The Los Angeles Angels (16-21) host another short two-game series against the visiting Chicago White Sox (17-20) in a matchup of third place teams trying to make up ground in their division.
Angels vs Athletics (L 0-5, W 4-0)
The Angels opened the two-game series agains the A’s hoping to make up a little ground in the AL West. They sent Dan Haren to the mound who struggled for the second straight start. After failing to make it out of the fourth inning against Minnesota, Haren labored again, allowing a baserunner in each of his first five innings, and ended up giving up four runs on six hits over six innings, striking out five but walking four. It was the eighth time this season the Angels failed to score a run and put them eight games back of Texas, the furthest they’ve been out of first place on May 14 since 2001.
For the second game, the Angels sent Ervin Santana to the hill, fresh off his first game of getting substantial run support all season. The Angels kept that momentum going, giving Santana all the support he needed as he went 7.2 inning of shutout four-hit ball, striking out nine and walking three. Mike Trout had a 3-for-4 day with a home run and three runs scored and Albert Pujols drove in a pair of runs going 3-for-4 as well. The solid outing raised Albert’s batting average back onto the right side of .200 and helped the Angels avoid the sweep, earning a split with Oakland.
White Sox vs Tigers (W 7-5, L 8-10)
The White Sox hosted the Tigers in a quick two-game series with second place in the AL Central on the line. For the opener, Chicago sent John Danks to the mound, who put his club in an early hole. He lasted just 3.0 innings, giving up five runs on nine hits and walked three, leaving the game with the Sox in a 5-2 hole. Dayan Viciedo sparked a rally, however, to save Danks from the loss with a home run and four RBI as Chicago rallied for the 7-5 win. Zach Stewart earned the win in relief and Addison Reed shut the door for his third save of the season.
For the series finale, Chicago put Jake Peavy on the hill, who went five shutout innings before getting into a whole mess of trouble in the sixth. Peavy would give up six runs and a pair of homers, all in the sixth, through 5.1 innings, off nine hits, striking out four and walking two. The Tigers would add another pair of runs off Will Ohman with another home run to cap off an eight run sixth inning that doomed the Sox. Paul Konerko knocked a solo home run and A.J. Pierzynski knocked in three runs, but it wasn’t enough as the one bad inning kept the Sox from sweeping the Tigers and taking over second in the Central.
Williams is coming off a shaky start, where he was pressed into service a day earlier than expected when C.J. Wilson didn’t come back out after a nearly two-hour rain delay in Texas. He gave up six runs on 11 hits with three home runs, walking two and striking out three in 6.2 innings of work, but came away with the no-decision as Wilson’s early run allowed saddled him with the loss. It was the most runs that Williams has allowed all season, and the first time he’s allowed more than three runs since April 20. It was just the second time this season Williams has failed to post a quality start and the first time in his last five starts. There was likely a major upheaval in Williams’ usual pre-start routine before the Rangers outing, so expect him to return to form for a game that he comes to the park expecting to pitch in.
Gavin Floyd has been strong all season, but is looking dominant lately. Over his last four starts, Flod has an ERA of 1.26 and a 1.08 WHIP with a 26:5 K:BB ratio. He has been in complete control with his command and has been near unhittable. His last start was a 7.2 inning gem, shutting out the Royals on five hits, striking out five and walking two. This season, opponents are hitting just .189 against him. Coming to pitcher-friendly Anaheim against a struggling Angels line up should give Floyd and the White Sox plenty of confidence in the series opener tonight.
May 17: C.J. Wilson (4-3, 3.42 ERA) vs Chris Sale (3-2, 3.08 ERA)
Wilson became the first pitcher in Angels’ history to start back-to-back games when he got pushed out by a rain delay in Arlington after just five batters. He only got one out, and was charged with four runs on three hits and a walk in the loss, but came back the next day much sharper. In take two, Wilson was able to pitch into the sixth inning, giving up just two runs on five hits, including a home run to Josh Hamilton, striking out four and walking three. Wilson left the game with the scored tied, so he didn’t earn the decision, but being able to bounce back from an extremely rough first inning the day before is an excellent display of Wilson’s mental toughness and the “pitch everyday” mentality he still carries with him from his time in the bullpen. Now fully rested, Wilson will look to continue his strong season so far at home against Chicago.
Chris Sale has been bounced the White Sox pitching order this season like a beach ball at a graduation ceremony. He began the year as a starter, going 3-1 with a 2.81 ERA over five starts, striking out 29 batters and walking just eight. However, Sale reportedly complained of some tenderness in his left elbow, so the team transitioned to the back of the bullpen as the closer. He got just one opportunity, blowing a save against Cleveland on May 8, before an MRI result showed no damage to the elbow and the Sox decided to push him back into the starting rotation. He struggled his first outing back, going five innings against the Royals, surrendering three runs, all in the first inning, on seven hits, striking out three and walking two. It took Sale 103 pitches to make it through just five innings, but it’s unlikely he was able to go through his normal routine between starts since he thought he had become the new closer. Now that the team seems setttled on letting him start, expect Sale to return to a more normal routine and back to his early season form.
Storylines to Watch
The Angels fired hitting coach Mickey Hatcher on Tuesday in an attempt to shake this lineup free from it’s early season troubles. With Hatcher now gone, there really isn’t anyone else to blame this poor offensive showing on but the players (or Mike Scioscia), so it’s time for the rubber to meet the road. If the offense continues to be one of the worst in the AL, the blame is going to start falling on the players. It’s an opportunity for a fresh start with a new hitting coach talking in their ears, so they had best start producing or prepare to answer some uncomfortably harsh fan mail.
The White Sox starting pitching has been very good to start the year. Jake Peavy was just named the AL pitcher of the month, Sale was one of the strongest young arms in baseball before bouncing around the bullpen, and Floyd will be trying to get his third win in his last four starts. This team will need to get a little better production from their offense and some holds from an overtaxed and overwhelmed bullpen. Hey, it’s like they’re the Angels of the Central! Our condolences to White Sox fans.
The Angels were finally able to scratch their way past the Mariners into third place in the division, which means no more being the cellar! Hooray! The bad news, the Angels are just a half game removed from that dreaded cellar spot and still have a lot of questions left to answer and a ton of ground to make up. They need to start winning a bit more consistently to eek their way back to .500 and slowly start to cut down the Rangers lead in the West.
The White Sox are sitting 3.5 games back from Cleveland in the Central and 1.5 back of Detroit who is in second place. A few less disastrous innings and this club could be on top of the division. They’re close to putting a nice run together, and will want to soon before the Tigers finally get warmed up and start scoring a dozen runs every night. This series will be the start of a five-game road trip, where Chicago is an impressive 10-8 on the year. If they continue that trend, they’ll put themselves in a nice spot to be a factor in the Central come summer.
The Hangout View
The Angels have all the same questions about their offense left to answer. Now that they’ve gotten rid of Hatcher, they have one less reason (or scapegoat) as to why they aren’t hitting, so the pressure is on for them to start producing. They run into a strong pair of starters for Chicago, which won’t make the offensive rejuvenation any easier. Angels take one of two and split with the White Sox.