Los Angeles Angels starting pitching in shambles, but hitting still works.

ANAHEIM, CA - AUGUST 30: Albert Pujols
ANAHEIM, CA - AUGUST 30: Albert Pujols /

The Los Angeles Angels have been fighting hard all season to stay in playoff contention.  It seems that no matter what happens this Angels team will not give up and that is why they are only 0.5 games out of the second wild-card spot.

The Los Angeles Angels have had a number of unsung heroes who have stepped up throughout the season to help the team stay close.  From Bud Norris, to Blake Parker, J.C. Ramirez to Parker Bridwell, the Angels have had a number of pitchers come through for them.  This has made up for an anemic offense that has ranked near the bottom in the MLB in both batting average and runs scored.

However, lately it has been the Angel hitters chance to return the favor and they have done so. The Angels are 6-4 in their last 10 games despite only having one quality start from any of their starters (Parker Bridwell on August 25th).  The Angels pitching staff has given up 5.5 runs per game during that span, but the newly found Angel offense has averaged 6.7 runs per game during that same span.

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The addition of Justin Upton and Brandon Phillips has helped but combined they are hitting .244 and have only driven in one run.  It has been players like Kole Calhoun, Luis Valbuena, Albert Pujols, C.J. Cron, and Martin Maldonado have led the charge. Cron is hitting .282 with three homers and 13 RBI’s during that span. None of them were bigger than Cron’s two-out two-run homer on Saturday night that tied the game against Texas.  The Angels would eventually win the game on a Kole Calhoun two-run single in the 11th.

Calhoun has been one of the hottest Angels during the past 10 games going 12 for 36 (.333) with one homer and 10 RBI’s with game-winning hits both on Saturday and in yesterday’s 11-9 11 inning victory over Oakland. Luis Valbuena has also broken out of a season-long slump over the last month as he has hit  seven homers and driven in 17 runs in his last 15 games.

Valbuena started the Angels rally Monday hitting a 3-run second inning homer to cut the A’s lead to 4-3.  Valbuena also delivered a two-out 9th inning double that set-up Cron’s game tying homer on Saturday night.  Cron and Valbuena’s emergence has made up for Yunel Escobar‘s absence and have given the Angels offense a must needed boost.

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The most surprising hero has been Martin Maldonado who was acquired for his defense, but his offense has been an added bonus.  Maldonado has not ever batted for a high average in his career hitting only .219, and this year is no different as he is batting .227. However, Maldonado has set career-highs in home runs with 14 and 37 RBI’s.   Maldonado hit two home runs in Monday’s 11-9 victory over Oakland.  Maldonado also had a 3 for 3 performance against Oakland early last week  and scored two of the three runs in a 3-1 victory over the A’s.

Finally the veteran of the group Albert Pujols has been retooled for the stretch run. Pujols has been the hottest Angel as of late.  Pujols is hitting .381 (16 for 42) with two homers and 12 RBIs over the last 10 games.  In the last five games Pujols has driven in 12 runs.  Pujols was integral in the Angels come-from behind win against Oakland last Wednesday 10-8 win hitting to homers and driving in four runs.

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All of these players plus Mr. Reliable Mike Trout has allowed the Angels to go 6-4 and stay close in the wild-card race.  However if the Angels want to get to the promise land they will need their starting rotation to pull its weight somewhat.  It begins with Tyler Skaggs and Andrew Heaney, two pitchers the Angels have made major trades to acquire over the past three seasons.

Everyone was excited when Heaney was able to make it back five months ahead of schedule, but so far the results have been less than exciting.  Heaney had one great start in four starts, but overall has been a disappointment.  Skaggs has not been any better going 0-4 with a 5.86 ERA since his return a month ago.

Another factor is the recent rough outings of Parker Bridwell. Bridwell has given up 13 runs in six innings and hopefully he will rebound in his next outing Saturday in Seattle.  While major moves were made to improve the Angels offense, the team will go as far as the pitching staff will take them.  Can this Angels staff keep it together enough to win the AL Wild-Card remains to be seen?

Next: J.C. Ramirez has become the latest pitcher to be lost for the season

What I recommend to Angel fans is to sit back fasten your seat belt and enjoy the ride it’s crunch time?