The Los Angeles Angels went into their weekend series against first-place Seattle reeling having just completed an 0-6 home stand and falling into last place in the American League West.
To make matters worse during the home stand they lost their ace starter Garrett Richards until mid-2017, and the best defensive player and every day shortstop Andrelton Simmons for at least two months.
Then in the final game of the home stand the Achilles heel, the offense actually came to life scoring 10 runs vs. St. Louis, but the pitching took the night off and the Angels fell 12-10. In the loss Cliff Pennington pulled a hamstring and was put on the disabled list the next day. Yunel Escobar also jammed his hand and was not able to finish the game, which led to catcher Geovany Soto having to play third base in the ninth and making a key error that led to two unearned runs which turned out to be the difference in the two-run loss.
“There was a lot of things we could be frustrated about, but the comeback was not one of them,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said about the loss. “The fact that we got back on the brink (of winning) shows a lot of our club. You can tell a lot about people when things are not going the right way. Right now things are not going the right, but everyone is still in there busting their butts and that shows the character of the guys we have on this team.
So with all this going on, the Angels took a late night flight to Seattle early Friday morning and started a three-game series in Seattle Friday night. In the first game Nick Tropeano had another solid albeit short outing (5 innings) giving up only two runs on five hits. Unfortunately the bullpen who has been taxed to the brink of exhaustion gave up three runs in the bottom of the sixth to put the Angels in a four-run hole going to the top of the seventh. However, the fight that Scioscia eluded to in Thursday’s post-game press conference started to show as the Angels put together a huge rally over the next three innings.
In the top of the seventh the Angels loaded the bases on three straight singles, by Geovany Soto, Johnny Giavotella, and Gregorio Petit, who had been called up for when Pennington was placed on the DL. Kole Calhoun plated one run with a sacrifice fly and Mike Trout drove in one run with an RBI-double that went off of Robinson Cano‘s glove to cut the lead to 5-3. Chris Iannetta homered for Seattle in the bottom of the seventh to put the lead back to three, but again the Angels kept fighting and clawing.
In the top of the 8th C.J. Cron hit his 3rd homer of the season which was followed by back-to-back doubles by Giavotella and then Jefry Marte, who was called up to provide extra infield support with Escobar hurting as well, also hit a double which scored Giavotella to cut the Mariners lead to one. Joe Smith got out of second and third one out jam in the bottom of the eighth setting the stage for the Angels to complete the comeback in the 9th.
Kole Calhoun singled to lead off the ninth and with one out Albert Pujols singled and Daniel Nava walked to load the bases setting the stage for Cron to be the hero and he delivered with a two-run single to give the Angels their first late inning lead in seven games at 7-6. Fernando Salas retired the Mariners in order in the bottom of the ninth and just like that the losing streak was over.
So going into Saturday night the Los Angeles Angels were hoping to build on Friday night’s comeback win. Jhoulys Chacin, making his Angels debut after being acquired from the Braves on Wednesday, pitched a great game going 7 innings giving up only two runs and leaving with a 6-2 lead thanks to a five-run seventh inning that saw Kole Calhoun and Mike Trout go deep in back-to-back at-bats and Johnny Giavotella also went deep to begin the inning to tie the game at two.
Unfortunately the Angels bullpen again failed to hold the Mariners, allowing five runs in the bottom of the eighth to allow Seattle to take a 7-6 lead into the ninth, but again the Angels did not give up as Kole Calhoun got on base by getting hit by a Steve Cishek pitch, and Mike Trout followed it with a single to left setting the stage for Albert Pujols. Pujols drilled a Cishek sinker into the second deck in left field for a three-run homer putting the Angels back in front at 9-7 and Joe Smith retired the side in order to end the game with another stirring Angels comeback.
On Sunday, the Angels had to face Felix Hernandez the Mariners ace, but Angels new ace (due to Richards’ injury) Hector Santiago was up to the task. The game remained scoreless until the fifth when Kole Calhoun hit an opposite field single to score Johnny Giavotella for a 1-0 lead. In the top of the eighth Daniel Nava came through off reliever Nick Vincent with a two-run single to left scoring Kole Calhoun and Mike Trout to extend the lead to 3-0. Santiago pitched a perfect 8th and Joe Smith followed with a perfect 9th for his 4th save completing an impressive sweep for the Angels. What was even more impressive was the start by Hector Santiago who stepped up with eight innings of shutout ball allowing only two hits and one walk while striking out five batters. In an interview done just before the final game of the St. Louis series, Santiago said he took every start as just one game.
"“No, (I don’t feel any pressure due to recent injuries to the staff) we’ve got guys filling in their spots, I just got to go out there and do my job,” Santiago said. “I can’t throw go out there and throw three starts within in a week. I can only do my best on my day and I have confidence in the other guys doing their jobs and also that the front office will do their job to bring in guys to fill those spots.”"
With the addition of Jhoulys Chacin and now Tim Lincecum (signed today pending a physical), the rotation looks a little more solid than it did a week ago, but will it be enough for the Los Angels Angels to contend for the AL West and a playoff spot, only time will tell. All I know is that the three-game sweep of Seattle gives the Angels some much needed momentum going into tonight’s four-game split series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Angels will play two games in Los Angeles at Dodgers Stadium and then return to Anaheim for a two-game series on Wednesday with their I-5 neighbors.
Can the Los Angeles Angels keep the momentum they built going into the Freeway Series we will soon find out, but as Scioscia said about this club.