Having closed the gap between themselves and the American League West-leading Texas Rangers, the LA Angels of Anaheim take aim at a three-game interleague sweep of the Colorado Rockies this afternoon when the teams collide at Coors Field.
The Angels have won three of their last four games and are now just three games behind front-running Texas for the top spot in the division after pummeling Colorado on Saturday, 11-5. The 11-run outburst represents the highest scoring effort of the season thus far for a team that, on paper at least, should be dominating the division and the league.
Albert Pujols continued his warming trend yesterday as he belted his ninth home run of the season, driving in four runs and scoring twice for the visitors. Mike Trout and Torii Hunter both had three hits and scored three times, while Howie Kendrick and Alberto Callaspo contributed three hits apiece as well, the latter adding a pair of walks to his stat line.
Angels starting pitcher Dan Haren lasted 5 1/3 innings, permitting four runs on 10 hits, four of those being solo home runs. In his previous four outings Haren didn't have a single batter go deep and dating back to April 22 (nine games) he had allowed a total of just three home runs.
Jeff Francis was dealt the loss as he gave up eight runs on 10 hits in a mere 3 1/3 innings for the Rockies.
Tyler Colvin had three hits for the hosts, including a pair of home runs, while Chris Nelson, Marco Scutaro and Carlos Gonzalez added long balls as well.
Suffering through a dismal season so far, LA hurler Ervin Santana tries to work his way into the win column for the first time in nearly a month when he takes the hill this afternoon. The right-hander last tasted victory on May 15 when the Angels topped Oakland in a 4-0 final. The win was the second in as many games for Santana, but after that he failed to earn a decision in his next three appearances and then was dealt a loss on Monday by Seattle.
In the meeting with the Mariners, Santana was dreadful to put it kindly. Not only did Seattle batters generate eight hits in just 4 2/3 innings, they also worked six bases-on-balls and struck out just once, leading to seven earned runs and the seventh loss in nine decisions for Santana.
On a positive note, in two career appearances against Colorado, Santana is 1-0 with a 3.29 ERA but that still doesn't make up for the fact that he is one of the league leaders in home runs allowed with 16.
Countering for the Rockies is rookie Christian Friedrich, who already has twice as many wins this season than Santana. The left-hander has won three consecutive outings, the most recent of those coming on Monday when he worked his way through seven shutout innings, permitting four hits and handing out a pair of walks while striking out four in a 4-0 win over Arizona on the road.
Outside of his loss to Seattle on May 19, when he was touched for eight runs on nine hits and four walks, Friedrich has issued no more than just two bases- on-balls in any one outing.
Obviously home runs are a big part of the game when playing at Coors Field, but that still doesn't completely explain why Colorado's pitching staff has been so dismal all season. Few clubs have been beaten up as badly as the Rockies, to the point where they have the highest team ERA in baseball (5.24), have logged the fewest quality starts (17) and have allowed the highest batting average against (.295) now through 58 games.
From an offensive standpoint the Rockies are trying to balance the scales with the fourth-most runs scored (293) and the fifth-highest slugging percentage (.445).
With Pujols slowly warming up and hopefully returning to form, the Angels find themselves in the middle of the pack when it comes to hitting with a collective .258 average, while their slugging is at .396 (16th in the majors).