The Angels spent the last four days dominating Detroit with bursts of plate prowess, stingy pitching and stealthily good managing from Mike Scioscia. It was just what the doctor ordered for a club that was spending the month of May spinning it’s wheels, playing .500 ball and the offense looking pitiful at worst and inconsistent at best. The Tigers series seemed to show a different ballclub altogether, though, as they erupted for 26 runs over the four games, including numerous home runs and extra base hits. The pitching remained the constant, it was just the bats coming alive that made the lineup so unrecognizable. Next up: the Rays. Tampa Bay came into town today to face the Angels for a three game set, and the first contest ended up being little more than another piece of juicy, red meat for the snarling, home run hitting Angel beasts.
David Freese got the power trip started with a solo blast to left in the second inning, off of Rays starter Alex Colome. This was right after Freese had shown some deft moves in the field by robbing the Rays of a hit with a gorgeous slide move and turnaround throw. Between that play and his home run, and a single later in the game, the 3B seemed to have some 2011 spring in his step tonight. The Rays were facing Garrett Richards, who has been somewhat struggling in his last couple starts, but seemed to be okay in the first two innings. But starting in the third, his slider was on and off and he would get himself into a two-out jam, eventually getting out of it but with a run coming across home via a Joey Butler single.
The game would only be tied for so long, as Mike Trout hit a monster 3-run bomb to left center in the bottom of the third, his 13th of the year. It was not only a beauty of a hit, but it came when Colome had Trout down 0-2. That’s just unfair. The Rays would try to get within reach of the Halos, though, when Garrett Richards once again lost his way while having two outs on the board, and gave up a two-run blast to Nick Franklin. The Angels have been playing with fire the past couple weeks when it comes to allowing runs while having two outs, and it’s not good seeing it infecting Richards now, too.
The good news is that not only would David Freese and Mike Trout do their best to not let G-Rich get out of there without the win, but Albert Pujols would come in the game and blow it wide open with two home runs. First, to put the Angels up 5-3, he hit an absolute rainmaker to left field in the fifth, and he capped his night off with a two-run jack in the eighth to put the game at 7-3, and set up pitchers Joe Smith and Cam Bedrosian to come in and clean the place up in the final two innings. Garrett Richards got hit around a bit, allowed three runs in six innings, but his big bats made sure that wouldn’t matter. That’s what offenses should do, that’s what they’ve BEEN doing, and that’s why they’ve now won five in a row.
Some other good signs from this game: Johnny Giavotella continues to be hot, and had a couple hits tonight as well as a great sac bunt. The Jose Alvarez and Fernando Salas did their jobs tonight, holding the game out of the bullpen. Other bottom of the order hitters like Carlos Perez and Kirk Nieuwenhuis had hits, and got on base.
Is it the matchups or did something genuinely click for this team? The past five games haven’t come against top tier competition, but the Angels have played out of their minds and turned into a group of guys that I can’t wait to watch on a daily basis. Houston won tonight, so no ground gained in the AL West race, but no matter...they just need to keep their heads down, and their bats cracking. They’ll be alright.