Haren's return coming at perfect time
Maybe the best news the Angels got Wednesday night came from Dan Haren.
He's feeling good and ready to pitch.
On a night when left-hander CJ Wilson endured his worst performance of the season, Haren made it clear he's ready to come off the disabled list and help the Angels win the American League West.
Not that it's going to be easy. Wilson, who had given up as many as four earned runs only once in 19 previous starts, labored through six innings in the Angels' 7-2 loss to the Tigers at Comerica Field. He gave up seven runs on eight hits and also walked five, failing to win for a fourth consecutive start.
The loss left the Angels with a 2-4 record on a trip that ends Thursday and precedes a three-game series against the Texas Rangers on Friday night at Angel Stadium. A little momentum going in to that important set against the American League West leaders wouldn't hurt.
Maybe Haren will provide some relief. He's been on the disabled list since July 4 because of back stiffness but had an excellent bullpen session Wednesday in Detroit and probably will start Sunday against the Rangers.
If he returns to past form, Haren will surely give the Angels' rotation a significant boost over the final two months. He told the Los Angeles Times he was aware of talk that the team might be interested in acquiring a starting pitcher, in part because of his recent troubles and the prolonged struggles of right-hander Ervin Santana.
"I've been a really good pitcher for eight or nine years," Haren told the paper. "I've had a couple of bad months where I've pitched through some stuff. I think people kind of forget how good I can be. It's been kind of frustrating hearing all that stuff."
Frustrating yes, but also understandable. Jered Weaver and Wilson have been the Angels' only consistent starters this season, and now Wilson seems to have hit a visible lull since his last win on June 26.
He took a first-inning lead when Albert Pujols hit a bases-empty home run, his fourth in seven games and the 462nd of his career, tying him with Jose Canseco for 32th place on the career list. But Wilson gave back the run in the bottom of the inning and allowed four more in the second.
"He was behind too many hitters, and it either resulted in a walk or getting into good hitting counts," manager Mike Scioscia said. Those guys hit the ball hard with some guys in scoring position, and some walks obviously set the table.
"He settled in and got into a decent streak in the middle (of the game) and started making some pitches, but his command is what ended up getting him."
One night after the Angels totaled 13 runs and 18 hits against the Tigers, they were held to just two runs on three hits by right-hander Doug Fister, who pitched eight innings, struck out 10 and allowed only one hit after Pujols' bomb – a leadoff single to Alberto Callaspo in the fifth. Mike Trout added a triple in the ninth off Joaquin Benoit.
The Angels lost a chance to pick up a game on the Rangers and now must be aware of the third-place Oakland A's, who beat Texas on a walk-off homer by Brandon Hicks, whose first career homer gave Oakland a 4-3 win.
Don't look now, but the Angels are just 2½ games in front of the A's in the West. There's no doubt, Haren is coming back just in time.