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Angels won't go far if pitching lets them down
Their 53 victories are the most in 28 years.
By EDUARDO A. ENCINA
Published July 15, 2007
The Angels found the first half of the season to their liking as they tied the Red Sox for most wins at the break. Their 53 victories are the most in 28 years.
But Mike Scioscia knows his team will only go as far as its starting pitching - the Angels' "life blood," as the manager puts it.
The Angels, who open a three-game series against the Rays on Tuesday at Tropicana Field, sputtered to the break losing eight of 12 amid a 24-game stretch against teams with losing records.
In their 18 games heading into the break, their starters had a 6.07 ERA. In the 12-game slump, it's 6.22. The biggest inflationary factors are Bartolo Colon and Ervin Santana.
It will have been 12 days between starts when Colon faces the Rays on Wednesday. He has been working with his coach, Mike Butcher, the onetime Rays pitching coach, between starts on his command and off-speed pitches, the biggest holes in his arsenal. He has a 9.07 ERA after starting the season 5-0.
Santana, who won 16 games last season, has been equally as frustrating. He leads the majors with 23 home runs allowed. The Angels have tried group intervention with meetings with both catchers, Butcher and Scioscia, tough love from his manager and intense field study to determine whether he is tipping his pitches.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW: Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said that in retrospect he should have used Albert Pujols as a pinch-hitter for Phillies OF Aaron Rowand with two outs in the ninth of the All-Star Game on Tuesday.
La Russa said he was saving his first baseman for extra innings, but after weighing the importance of the game against its role as a showcase for the fans, he said he would utilize Pujols if he could do it over again. Rowand flied out to end the National League's 5-4 loss.
"Just for the drama of the All-Star Game," La Russa said. "It's one of the marquee events. It would have been great theater. People would have been talking about it forever.
"They all would have liked to see that magical moment. And the truth is they're right. ... Looking back, I should have gone for entertainment."
NO LEFT TURNS: Fenway Park, a well-known haven for left-handed hitters, has been anything but this season.
DH David Ortiz hit 22 of his 54 homers at Fenway in 2006, but he has just three in 144 at-bats this season and none since April 21. Newcomer J.D. Drew has two at Fenway in 114 at-bats. Batting from the left side of the plate, Red Sox players have hit just eight homers at Fenway, opponents only 14.
"Fenway is not a good park for a left-handed hitter," Ortiz said in San Francisco.
"The weather thing, Fenway is not normally an easy park to hit a home run from the left side. Every single game, you got wind blowing in from the ocean, which makes it worse."
AROUND THE HORN: The Rockies' surge to the playoffs will be tough. They play 48 of their final 74 games against teams with winning records, including 12 against NL West rivals the Padres and 13 against the Dodgers. ... The Tigers, on pace to win about 98 games, have to feel good about their playoff prospects. In the 11 full seasons played under the wild-card format, every American League team to finish with 95 or more victories has reached the playoffs. ... When RHP Rich Harden was returned to the DL, it marked the 17th time the A's have used the DL this year - their most since 21 in 1997, and there are still 21/2 months left in the season.
"I'm brain-dead. This game isn't going to work too well for me. I didn't know what else to do but have a party. You'll have to forgive me if I go 0-for-5. I don't care. The party was way more fun."
Giants slugger Barry Bonds before Tuesday's All-Star Game. Bonds held an all-star party, with rapper Jay-Z in the house, on Monday night in San Francisco that went on until early Tuesday.
"We're a big-market team that's playing like a small-market team. Unless you hit with some young players and pitchers, it's tough to play that way."
Rangers 1B Mark Teixeira on his struggling team.
"Tejada was breathing down my neck for a minute, so I had him taken care of."
Baseball's Ironman and 2007 Hall of Fame inductee Cal Ripken, jokingly, on Orioles SS Miguel Tejada's consecutive games streak ending at 1,152 with a trip to the DL. Tejada still wasn't even halfway to Ripken's 2,632 straight games.