Monday, May 26, 2008

By Victor Varadi - Columnist

Overall Record: 30-22 Games Ahead: 1.5 Week Record: 4-2

Week in Review:

John Lackey has not missed a beat since coming off of the DL; he went 7 strong in a win over the Blue Jays, but was denied in a heartbreaker against the White Sox. Big John gave up all 3 runs to Carlos Quentin, including a walk-off homerun to open the 9th inning. In 3 starts so far this season, Lackey has thrown 22 innings and yielded a total of 5 earned runs. Jon Garland continued his strong play since Butcher made him watch that DVD of when he was good. Garland helped the Angels secure a series win in Toronto, a place where the Angels have been horrible over the years. Joe Saunders was set to close out the finale of the 3 game series at the Blue Jays, but he fell ill with allergies and Ervin Santana took his place on normal rest. Santana went 6 innings in the loss and allowed 4 runs while striking out 7. Joe Saunders took the mound the next night versus the White Sox and had one of the most dominant performances of his young career. “Slow” Joe got the “W” and came 2 outs away (99 pitches) from recording his first MLB complete game, striking out 4 in the process. Saunders allowed 2 runners to get on base before Sosh had seen enough. Jered Weaver pitched 8 innings in a win over the White Sox that secured another series win. It’s safe to say that Weaver has gotten his groove back.

Honorable Mention: Mike Butcher. Whatever he is doing with his starting pitchers, it’s certainly working. When Jon Garland’s sinker was flat, and Jered Weaver lost his confidence, the pitching coach had the remedy. For Garland, it was reminding him of how good he could be. For Weaver, it was reminding him of how simple this game can be. Consider how flat the offense was this week (less than 3 runs scored per game), yet the Angels managed to win 4 out of 6 games (with 2 one-run losses) in no small part because the starting pitching staff averaged over 7 innings per start and gave up a total 11 earned runs.

Offensively, the Angels are beginning to miss the likes of Chone Figgins and Howie Kendrick. Figgins played in one game and was then promptly benched for preventive measures. And Kendrick may begin a Triple-A rehab assignment this week. Erick Aybar also hit the DL and could be out at least a month. While defensively the Angels don’t really miss a beat with Sean Rodriguez and Maicer Izturis up the middle, they lose a lot once the opposing pitcher makes his way through the bottom 3rd of the batting order. Rodriguez and Brandon Wood are easy outs and even though Mike Napoli has shown some serious pop, he is a true feast or famine hitter, hitting .230 on the not-so-young season.

The Bottom Line: The starting rotation can carry the Angels on most nights, but the offense will need to carry its own weight. The fact that the team is still in first place AND winning ball games is a true testament to the depth of the big league bench and the minor league system. This Angels squad doesn’t need Vlad to carry it, they just need Figgins at the top of the lineup and Kendrick to provide depth near the bottom of it.

The Week Ahead:

The Angels come home having won 4 out of 6 on a road trip that could have easily been considered a success had they only gone .500. Maybe most impressive is that if the White Sox didn’t have Carlos Quentin on their team, the Angels may have gone 5-1 this week. Anyway, the team returns home to face the Detroit Tigers and the Toronto Blue Jays. Considering how the Angels played both these teams on the road, they should expect to win both series’ handily.

Love to hear what you think!


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