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Wednesday Halolinks: Angels close the gap with doubleheader sweep

Now just 3.5 games behind the division leading Oakland A's.

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Time to turn that frown upside-down kids, the Angels swept a double header in Chicago and are now just 3.5 games out of first in the AL West, and lead the wild card standings by the same amount.  Last week I mentioned that although the club is doing so well, it just didn't feel like they were playing "that well".  I should probably clarify what I meant by my remarks.  First, I'm very happy that the Angels are in contention and am enjoying the season.  It's fun watching the games and feeling like a win is, more often then not, the most likely outcome.  Second, having baseball's best player on your favorite team is unbelievable, but I really get into watching young players like Kole Calhoun, Hank Conger. C.J. Cron mature into contributing spots on the club.  Mix in good season from the veterans, and this is absolutely the best season in recent years.  What I was bitching about last week was with all of this success, there's just a feeling over this team that hasn't put me into a mid-season frenzy of Halo madness.  It might be the expectation of being buttercupped, or the head-scratching moves of Mike Scioscia, but whatever it is, that dark cloud still lurks on my baseball season horizon.  The good is starting to drift away to reveal sunlight.  And expose today's Halolinks:

  • Tuesday's games was a total team effort.  We pretty much already know this team can hit, but the pitching will get them to the post season: MLB Recap - Los Angeles Angels at Chicago White Sox - Jul 01, 2014 -  "On Tuesday, 10 players drove in runs in a doubleheader sweep of the Chicago White Sox, with the Angels winning the first game 8-4 and capping the night with a 7-5 victory. ''I think our guys on the offensive side have proven that they're going to pressure teams and get us runs,'' Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. ''Our challenge is going to be able to hold leads and we were able to do it today in two games.''  With the exception of newly acquired Rich Hill, the Angels bullpen was able to shutdown the Chicago offense.  The relievers went a combined 4.3 IP 1 H 1 ER 4 BB 4 K, with Hill accounting for 3 of those four walks.
  • Here's another take on yesterday's DH: Los Angeles Angels at Chicago White Sox - July 1, 2014 -  "The result was their first doubleheader sweep since 2009, winning Game 1, 8-4, and Game 2, 7-5, to move to 3 1/2 games back of the first-place A's in the American League West and improving to 12 games over .500. They've completed 82 games, and can't find much to complain about the first half."  But we'll try!
  • How good has Garrett Richards been lately?  According to the Angels' press release: "Garrett Richards is the first Angel ever w/ 35+ K, a sub 1.10 ERA and opp. BA of .175 or lower in a single month."  That's pretty good.  Phil Rogers: Behind Garrett Richards and rotation, Angels back in hunt -  "This year? Well, who knew what to expect after the once reliably good Angels missed the playoffs for the fourth year in a row? But Richards and his teammates have been answering questions one month at a time. They were 14-13 in April, 16-12 in May, 15-10 in June and started July by sweeping the White Sox in a doubleheader. It was fitting that Richards worked eight strong innings in the opening 8-4 victory Tuesday. He's been as big of a key as anyone for the Angels positioning themselves for a Wild Card spot, if not running down the powerful Athletics in the American League West. Richards was 4-0 with a 1.05 ERA in five June starts. Only the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw had a better ERA for the month as the Angels quieted the critics who questioned their rotation."
  • Angels-White Sox Preview - Yahoo Sports.  "The Angels, averaging six runs over their last 13 games, reached the halfway point after the first game, and their momentary 46-35 record was their best 81-game mark since posting the same record in 2009, the last year they made the playoffs."
  • Los Angeles Angels at Chicago White Sox - July 2, 2014 -  "Skaggs, who hit the disabled list back on June 10 with a strained right hamstring, will be called up ahead of Wednesday's series finale with the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field. Coming in at 4-4 with a 4.34 ERA in 12 starts, the young southpaw's return likely pushes either Matt Shoemaker or Hector Santiago out of the rotation."
  • I hope yesterday's performance wasn't indicative of what lays ahead for the new Halo lefty reliever: Angels acquire Rich Hill from Red Sox - HardballTalk.  "Control problems have plagued Hill and his 6.28 ERA for the Indians last season was very ugly, but he racked up 51 strikeouts in 39 innings and held left-handed hitters to a .238 batting average. This season at Triple-A for the Red Sox he posted a 3.23 ERA and 45/17 K/BB ratio in 39 innings, holding opponents to a .206 batting average and zero homers."  It looks like the potential is there, now all the Angels have to do is bring it out.
  • How does a team go from 5 games out to just 3.5?  You win two while the club in front of you losses: Oakland Athletics vs. Detroit Tigers - Recap - July 01, 2014 - ESPN.  "In a 3-0 win over Oakland, Porcello became just the fourth pitcher in franchise history to throw a shutout without walking or striking out a batter, and the first since Dizzy Trout in 1944. Porcello recorded 17 groundball outs and 10 in the air while becoming the first major-leaguer to accomplish the feat since Baltimore's Jeff Ballard on Aug. 21, 1989. Porcello was eight months old when Ballard did it against Milwaukee."
  • Angels pass halfway point headed in right direction -  "Their 46 wins through their first 81 games were the most they've had since doing the same in 2009, the last year they made the playoffs. Their run-differential through the halfway point, plus-51, was higher than in any of the previous four years in which they were devoid of meaningful October baseball."  This is good news, yet when I look at Gonzalez's numbers, this season's totals are pretty close to the numbers put up in 2012.  The Angels missed the playoffs that year, but mainly because both Oakland and Texas had very good teams.  This year, there's no Texas to contend with, although Seattle is staying pretty close.
  • Haha, now you're just talking jibberish: Trading Mike Trout - Beyond the Box Score.  "We knew from the outset that this would be a far-fetched idea, but I wanted to use the scenario to illustrate just how good Trout is. There is probably not another player in baseball that could be traded away for the best prospect core in baseball (like all the best prospects, not just one) with the team trading the player away not seeing a significant improvement in wins going forward."
  • The Indians turn a triple play against the Dodgers with the help of two instant replay reviews - HardballTalk.  "It was notable because the call of a triple play was upheld only after a video review. Two of them."
  • Interesting look at the retiring commissioner's legacy: This Bud’s for No One.  "He leaves baseball an $8 billion industry, with the average franchise valued at nearly a billion dollars. There has not been a serious labor problem in 19 years. There have been 22 new ballparks built or utterly overhauled while he’s been commissioner, and the revenue-sharing money is well into nine figures a year. He has managed the drug hysteria. He will go down in the official history as a stern drug warrior who nonetheless was willing to compromise for a settlement."
  • I added this link to show that it is possible for a team to "fix" a pitcher.  Or just that a pitcher can get better: Have the Cubs fixed Jake Arrieta? - Beyond the Box Score.  "The five-year veteran possesses all the physical attributes you would expect from a major league hurler—he stands at 6-foot-4, weighs 225 pounds, throws a fastball that averages 94.6 mph and also has a hard, late-breaking slider in his back pocket. What's more, Arrieta has shown no substantial changes in his pitch usage since moving to Chicago. Yet his improved command in a Cubs uniform has been the biggest factor in allowing Arrieta's frontline stuff to finally yield strong results at the major league level."
  • Remember that disturbing kid from last week's Marlins' game?  The one with the stripper mom?  The one who is forever burned into the deep, dark portion of your brain?  Yeah, he's back and he's brought along a freakishly huge thumb: Young Marlins Fan Returns For His Second Dance.  "This picture will give me nightmares, what with #DEMONTHUMB and the Cryptkeeper". 
    In case you missed it:
  • Soccer is over: Here He Is, The Saddest American Soccer Fan.  "Look at this poor bastard." 
On a side note:  I'm going to go see Rick Springfield this evening.  I'm much more excited then I should be.