Monday, June 9, 2008

By Victor Varadi - Columnist

Overall Record: 39-25
Games Ahead: 4.5
Week Record: 5-1

Week in Review:

Ervin Santana was superb in two starts this week (1-0, 12 K’s) and would have won both starts had it not been for a late innings comeback by the Oakland A’s that also ended the Angels 7-game winning streak. Joe Saunders became the American League’s first nine game winner by beating the Mariner’s in Seattle. Saunders went 7 innings and gave up one-earned run, continuing his dominance against just about every team he faces. Jered Weaver was less than spectacular, but he was good enough to get the win, completing a sweep against the lowly Mariner’s. Weaver went 6, but gave up 10 hits and 4 runs; he should have bought his bullpen steak dinners after the game for preserving his shaky start for a “W.”

John Lackey has been absolutely filthy since coming off the DL to start the season. Big John is stalking the mound like he has something to prove after finishing behind Josh Beckett in Cy Young voting last year. Lackey continued his dominance of the A’s, scattering 5 hits and one run over 7 innings. In 37 innings this year, John Lackey has given up a miniscule 7 earned runs. Jon Garland was also dominant as he befuddled the A’s through 7 plus while striking out an uncharacteristic 8 batters. Garland, along with the other Angels starters, appears to be feeding off of Lackey’s bulldog mentality.

Honorable Mention: Jose Arredondo. With every dominating and scoreless inning this young phenom throws, a new contract for Francisco Rodriguez becomes less likely. Arredondo did not give up a run in 3 1/3 innings this week and looked more confident with each batter he sent down. With the prospect of Kelvim Escobar coming back in the Angels pen in the second half, a late innings combination alongside Arredondo could prove lethal for opposing batters.
Offensively, the Angels can’t get Chone Figgins back soon enough.

The offense averaged 4 runs a game while winning 5 out of 6 this week, and 7 out of the last 8. Maicer Izturis was the Angels star this week and is going to make it hard for Mike Scioscia to pull him from the lineup when Aybar comes off the DL. Izturis had 10 hits in 27 At Bats for a .370 average. He also hit 2 homeruns, drove in 7 and crossed the plate 5 times.

The Bottom Line: The starting rotation is once again the story. The Angels scored enough runs to win almost every night, but their paltry offensive numbers meant they had to rely on the pitching staff to keep them in games. The Angels hit .240 this week with runners in scoring position but somehow always seemed to get the hits and runs when they were absolutely essential. This pattern of not scoring while the pitching dominates has been nothing new for the Angels in seasons past, but the Angels have a definite swagger for a team that is not scoring, and that is what separates this team from past Angels squads.

The Week Ahead:

The Angels had won 7 in a row before losing in extra innings to the A’s. The dramatic 12th inning loss was also only the team’s 5th in its last 18 games. This week the Angels come home to face the Rays, a team that swept them in Tampa Bay, and the Atlanta Braves, the start of interleague play. The Rays have been very good this year and won’t be an easy opponent. The big match up comes in the 3rd game, with John Lackey facing Scott Kazmir. With the way the Angels are playing they should expect to continue their string of winning series’ by winning 4 out of 6 this week.
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