Apr 1, 2014; Anaheim, CA, USA; Los Angeles Angels first baseman Albert Pujols (5) reacts after striking out in the fifth inning as Seattle Mariners catcher John Buck (4) watches at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Opening Week: Angels Stumble Out of the Starting Gate

Maybe Don Baylor breaking his right leg during Opening Day ceremonies was a sign of things to come. One week into the 2014 season and the Los Angeles Angels are in a familiar place, sitting in the American League West division cellar. Injuries can’t be blamed. Neither can a tough schedule. The Angels were marred by bad pitching and ineffective hitting that nearly led to a team record for losses to begin a season.

Let’s take a look at the week that was.

Record: 2-4 overall (0-3 vs. Seattle Mariners, 1-2 vs. Houston Astros)

Highlights: Garrett Richards and Tyler Skaggs willed the Angels to back-to-back wins this weekend while overshadowing performances by Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson. Richards didn’t need much offensive support Friday night, allowing one run on three hits to Astros batters. Walks, however, were a problem. Richards walked three batters in the fifth but escaped a bases loaded situation when he struck out Marc Krauss. He narrowly earned the win after pitching only five innings.

Skaggs was sensational in his Angels debut. The left-hander shut out Astros hitters through seven innings and guaranteed a split in the series. After posting a 4.94 ERA in spring training, Skaggs removed doubt as to whether he deserves a spot in the starting rotation. He threw first-pitch strikes to 17 of 29 hitters and allowed only one walk. While Richards’ performance was needed, Skaggs’ outing gave the Angels bullpen a much needed day off.

Lowlights: Speaking of the bullpen; Angels relievers don’t have much to brag about. The Halos own an AL-worst marks in ERA (7.27) and home runs allowed (6).

With the Mariners holding a narrow 4-3 lead Opening Day entering the ninth inning, the Angels bullpen imploded. Kevin Jepsen and Nick Maronde gave up six runs on four hits and three walks. The next night, Michael Kohn put the game out of reach in allowing two runs in the ninth. Needless to say, Wednesday night’s game ended in similar fashion.

With Dane De La Rosa and Sean Burnett on the Disabled List, it will be up to the starters to give the bullpen as little work as possible.

Player of the week: Josh Hamilton quietly put together a MVP-caliber week. The left fielder’s slash line is .500/.560/.864 with 11 hits, two walks, and five RBIs. Even more surprising is his patience at the place, walking three times and striking out six through six games.

Hamilton was in rare form Saturday night with two singles and a two-run shot that gave Skaggs wiggling room. He isn’t taking as many erratic swing like he did for the better part of 2013 and is spraying the ball to all fields. Aside from Hamilton and Mike Trout, the Angels lineup is off to a slow start. “Ham Bone” will need to carry the load until the others find their groove.

Up next: After wrapping up their four-game set with the Astros Monday morning, the Angels head to Seattle for a quick two-game set beginning Wednesday. They come home Friday for and interleague matchup with the New York Mets.

Tags: Garrett Richards Josh Hamilton Los Angeles Angels Tyler Skaggs

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