The Angels are streaking their way across the quad into the All-Star break, and they are taking their brand of baseball to Chicago this week to play the Cubs in a two-game set where goats are still fighting segregation, and deep dish pizza is still better than New York-style pizza.
Since being swept by the Pirates last month, the Angel have rattled off 10 victories in their last 12 games to get their record on the season to 43-45. It’s the first time since the first week of the season that Angels find themselves within two games of the .500 mark. The Angels are still a whopping nine games out of first place in the AL West, and they trail the Orioles and the second Wild Card spot by six games. Beating up on a not-that-good Cubs team is something the Angels need to do.
The last time these two teams squared off, they split a two game series at the Big-A. The Angels edged out the Cubs in the first game, and the Cubs took the Angels in 10 innings in the second game. That was also a different Angels team then however. They were coming off of a four game sweep at the hands of the Houston Astros, and would continue to sputter through most of June. These Angels are playing with desire, fight and heart.
Joe Blanton wasn’t at his best in his last start, but over his last three starts he is 1-0 with a 3.15 ERA and 19 K’s in 20 IP. Could it be? Is Joe Blanton…reliable?
Travis Wood on the other hand has been a victim of bad luck. He is 5-6 on the season with a 2.69 ERA. Over his last three starts he is 0-0 with a 2.45 ERA. He has never faced the Angels, but a pitching duel may be in the works with Blanton carrying a career 2.93 ERA against the Cubs.
Since giving up five runs in a start against the Tigers, C.J. has allowed on four runs (one earned) in his last 13.2 innings, striking out 15 hitters in that span. He has a 2.89 ERA over his last three starts. Wilson being successful for the remainder of the season is a big key to the Angels fighting their way back into playoff contention, and he’s been much better over the last month.
Smardzija on the other hand, is trending the opposite direction. After getting off to a hot start this season, he has regressed and is currently 5-8 with a 3.54 ERA. Over his last three starts he is 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA, and he got touched up for five runs in his last start against the Pirates.
Over his last 11 games, Albert Pujols has struggled his way to a .163/.250/.186 slash line. But this could be a good series for The Artist Formerly Known as the Machine to get back into the swing of things. He hold a career line against the Cubs of .302/.402/.617, and he isn’t scared off by the Wrigley Field ghosts as he has a .298/.397/.602 line when he has visited the North Side of Chicago.
For those of you worried about Josh Hamilton and his 11-game hitting streak, you know, the one where he has a .342/.435/.605 slash line? In five games at Wrigley, he has a career line of .333/.400/.500.
The Angels five-game road trip is their last swing of games before they go into the All-Star break. They need to go 4-1 to be above the .500 mark by the break. Definitely doable with the Cubs series starting today and the Mariners coming up this weekend.