Kole Calhoun/Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Angels
– This was the third game in a row Kole Calhoun did something significant. He hit home runs off Zack Greinke on Monday and Clayton Kershaw on Tuesday. Then in this one he doubled to open the bottom of the eighth inning with the game tied 2-2. Calhoun went to third on the play on an error by Dodgers right-fielder Andre Ethier, then scored what proved to be the winning run on a single by Albert Pujols. Calhoun had seven home runs and 11 RBIs in August, but batted just .205. Calhoun is batting .400 with three home runs and six RBIs so far in September.
– Pujols’ big hit was significant because he is playing hurt right now – sore foot and sore knee – and because he is hitting just .235 with runners in scoring position this season, and that average includes a recent resurgence in that regard.
– Huge, huge performance by starter Garrett Richards. His team needed a victory about as badly as they have all season, and he came through with 7 2/3 innings of four-hit ball. He allowed just two runs and struck out 11.
– Huston Street’s 33rd save kept him one behind American League leader Brad Boxberger of Tampa Bay. The Major League Baseball leader is Mark Melancon of the Pittsburgh Pirates. He has 44.
– The third-place Angels (70-69) remained 5 1/2 games behind first-place Houston in the AL West. But they did pick up a game on Texas, which is holding down the second wild-card spot. The Angels are now within 3 1/2 games of the Rangers. However, the Angels also must contend with Minnesota, which is 1 1/2 games behind Texas and two games up on the Angels. The Angels have 23 games remaining, the Rangers 24 and the Twins 23.
Mike Trout/Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Angels
Mike Trout on Tuesday night was named Most Valuable Player of the All-Star game for the second consecutive season, becoming the first player to accomplish that.
Trout went 1-for-3 with a home run, a walk and two runs scored to help the American League to a 6-3 victory over the National League.
Trout became the first player in 38 years to lead off the All-Star game with a home run when he smacked one over the right-field fence off Dodgers right-hander Zack Greinke.
It 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.
Onto the links …