Five things to take from Angels’ 3-2 victory over Seattle in 10

Hector Santiago

Hector Santiago/Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Angels

 

– First and foremost, Hector Santiago had another fine outing. He pitched seven innings and for the most part matched “King” Felix Hernandez pitch-for-pitch. Santiago allowed just one run on three hits and struck out six while walking two. Hernandez allowed no runs and just one hit and struck out eight while walking three in six innings; he came out with cramps caused by the heat in the daytime game. Santiago’s ERA dropped to 2.58, lowest among Angels starting pitchers, fourth in the American League. He’s only 4-4, but Santiago is nevertheless making a case for being selected to the AL All-Star team.

– Rookie Trevor Gott, just 22, earned his first big-league victory with a perfect 10th inning. Gott has now pitched seven innings and has allowed just three hits and no runs; he has an ERA of 0.00 and has not walked a batter. He is regularly clocked at 98 miles-per-hour.

– It figured Albert Pujols would cool off, if for no other reason than he had been so hot for a long spell. Pujols went 0-for-5 in this one and has gone just 1-for-15 in his past four games with no home runs and no RBIs. Pujols’ most recent home run came June 22 in a 4-3 victory over Houston. He hit two that night. That was also the last time he drove in a run; he had three RBIs in that one.

– The Angels, who continue to struggle to score runs, hit into three double plays. The most notable came in the bottom of the 10th inning when Pujols hit the first pitch from Tom Wilhelmsen and grounded into a shortstop-to-home-to-first double play with the bases loaded. Fortunately for the Angels, Wilhelmsen then uncorked a wild pitch that scored Kole Calhoun with the winning run.

– Speaking of Calhoun, he has had two clutch at-bats the past two games. And since he’s been struggling at the plate, that’s huge for the Angels. He smacked a two-run home run in the first inning of Saturday’s 4-2 victory over Seattle. Then he had an RBI single in the bottom of the eighth inning in this one that gave the Angels a 2-1 lead. It could have been the winning run, but Huston Street gave up a game-tying home run in the top of the ninth. However, the Angels were glad to take the victory on Wilhelmsen’s wild pitch. Calhoun was hitting .314 on May 13. He’s now at .262 and is hitting just .232 this month.

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Daily Distractions: Love for the Angels’ gloves, Tim Salmon in Germany, Luis Jimenez on a tear.

Erick AybarIt was nice to see the Angels’ defense get a little love today – OK, a lot of love – in MLB.com’s rankings of the majors’ 10 best defenses. The Angels led the pack, ahead of the Rays (2), Reds (3), Nationals (4), Giants (5), Rangers (6), Padres (7), Braves (8), Orioles (9) and A’s (10).

The outfield of Mike Trout, Peter Bourjos and Josh Hamilton has already been mentioned as one of the best in recent memory. The Angels’ worst defensive infielder is second baseman Howie Kendrick, but he’s considered average by some metrics (notably range factor) and managed to lead the league in fielding percentage in 2011.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens now that the Angels have overhauled their pitching staff. Righty Joe Blanton and lefty Jason Vargas are contact pitchers, certainly more than Dan Haren and Zack Greinke. Will the Angels’ defense help their effectiveness? That was part of the thinking in both acquisitions – we’ll see if it matches up with reality.

If there’s a fly in the ointment, it’s that Hamilton had a major off-year in the field in 2012. His ultimate zone rating – designed to account for a fielder’s ability to prevent runs with his arm, range, double plays and “errorlessness” (for lack of a better word) – was a woeful -12.6. That was mostly a result of his play in center field, however, and moving to right field could be the cure to what ails him.

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