It seems like little more than a hazy memory now, but the Yankees and Angels played each other six times in April, each taking two of three at home from the other. They’ll finish their season series in the next 24 hours with a two-game set that will kick off at 7:05 tonight in the Bronx and should wrap up before the end of the work day tomorrow.
Despite the departures of John Lackey and Chone Figgins, the Angels were my pre-season pick to win the American League West, but with the Rangers’ 4.5-game lead and recent acquisition of Cliff Lee, I can’t see the second place halos catching up. Obviously, I didn’t anticipate Kendry Morales’ suffering a season-ending broken leg during a walk-off celebration at home plate on May 29. Nor did I expect that third baseman Brandon Wood would be such a total bust at the plate (.168/.185/.225). The Angels appeared to solve their hot corner problem with former Giants second base prospect Kevin Frandsen, but Frandsen has hit just .136/.200/.162 since June 30 and is a far inferior fielder to Wood.
I expected better things from ex-Yankees Hideki Matsui, who is making the Bombers look bright for letting him go by hitting just .249/.329/.393 and slugging just .359 since the end of April, and Bobby Abreu, who’s .259/.351/.412 is his worst across the board since he was a rookie with the Astros last century.
I also expected better things from the Anaheim rotation, which I repeatedly described as “five deep.” Jeff Weaver, Scott Kazmir, Ervin Santana, Joe Saunders, Joel Piñeiro seemed like a solid quintet in April, but Kazmir has been awful (6.92 ERA, 1.22 K/BB) and just hit the disabled list with a bum shoulder, and Saunders has been erratic (4.83 ERA, 1.32 K/BB).
As a team, the Angels have been below average in both runs scored and runs allowed this season and, despite their 50-45 record entering this series, they have been out-scored on the season. That’s a large part of the reason that I think the AL West race is over: the Rangers are the only team in the division with a positive run differential and they just got better with the addition of Lee.
Sean O’Sullivan takes Kazmir’s spot in the rotation tonight. A 22-year-0ld righty, O’Sullivan posted a 5.92 ERA in ten starts and two relief appearances as a rookie last year. This year, he’s made just four relief appearances in the majors (albeit with good results), and had a 4.76 ERA in 15 Triple-A starts.
O’Sullivan will face Phil Hughes, who last pitched at Angel Stadium, taking the loss in the All-Star game by giving up singles to two of the three batters he faced. Hughes ended the first half with a strong outing against the punchless Mariners (7 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 5 K), but had just one quality start in his previous four outings (7.03 ERA). With Andy Pettitte heading to the DL with a groin injury that will keep him out until the end of August, the Yankees need Hughes to get back on track.
Pettitte officially goes on the DL tonight. Expect Jonathan Albaladejo, who has been dominating out of the Scranton pen, to take his spot for now, with another move being made Saturday to allow Sergio Mitre to be activated to take Pettitte’s place in the rotation (though I’d rather see Mitre return to the bullpen and Ivan Nova get that chance).