The Angels went into the break hot and have picked up where they left off. At this rate, are they about to run away with the American League West?
When the first half of the 2015 season concluded last Sunday, the Los Angeles Angels found themselves somewhere they had not been since mid-April, occupying first place in the American League West.
The Halos finished the first half 7-3 over their last 10 games, a run of good form which allowed them to overtake the Houston Astros, who were just 2-8 in their last 10 of the first half, including dropping their final six games before the All-Star break.
Well, Mike Scioscia’s Angels have picked up right where they left off, taking the first two games of a three-game set with the Boston Red Sox at Angels Stadium, a pair of shutouts at that.
Houston, on the other hand, did snap its six-game losing skid on Friday by beating in-state rivals the Texas Rangers, but the denizens of Arlington returned the favor on Saturday by taking game two of the three-game series.
Sure, two games out of the break is hardly much of a sample size, but seeing as how the Angels, who are not only now getting great pitching, especially from their starters, but also offense from guys not just named Albert Pujols or Mike Trout, is there any reason to think this run of theirs will end in the foreseeable future?
It doesn’t appear so. And if that is indeed true, then where does that leave the Astros and the rest of the West?
The answer to that very well could be in the Halos’ wake.
The Angels’ starting rotation, especially Garrett Richards, who is now a 10-game winner and looking maybe even better than he did before suffering a torn patellar tendon in his left knee last August, when he was a legit AL Cy Young Award candidate, is a solid group to say the least.
Newcomer Hector Santiago has also been strong and has a 2.33 ERA, currently fourth-best in the AL.
Fellow starter CJ Wilson is currently only 7-7, but Wilson has again chewed up innings, throwing a team-high 123 innings through 19 starts. He did deserve a win on Friday at Boston, where he threw seven scoreless frames but got a no-decision, but Wilson has been pitching well on a fairly consistent basis this season.
Matt Shoemaker currently sits at 4-7, but he, too, has pitched well at times.
But the surprise of this group, other than Jered Weaver remaining on the disabled list with hip inflammation, has been Andrew Heaney, who is 3-0 with a 1.32 ERA in four starts.
Should Weaver return, which is likely, then Heaney gets pushed out of the rotation, which would be too bad. Either way, Halos starters have a combined ERA of 3.59, third-best in the AL.
The bullpen seems to have righted itself also, with an ERA of 3.47, sixth in the AL.
Offensively, shortstop Erick Aybar and outfielder Kole Calhoun have each recently stepped up to help ease some of the offensive burden off the shoulders of Pujols and Trout, but the Angels could use another decent bat prior to the MLB Trade Deadline at the end of the month.
Sure, the Astros had a nice first half, but seemed to run out of gas right before the break. They clearly have the pitching to go toe-to-toe with the Angels, but not the offense.
The Angels are also an experienced group who has been through a pennant race before, something many members of the Astros roster know little to nothing about.
Not saying that Houston can’t make a race out the division in the second half, but if the Astros don’t get things going in the other direction soon, it might be too little too late, and the Angels might be able to run and hide from the rest of the West.
Then again, anything it is the Wild, Wild West, where truly anything can and usually does happen.