Troubles Continue: 4/23

After coming off a rough century, the Cubs rebounded and won a World Series last year so why get uptight about a tough road trip?   I know, you’ve probably just read Jeff Fletcher’s piece in the OC Register and are searching for a place to hide from all the depressing stats he’s assembled. Well, we’re back home now, it’s only April, so just ask yourselves, despite the rough start, wouldn’t you still rather watch our beloved Halo’s, than CNN, the Fox News Channel, or MSNBC?

OK, so it was tough to drop three of four at Minute Maid to the ‘Stros but Matt Shoemaker’s seven inning, seven strikeout outing on Monday provided some encouragement that a turnaround might be on the horizon. It was also comforting to see Kole Calhoun snap his consecutive hitless streak at 20 — and hear that Luis Valbuena’s return is expected within days.

Tuesday’s win couldn’t have been more welcome as the Angels losing streak had reached an uncomfortable six games. Unfortunately, the losing resumed on Wednesday and continued thru Saturday. Albert Pujols, who has not produced much in April since his arrival from St Louis five years ago, hit a three run blast that went deep into the Houston night, 470 feet from home plate to put an end to the alarming drought. Part of the problem for Pujols is that he has no protection in the lineup hitting after him. Neither CJ Cron, nor Jeffry Marte, have come through hitting directly behind “The Machine,” leading Mike Scioscia to experiment with Kole Calhoun in the five slot. Look for Calhoun to find his way back to the top of the lineup as it seems clear that he’s more naturally suited there. As for the acquisition of Danny Espinosa to add some punch in the middle of the lineup, absent since the departure of Howie Kendrick and Mark Trumbo, the early evidence is not encouraging. Another part of the solution to this year’s club was supposed to come from Cameron Maybin. Since the acquisition of Josh Hamilton who failed miserably to cure the longtime leftfield woes, we’ve seen a revolving door of disappointments. After the failure of the Nava/Gentry platoon last year, Maybin was envisioned as the possible missing piece by GM Billy Eppler. It was not believed that Maybin would deliver power in the way Hamilton was supposed to but his .192 batting average to date, one point higher than Espinosa’s, has got to be a source of concern to the organization and to Albert Pujols.

Worse, injuries are continuing to pile up for the Angels. Garrett Richards who hadn’t pitched since the opening series in Oakland was moved to the 60 day DL and won’t be eligible to return until at least June 5. Though Richards’ troubled elbow seems sound, it is unclear as to when the irritated nerve in his biceps will heal. How much worse can it get–Don’t ask! Cam Bedrosian injured his groin in the Angels return to the Big A and has landed on the 10 day DL. With relievers Huston Street and Andrew Bailey already off the active roster, Bedrosian’s loss means that the top four relievers who left Tempe a few weeks back are now all unavailable out of the pen (JC Ramirez has been moved to the rotation to fill in for the loss of Richards). In A League of Their Own, Tom Hanks made famous the line, “There’s no crying in baseball.” Not sure if this applies to people in the stands or the Halo TV audience as Angels fans might well start shedding some tears soon. We’ll see. Veteran Mike Scioscia, might not be the crying type but you’d have to wonder if he might pull out the few hairs he has left under his cap after 18 years at the Angels helm. Times surely seem tough for Angel followers across America.

The return to the Big A didn’t go so well on Friday. Alex Meyer at 6’9” is one big dude, and he can hit the radar gun with blazing speed. Regrettably, he can’t seem to find home plate with even some regularity. Obtained from Minnesota for Hector Santiago before the 2016 trading deadline, Meyer has potential but if he continues to throw 75 pitches in less than 4 innings as he did Friday, he’s bound to hunt for it hurling for Salt Lake. Still the Angels fought hard to hang in Friday’s game, even after a three run blast by Jose Bautista in the top of the 13th. Sadly though, their valiant comeback fell short as they left the bases loaded in the home half of the inning after scoring two to narrow the lead to a lone run.

Things got brighter on Saturday as Andrelton Simmons drilled his second career grand slam and Tyler Skaggs had the type of outing (7+ innings, 2 runs, seven hits, 4 K’s) Angel fans had been hoping for. Sunday however, the Angels simply ran out of pitchers as Jesse Chavez, who was scheduled to start had to be passed over because he was utilized out of necessity in the 5 hour 36 minute Friday night marathon.

At 8-12, things are not exactly looking up for the gang from Anaheim, but remember, there are 142 games still left to go. So, wipe the tears…and the leave your worries behind; April is not the time to abandon optimism.