After dropping Friday’s series opener in Texas, the Halos bounced back on Saturday thanks mostly to the efforts of Albert Pujols who drummed two home runs and walked his other three times at the plate in an 8-4 victory.
Then last night on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball, the Angels got victimized by the jet stream as the Rangers smacked three home runs on their way to a 7-3 win to take the first series of the year between the two AL West rivals.
Pujols did on Saturday what we’ve come to expect from him over the years—even if it is slightly less frequent nowadays. Rangers’ starter Matt Harrison did not have his best stuff by any stretch and that was evident early on; in the top-of-the-first, Erick Aybar tagged a one-out double to deep center before Pujols took his first home run out of the yard.
Note: If the Leonys Martin-Craig Gentry platoon doesn’t work out for Texas, they could always sign the portly kid. I mean, his throwing mechanics need some work, but he takes a solid route to the ball and is otherwise fundamentally sound.
Then, after a Josh Hamilton walk (I know, right!) Mark Trumbo went deep to give the Angels a 4-0 lead after the first five hitters of the game. From that point on, the Angels never looked back.
In the sixth inning, Jason Frasor gave up two home runs which officially put the game out of reach for the Rangers. The first one was to Peter Bourjos who hit one out to deep left-centerfield and the second was Pujols’ second of the game. That made the score 7-2.
Angels’ starter Tommy Hanson fared well in his first regular season start as a Halo, tossing six innings, allowing three runs on six hits. He did not walk anyone and struck out four. Lefty Sean Burnett and right-hander Kevin Jepsen each pitched scoreless innings before Ernesto Frieri gave up a run while striking out two in the ninth.
In terms of win-probability-added, Pujols was the single most important player on the field for the Angels, increasing his team’s chances of winning by 19.4%–a mark that would have been much higher if most of the game wasn’t spent in such a low-leverage state. Hanson and Trumbo both increased the Halos’ chances by more than 11%.
For the Rangers, Harrison struggled, allowing five runs and 12 baserunners over just five innings of work. His WPA was the worst in the game as he decreased the Rangers’ chances of winning by 23.1% making him the single-most important player in the game in terms of the outcome.
Despite their struggles, the Rangers did hit three home runs as Ian Kinsler, Mitch Moreland and Nelson Cruz all went deep.
The Angels played their first nationally-broadcast primetime game last night in what looked to be a terrific pitching matchup between the respective teams’ number one starters in Jered Weaver and Yu Darvish. Darvish, of course, was coming off his near-perfect performance last week against the Astros where the only baserunner he allowed was to his final batter—a weakly struck grounder back up the middle—which broke up his perfect game bid with two outs in the ninth.
He wasn’t quite as dominant in his second start of the year as he allowed three runs and ten baserunners (four of them on walks) while striking out six in just five innings. He left the game after only 85 pitches, suffering from a blister on the ring finger of his throwing hand.
Weaver, meanwhile, struggled mightily. After giving up two home runs in the first inning to Lance Berkman and David Murphy. He proceeded to walk four batters and give up five total runs over just five innings of work. For the second straight start, Weaver’s fastball was sitting 85-87 MPH and he did not look very effective. He left the game injured in the sixth after throwing 99 pitches. He strained his left elbow after falling to avoid a comebacker. Reports suggest he could miss some time.
Mark Lowe also struggled out of the bullpen—he allowed two more runs and a three-run homer to Kinsler. Jerome Williams looked good over two innings of perfect relief, striking out two.
Offensively, the Angels got three hits including a double from Josh Hamilton who was booed heavily all weekend. Trumbo and Alberto Callaspo had two hits each. Mike Trout continues to struggle early on—he went 0-for-4 with a walk and he has reached base only nine times in 30 plate appearances so far in 2013. Not that 30 plate appearances are enough to conclude anything.
LAA of A have a day off today and will open the home half of their schedule tomorrow night against the Oakland Athletics as C.J. Wilson is set to take on Jarrod Parker.