A weekend sweep of the Diamondbacks put the Angels in their rightful place…1st in the west!
I can’t say they deserved the ranking any earlier in the season. They looked woefully lost in April following the death of pitcher Nick Adenhart. They also had 3 of their ace starters on the DL and a bullpen that had a disturbing habit of giving games away in the final innings. There were cold bats, base running errors and a closer who had an extremely tough time finding the strike zone. But somehow, things came together and in recent weeks and we’ve seen the team really gel.
The Angels emerged from this final series with the Diamondbacks with the best record in the MLB for interleague play, 14-4. Anyone who wants to minimize that achievement needs to keep in mind that the Angels faced the Dodgers, the red-hot Rockies and the Giants, all of whom sent their very best to the mound.
I’m not at all surprised that the Angels are in sole possession of first place. I knew they’d get there eventually. Texas, Oakland and Seattle have all made instrumental changes to their teams that will keep this a tighter race than we’ve had in recent years. But I believe the Angels have that key formula that will take them all the way into the post-season.
They’ve got incredible defense, led by my ALL-STAR Torii Hunter, stealing HR’s and extra-base hits in center field. The infielders rarely fail to impress and have entertained us regularly with some amazing double-plays. The Angels’ offense is back on track with everyone in the line-up contributing from lead-off man, Chone Figgins, to their pitching staff who threw in a few hits of their own when given the chance during interleague play. The bullpen has settled down and closer Brian Fuentes has been outstanding during his latest outings. While this is all quite reassuring from a fan’s perspective, I believe the Angels once again have that one vital ingredient that has been lacking for the last few years.
Without real competition in the division, they haven’t needed it. Well, they’ve got competition now and the only way they’ll prevail is by having that one important element, that little bit of magic that carried them to a championship in 2002. What is it?
Baseball…it just tastes better.