Friday, April 27, 2007

Angels Continue Dominance at Home; Hit Road Again
By Adam Dodge

After a season opening 5-2 homestand, followed by a horrendous 1-7 road trip, the Angels put the finishing touches on an outstanding 6-1 homestand yesterday with an 11-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. The Angels sit atop the American League West with a 12-10 record – a game better than the Oakland Athletics.

Everyone contributed for the Angels, who scored no less than 5 runs in any of the seven games. Over-aggressiveness and poor production with RISP gave way to patience at the plate and frenzy hitting. Gary Matthews Jr., Vladimir Guerrero and Shea Hillenbrand led the charge, each hitting over .400 during the stretch.

The homestand also saw the return of Bartolo Colon, who pitched a total of 14 innings in two games, both of which he won. Fans saw vintage Colon, who attacked the corners with 95 MPH fastballs, and knee-buckling two-seamers.

For seven games the Angels played the way we all hope they will for the remainder of the season. The team takes its hot hitting to Chicago and Kansas City on a seven game road trip, which begins tonight against the White Sox.

In a rematch of the 2005 ALCS, the Angels will send Ervin Santana, Jared Weaver and Kelvim Escobar to the mound against Jose Contreras, Jon Garland and Mark Buehrle, all quality match ups.

Much like the Angels, the White Sox have struggled to find consistency early this season. Paul Konerko has been in a funk, and Jim Thome is not off to the start he was off to a year ago. Offensively as a team, the Sox are not nearly as good as they were a year ago. Contreras, who was unhittable for much of last season, has come down to Earth. Garland is still looking to find his form of a couple years ago, and Buehrle, who was awful in 2006, has already tossed a no hitter this season.

If Santana can pitch effectively tonight, I like the Angels to continue their winning ways, with the memory of their last road trip fresh in their minds.

Prediction – Angels win series 2-1

The Kansas City Royals may not be laughing stock of baseball in 2007, but they’re close. The Washington Nationals should take that honor. The Royals have improved as their young players are beginning to round into Major Leaguers. But without an above average starter, and with a poor bullpen, the Royals are destined for another 90+ loss season.

The Angels haven’t really played well against the Royals in recent years, but they have been able to win ugly. I can’t see the Royals taking more than a game against the Angels, who will send Lackey, Colon, Santana and Weaver to the hill over the four games.

Prediction – Angels sweep series 4-0

I think that the 9-8 victory over Detroit on Tuesday afternoon, in which the Angels blew a 7 run lead, only to come back and win in extras, is the type of win that gives a team a lot of confidence, which they can carry with them for a long time. As evidenced by the absolute pounding they put on the Devil Rays, who, ho hum, had just swept the Yankees, the Angels are clicking on all cylinders. A 4-3 trip would be disappointing. Look for the Angels to take at least 5 of the 7 games.

Players to Watch

Brandon Wood – After going 0 for 4 in his Major League debut, Wood will continue his presumably short stretch with the big club. I would not expect him to get too many starts on the trip, but it should be a thrill to see Wood get his first Major League hit. He’ll certainly have enough opportunities for that.

Scot Shields – Shields is struggling a bit in the early going, especially considering how dominant he has been in the past. Being successful in key situations on this road trip could get him back on track, and would allow the Angels and their fans to breathe a sigh of relief.
Love to hear what you think!


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