Mike Scioscia’s Angels are, with 10 games left, undeniably the best team in the American League and perhaps the best team in baseball.
They pitch the front end and the back end. They don’t score a ton of runs, but they score them in a lot of different ways. They hardly ever strike out and they steal bases without fear and they go first to third without conscience. Their defense hasn’t been bad, especially considering they’ve haven’t had a single infielder start as many as 100 games at any one position.
The Angels won’t have a losing month and they’re going to win their division by, oh, 20 games or so.
It was all pretty easy.
And if the playoffs were to start today, they’d be … kind of a mess.
Let us count the ways:
Vladimir Guerrero’s right knee.
Chone Figgins’ right elbow.
Howie Kendrick’s left hamstring.
Erick Aybar’s left hamstring.
Juan Rivera’s right hip.
Francisco Rodriguez’s command.
John Lackey’s September (6.57 ERA).
Most of the bullpen’s September (5.13 ERA).
The better news:
Guerrero’s September, when he has been on the field (.419 batting average).
Garret Anderson’s September (.353).
Gary Matthews Jr.’s September (.341).
Torii Hunter’s September (.317).
Mark Teixeira’s September (.300, 13 RBI).
Most pressing, assuming Lackey is OK and Rodriguez is simply coming down from an emotional couple weeks, is Kendrick’s hamstring. He hasn’t had a big-league at-bat in three weeks. Mike Scioscia has set Wednesday as the in-or-out deadline for his second baseman. If Kendrick can’t go, and Figgins’ elbow is further complicating, the Angels could open the playoffs with a patchwork infield and batting order. Among the options: Figgins at second base, Robb Quinlan/Brandon Wood at third and Aybar, also in recovery mode, at short. Another: Sean Rodriguez at second, Figgins at third, Aybar at short. A third: Wood at short, Aybar at second, pick your man at third.
You get the idea. The Angels still have a lot to do.
Spoiler alert: The Astros have reached a point where they probably can’t lose again and still catch the Mets/Brewers/Phillies for the wild card. I know, I know, they had to play home games in Milwaukee. It’s an outrage. Write the commissioner. They draw Pittsburgh Pirates' right-hander Ian Snell tonight, which ought to be a good thing, since they’ve seen Snell three times this season and hit him reasonably well. But, nothing is easy for the Astros these days.
ROY boy: Congratulations to Evan Longoria, who won the AL Rookie of the Year on Thursday night. You know at the U.S. Open, when some guy is up by four shots walking along the 18th fairway, they always show the engraver chiseling the name in the base of the trophy?
The AL ROY plaque has Evan Lon etched into it. The g is half done.
As the Rays crept up on the postseason berth that fell out of the sky, Longoria hit three home runs; in the first inning off Glen Perkins, in the fourth inning off Phil Humber, and in the seventh inning off Bobby Korecky. They were numbers 23, 24 and 25, along with RBI numbers 75 through 78.
Mets bullpen moment of the day: Joe Smith and Scott Schoeneweis had their moments, but that’s the beauty of a six-run lead after seven innings. It allows for Smith and Schoeneweis moments. Bullpen ERA for September: 3.83.
Saito unplugged: The ninth inning has occasionally seemed too big for Jonathan Broxton, which is saying something; He goes 6-foot-4 and somewhere around 250 pounds. His jersey is actually the backup tarp at Dodger Stadium. So, the Dodgers would love to feather Takashi Saito back into the late innings. Working back from a sprained elbow ligament, Saito pitched Monday for the first time in two months and then again Thursday. With 10 days left in the regular season, Saito lacks the breaking-ball command and fastball velocity that made him so effective before the elbow went. He pitched at 88-89 mph against the Pirates, where he’d typically been in the mid-90s. Saito threw 25 pitches in an untidy sixth inning, and Pirates hitters swung and missed at one of them.
They’re goin’ for 100: Nice job by the Mariners, showing the form and heart that got John McLaren canned. It’s not easy to do, but they were swept in back-to-back four-game series, by the Angels and Royals.
Tonight: Fresh series all around (except in St. Pete, where the Twins and Rays got started Thursday). In Florida, the Phillies give the ball to Brett Myers, who has come back from a month in the minors with results that match his incredible stuff. Top five NL ERAs by starters since the All-Star break: CC Sabathia 1.72, Brett Myers 1.80, Randy Johnson 2.28, Tim Lincecum 2.30, Roy Oswalt 2.35. Twelfth on that list: Josh Johnson, 3.15. He opposes Myers tonight for the Marlins, who already have won as many games in September (11) as they did in August.