Kendrys Morales led an Angels home run barrage, giving the Halos a crucial 15-8 victory over the first place Rangers in the first game of their 4-game set in Arlington. The win also improved the Angels record against Texas this year to 6-4, a trend that will have to continue if they want to catch the Rangers.
Ervin Santana went his maximum 5 innings* and pitched decently, I guess. In his 5 innings, Santana allowed 3 runs on 4 hits, striking out 3 and walking 1. For just about every other pitcher in MLB, this would qualify as a poor start. But for 2012 Santana, this is a game when his ERA dropped, which might say more about his struggles than any sort of dissertation I could write (coming into the game his ERA was 6.00; it is now 5.97). Santana’s uninspiring performance wasn’t quite bad enough for Angels management to boot him from the rotation, so we’ll probably see him start a game this weekend.
* Just in case you weren’t up to speed, the Angels decided to limit Santana to 15 outs. Even if Santana got through 5 innings on 25 pitches, the plan was to yank him. The thinking behind this strategy was to get him to be more aggressive, trust his mechanics, and all sorts of baseball clichés that probably aren’t grounded in truth.
Santana handed the ball to Jerome Williams for mop up duty. In 4 innings Williams was worse than Santana, giving up 5 runs on 8 hits. Whoever the Angels choose for the #5 spot in the rotation (be it Santana, Williams, or Garrett Richards), it’s the wrong decision.
So Santana survived against arguably the best offense in baseball. Roy Oswalt, toeing the rubber for the Rangers, did not. Oswalt went 5 1/3, allowing 8 runs on 11 hits and seeing his ERA balloon to 6.49.** Maicer Izturis kicked off the scoring in the 2nd inning with a solo homer, and Mike Trout added a 2-run opposite field bomb in the 3rd to make the score 3-2 Angels. Josh Hamilton homered in the 4th to tie the game at 3; more significant than his home run is that Hamilton had a 3-hit night. Hamilton is hitting a woeful, .141/.229/.282 slash line in July, making April-Pujols proud. Perhaps tonight is a sign of a resurgence.
** He’s been pretty disappointing himself. If the Rangers grab a pitcher at the deadline, Oswalt may be moved to the bullpen. He was seen as a luxury when they signed him, but really he’s just been a liability.
The real Angel carnage took place in the 6th inning, when the Angels scored 9 and brought 12 men to the plate. Albert Pujols, who had a 3-hit game of his own, led off the inning with a double. Morales then gave the Angels the lead for good, whacking a homer to right field.
The Angels didn’t let Oswalt off the hook, though. After a Callaspo fly out, Howie Kendrick, Peter Bourjos, Maicer Izturis, Bobby Wilson, and Trout all singled, making the score 8-3. Texas intentionally walked Pujols following a Torii Hunter strikeout, loading the bases for Morales, who promptly hit a grand slam off lefty reliever Robbie Ross, his second home run of the inning (it should be noted this would have been a routine flyout at most every ballpark). The rare feat of homering twice in one inning will go even deeper into You Can’t Predict Baseball lore as the home runs came from opposite sides of the plate. After the Angels mercifully made their third out, the score was 12-3 and the game was essentially over.
Morales was an unlikely source of Angels power. He himself was in the midst of July struggles, hitting just .233/.282/.315 with a 23.1% K rate entering the game. An able-bodied Morales would be a big boost for an Angels offense that all too often depends on the Trout-Pujols-Trumbo trio for production. If Morales can provide some sort of consistent power in the middle of the lineup and if recently returned Chris Iannetta can continue his walking ways (12.5% BB rate this year, 13.8% career), the Angels offense is all of a sudden very deep. Time will tell if Morales is breaking out of a slump or just benefitting from poor pitching and a hitter friendly ballpark.
The Angels send ace Jered Weaver to the mound against Derek Holland, looking to cut their division deficit to 3 games.
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