Saturday, May 28, 2005

Flash Point!

May 27, 2005. The date that could be remembered as the day the Angels started to put it all together. After enduring 1/4 of the 2005 campaign with as much firepower as the Moroccan National Guard, the Angels finally are looking like the team that showed so much progress back in March. The Halos have counted themselves lucky to stay in first place as long as they have thanks in large part to an over-achieving starting pitching staff and a solid bullpen. But all along they have had to do without the run-producing machine that Angel fans (and pitchers) have come to expect. It bottomed out this past week when the Angels fell to dead-last in the majors in on-base-percentage. This coincided with the Texas Rangers, who have been able to both pitch & hit of late, pulled into a first-place tie with the Angels after reeling off seven wins in a row.

But in the ninth inning of their 48th game of the season the Angels stared down the barrel at a five-run deficit. A loss would drop them to second-place and in the minds of many Angel-faithful, a death-spiral down the American League West standings. But instead the Angels offense rose like Lazarus and posted five-runs to tie the score. Then, in the bottom of the tenth inning rookie third baseman (and promised phenom) Dallas McPherson hit a Glausian homerun to propel the Halos to an improbable 9-8 come-from-behind win over Kansas City.

The Angels followed that up with a 14-1 thrashing of the Royals on Saturday night as they welcomed Kelvim Escobar back from the disable list. Escobar went five innings, giving up 1 run on 4 hits while surrendering two walks and striking out seven. Chris Bootcheck finished-up the final four innings, holding the Royals to just two hits while walking a pair and striking out two. This was the whole enchilada. Quality starting pitching, sturdy relief and an offensive power-house that led to the Angels third victory in a row and a 1/2 game lead over the rained-out Rangers.

Yes, it was the Royals. But the story is not the Royals, it is the Angels. A team that looked equally pathetic with their bats against Minnesota or the Mariners. With 23 runs scored over the past two games the Halos matched their production in the previous eight games. After wrapping up tomorrow against the Royals the Angels will have to fly to Chicago and play a day game against the White Sox for Memorial Day (televised on ESPN 2). If the Angels can maintain their current level of play over the three game set with Chicago then they will be ready to take on the Red Sox at Fenway June 3 - 5. That is followed by six interleague games on the road against Atlanta and the New York Mets. That is followed by home games against the Nationals (and Jose Guillen), the first-place Marlins, the red-hot Rangers and a three game set against the Dodgers. The Angels then finish June with four games in Arlington that could go a long way to deciding the fate of the AL West.

That is a very tough June schedule and one that, without a resurgence in the offense, could bury the Angels five, six or eight games behind Texas. This scoring flurry comes at just the right time. Now the Angels have to build on their success and get through June with a winning record.


Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez is reported to be right on schedule to return to the Halo bullpen next week. The LA Times noted on their web site that the Angels plan to activate him next Wednesday. Not a minute too soon. Hopefully the Angels will release Esteban Yan and keep Chris Bootcheck in the majors.

While Vladimir Guerrero has not resumed baseball activities, the prognosis for him to return remains the first week of June.


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