If the Anaheim Angels want to repeat as World Series champions, they’ll have to make up even more ground in the second half of 2003 than they did in last season’s run to the title.
Playing some of their best baseball of the season, the Angels look for their season-high sixth straight win as they begin the second half with a four-game series against the Baltimore Orioles.
Anaheim is 8 1/2 games behind the first-place Seattle Mariners in the AL West, compared to being three games back at last year’s All-Star break. The Angels were as many as 13 1/2 games off the pace as recently as June 27, but they won five straight and 12 of 16 before the All-Star festivities.
The Angels trail the wild card-leading Boston Red Sox by 5 1/2 games.
“The World Series comes with a lot of things going your way—a lot of magic happening,” Angels hitting coach Mickey Hatcher said. “Sometimes it takes a while to get back to that level of baseball. The magic hasn’t been there like it was last year, but as of late, we’ve been playing very well.”
One member of the Angels who has been playing well lately is Garret Anderson. The 31-year-old left fielder entered the break with an eight-game hitting streak, and continued his strong play by winning the Home Run Derby and then the MVP award in the AL’s 7-6 All-Star victory in Chicago on Tuesday.
Anderson, who outslugged St. Louis’ Albert Pujols to win the derby Monday night, had a single, double, homer and two RBIs in four at-bats Tuesday.
“It’s been a good year, and this year’s not over yet,” said Anderson, who leads Anaheim with a .316 average, 22 homers and 78 RBIs.
Baltimore limped into the break with losses in five of seven, including a three-game sweep to the Oakland Athletics last weekend.
It was a strange weekend for the Orioles as the pitchers allowed just eight runs in the three games, but the offense produced only three runs and was shut out twice. The Orioles are 11th in the majors with 460 runs scored, but rank 22nd with a 4.86 team ERA.
“We just couldn’t score any runs, it’s our fault,” Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts said. “We got three great pitching performances this weekend and didn’t score in two of those games.”
STANDINGS: Angels - 3rd place, 8 1/2 GB, AL West. Orioles - 4th place, 15 GB, AL East.
ANGELS PROBABLE STARTER: Ramon Ortiz (11-6, 4.41 ERA). After falling to a season-worst 4-5 on May 28, Ortiz has gone 7-1 with a 3.35 ERA over his last eight starts. He has allowed four or more earned runs in just two of those outings, and is averaging six innings pitched over that span.
ORIOLES PROBABLE STARTER: Rodrigo Lopez (2-5, 5.65 ERA). The right-hander has gone 2-2 with a 4.25 ERA in six starts since returning from a six-week absence due to a strained muscle in his left side. Lopez, however, is starting to regain his form of 2002 when he won 15 games as a rookie. He has allowed just four runs in his past 21 2-3 innings after giving up a season high-tying eight runs in a 13-8 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays on June 26.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Angels - Anderson, .316 avg., 22 HRs and 78 RBIs; Troy Glaus, 52 runs; Adam Kennedy, 11 SBs. Orioles - Melvin Mora, .349 avg. and 56 runs; Tony Batista, 16 HRs; Jeff Conine and Jay Gibbons, 63 RBIs; Roberts and Jerry Hairston, 14 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Orioles, 4-1.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Angels - Anaheim’s .533 winning percentage is the sixth-lowest at the All-Star break among the last 20 teams that won a World Series the previous year. … LF Anderson is 3-for-18 (.167) against Baltimore this season, and is a career .227 hitter against the Orioles. … RHP Ortiz is 0-1 against Baltimore in two starts this season despite posting a 2.25 ERA in those outings. Orioles - Baltimore has three players with 60 or more RBIs at the All-Star break for just the second time in team history. 1B Conine, OF Gibbons and 3B Batista are the second trio to accomplish the feat after Rafael Palmeiro, Cal Ripken and Brady Anderson did it in 1996. … The Orioles are averaging 7.6 runs against the Angels this season, 2.5 more than their overall average. … LF Mora, Baltimore’s only All-Star representative, pinch-ran and scored a run in the AL’s win on Tuesday night.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Angels - 20-23 on the road; Orioles - 21-24 at home.
INJURIES: Angels - DH Brad Fullmer (knee), 15-day DL; RHP Mickey Callaway (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Matt Wise (elbow), 60-day DL. Orioles - OF Larry Bigbie (shoulder), 15-day DL; LHP Omar Daal (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Willis Roberts (elbow), 15-day DL; LHP Erik Bedard (elbow), 60-day DL; RHP Scott Erickson (shoulder), 60-day DL; 2B Hairston (foot), 60-day DL; OF Albert Belle (hip), 60-day DL; OF Marty Cordova (elbow), 60-day DL.