Josh Hamilton is in the Angels lineup. That could change soon.
It changed Tuesday and Thursday, when Hamilton was originally penciled into the lineup then scratched due to back spasms shortly before game time. At least Thursday, he was able to go into the game in right field in the seventh inning.
“They asked me,” Hamilton recalled. “I was in here (the clubhouse) getting treatment. About the sixth inning I went into the cage, took some swings and got ready to play in the game.”
A visiting beat writer at Sunday’s game watched one of Albert Pujols‘ three strikeouts and marveled at what he saw. The swing-and-miss at strike three, down and away, simply wasn’t the same Pujols. In fact, it looked a little like Josh Hamilton did earlier this month.
Hamilton seems to be coming around, as I wrote in my game story yesterday. Pujols, who is batting .198 since April 21, does not.
Writes Joe Posnanski: “After years of being the best player in baseball, Pujols is now sort of beside the point.”
Mike Scioscia said something interesting after the game. I asked him if the Angels’ patience at the plate (they walked twice with the bases loaded and Hamilton averaged five pitches per at-bat) was evidence of a team that isn’t pressing as much, something Scioscia reprimanded his team for a couple nights earlier. His answer:
“I think we’re seeing some guys maybe use the whole field. As you try to get simpler, get more comfortable in the game, the things you talk about show up — you see the guys get in deeper counts, get a pitch, take a walk, hit the ball the other way, get better pitches to hit. Those things start to go in a positive direction. Hopefully he’ll keep taking strides toward it.”
Wait, who’s “he”?
I didn’t ask that because I didn’t catch Scioscia’s choice of pronouns until I listened to my tape after the game. But it isn’t hard to figure out — it’s Hamilton, who was hitting line drives to the opposite field, taking a walk, and going deeper into counts as if he was Mike Trout. Pujols was not.
For Pujols’ legacy, sure, we’re witnessing a turning point. As a key to the Angels’ success, it remains to be seen how long they can survive Pujols’ slump.
Some bullet points for a Monday morning:
“Terrible” and “absolutely awful” are two ways to describe the Angels’ pitching staff. And those were suggested by their manager yesterday.
I could have cited a few more stats about the Angels’ staff in my game story from yesterday’s 8-4 loss to the Baltimore Orioles and where they rank among the 30 teams, namely:
• Opponents’ on-base percentage .344 (29th)
• Opponents’ slugging percentage: .427 (25th)
• Opponents’ OPS: .770 (28th)
• Blown saves: 5 (t-23rd)
• Save percentage: 44.4 (t-29th)
• HR allowed: 39 (t-25th)
• Wild pitches: 17 (27th)
• WHIP: 1.48 (29th)
• Strikeouts per nine innings: 6.80 (24th)
• Strikeout-to-walk ratio: 1.70 (28th)
The Angels are among the worst in the league in nearly every pitching category. It’s almost hard to be this bad. And this is *after* two stellar complete-game efforts by Jason Vargas last week.
That’s why even Mike Scioscia isn’t pulling punches. It’s hard to be optimistic.
Nowhere to go but up, right?
Onto the bullet points: