Rest of season will be a grind for Angels
The Angels may have come out of the All-Star break with momentum and a heaping dose of confidence, but one look at their schedule should serve as a reminder that the road to the postseason is paved with trouble.
Case in point: Friday night's road-trip opener against the New York Yankees in the Bronx.
The Angels appeared well on their way to a rousing victory, boosted in large part by a monstrous three-run homer by Mark Trumbo in the seventh inning that erased a 2-1 Yankees lead.
But believe this: Every day is going to be a grind, all the way into October. And given the looks of their immediate schedule, the Angels had better buckle up for the ride.
They lost their first post-break game 6-5 to the Yankees when Mark Teixeira hit the second of his two home runs, a three-run shot in the eighth off Scott Downs, the Angels left-hander who was virtually untouchable in the first half. It erased a 5-2 lead, tied the game 5-5, and put New York in position to win on Russell Martin's RBI single off Kevin Jepsen.
Downs yielded just one earned run in the season's first half; he gave up four on Friday. His stumble ruined an impressive performance by starter CJ Wilson, who gave up two runs in seven innings after passing up a chance to pitch in the All-Star Game to give a blister on his pitching hand a chance to heal.
Other than Teixeira's two-run home run in the third, Wilson was close to brilliant. He did his best work in the sixth after giving up a leadoff triple to Curtis Granderson with the Yankees holding a 2-1 lead. He got Teixeira on a bouncer to third, then retired Alex Rodriguez on a grounder to short and Robinson Cano on a line out -- all with Granderson forced to hold.
Trumbo's explosive shot over the bullpen and into the bleachers in left-center field, estimated at 435 feet and resembling the kind of blasts he hit in Monday's Home Run Derby, put the Angels in front 4-2. Doubles by Mike Trout and Albert Pujols in the eighth made it 5-3. The game appeared well in hand.
In fact, it should have been a celebration for Wilson and Trumbo, who has 23 home runs this season, 15 of which have either tied the game or put the Angels in front. But everything dissolved with Downs' uncharacteristic performance.
"Scott has pitched great all year," Wilson, who was denied his 10th victory, told FOX Sports West. "It was just one mistake him and I made (to Teixeira)."
Now the Angels need to regroup quickly. They face five teams with winning records -- and all three American League division leaders -- over the next three weeks. There are few breaks in the schedule.
Consider: After the Yankees, they visit the Detroit Tigers, considered the team to beat in the AL Central but struggling so far, for four games. Then they come home for three against the Texas Rangers, three against the Kansas City Royals and three against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Then it's back on the road for series at Texas and the Chicago White Sox.
At least the Angels may be getting back to full strength soon. Right-hander Dan Haren threw a bullpen session on Thursday and appears on target to return July 19 when the team is in Detroit. And Jerome Williams will come off the disabled list Saturday after going on the DL following an asthma attack that caused him to faint last month.
But there's no time to lick their wounds after Friday's defeat. Not with a schedule that has few soft spots.
"We've got to put this one in our rear-view mirror," Wilson said.
The sooner the better.