In the ten days of a roller coaster ride that is the Angels, the has went to the brink of a seemingly likely elimination. However the Angels rose up in a magical week to cut the deficit to two games and one back in the loss column heading into the series in Texas. Despite losing two out of three the Angels only lost one game in the standings falling to three games back, two back in the loss column. It is not time to jump ship, not by a longshot. Heading into the last month of the season, the Angels are in position to win their fourth AL West crown in five years. Here is why.
1. The Angels possess a more favorable schedule than the Rangers.
The Rangers are set to face two of the top three teams of the AL East for nine straight games. Six of those games are against the Tampa Bay Rays with a three game series both home and away. The three games against the Red Sox are at Fenway Park. Including games against the two teams mentioned above, the Rangers have fifteen games against teams at .500 or above (based on my unofficial count). Additionally fifteen of the Rangers remaining 27 games are on the road ( http://texas.rangers.mlb.com/schedule/index.jsp?c_id=tex#y=2011&m=9). The Rangers fair a lot better at home with a 40-27 record while owning a less impressive road record of 34-32. On the opposing side, the Angels only have six games left with teams over .500 including three with the Rangers in Anaheim. Of their 29 remaining games, fifteen are at home where the Angels are ten games over. 500. Also, the games on the road are all against teams under .500 (http://losangeDles.angels.mlb.com/schedule/index.jsp?c_id=ana#y=2011&m=9). One of the more significant aspects of the schedule is the convenient three game series in Anaheim to end the season. With a less difficult schedule the Angels will be able to put themselves in prime position by the time the faceoff with the Rangers to end the season.
2. The Rangers Rotation is wearing down and unproven down the stretch.
The Rangers rotation has been fading in the unbearable Texas heat. The heart of the Texas Rangers rotation is traveling uncharted territory with the exception of CJ Wilson. Each is surpassing career highs in innings pitched and is showing signs of wearing down after the all star break.
Alexi Ogando: 9-3 record, 2.92 ERA, and 1.01 WHIP 3-3 record, 5.01 ERA, and 1.59 WHIP
Matt Harrison: 7-7 record, 3.07 ERA and 1.28 WHIP 3-2 record, 4.74 ERA, and 1.38 WHIP
Alexi Ogando and Matt Harrison emerged as dependable starters early in the 2011 season for the Rangers. However both are showing signs of wearing down after the all star break. Both starters have not been through a full season as a starter reaching new careers high in innings pitched. It remains to be seen if these starters can handle both the mental and physical drain that a full season of a pennant race brings. They are a big question mark down the stretch. Although Colby Lewis and Derek Holland have both improved on their Pre-All Star numbers, they still have not proven how reliable they will be in September. Neither has been handed the ball on a consistent basis in a tight pennant race. Holland, while spectacular at times, has not been consistent on a regular basis to warrant any confidence. Colby Lewis isn't exactly lights out either. Although the back of the Angels rotation is shaky, the Angels have three reliable, proven starters that have sustained a playoff race. With the exception of Wilson the Rangers rotation is in dismay.
3. The Angels Offense has finally awaken.
Since the end of the Angels' four game series with the Rangers, the Angels have averaged just over 7 runs a game. Grant it three of those games were against the abysmal Orioles pitching staff, but the offense had not been scoring runs against anyone for a long period of time. Players such as Torii Hunter and Peter Bourjos have both hit over .300 for the last month. Howie Kendrick has hit a power surge of late, and it seems like the offense has finally hit a stride. It can only get better if Mike Scoscia would actually put the best lineup out there. More Trout and Conger and less Abreu and Wells can only bolster the lineup. Mathis has seen diminished time in the lineup which is a positive first step. It would not be a stretch for the Angels to continue at a pace of 5 to 6 runs a game the rest of the year considering how poorly that they have performed thus far. With an improved offense adding to an already solid rotation and great defense the Angels look prime to overcome Texas.
In Sunday's game against the Rangers, the Angels should have easily won. With a series of unfortunate breaks, poor managerial decisions, and Jeff Mathis, the Angels were overcome by Texas. A victory could have been achieved. Unfortunately the Angels did not, and the Ranger's lead is back to three games. The Angels are still playing solid baseball, and there is no reason to panic. The rest of the season looks favorable for the Angels. The Angels are not a perfect team by any means. Who knows if the sometimes adventurous bullpen can hold leads late into September. Who knows if the back end of the rotation will hold up. We do know that the Angels will have a bulldog mentality and will scratch it out until the end. However the team does not need to be perfect merely only better than the cokeheads down in Arlington.