable of staying relevant the rest of the way. They don’t see the Rangers
again until late July.
“A series is just your report card on how you did in a three- or four-game
set,” Scioscia said. “We need to carry a little momentum with a win
and turn the page on a loss. We’ll turn the page on this one.”
With a lot more pages left in the season, the story is far from finished.