Commentary

Angels should worry about Rangers

This Texas team has matured and doesn't figure to wilt as other recent squads have

Updated: May 19, 2010, 10:27 AM ET
By Mark Saxon | ESPNLosAngeles.com

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Texas Rangers trapped the Los Angeles Angels in their hot, windy ballpark and swept them out of town. They built a nice little 4½-game lead and, as they were wrapping it up, second baseman Ian Kinsler was caught by ESPN's cameras mouthing, "Get the [expletive] off our field."

That was 364 days ago, and everything seems to have come full circle, right back to where it began.

Yet after a practically identical scenario unfolded Tuesday night, after Texas beat the Angels 8-7 for a series sweep and built the same lead at the same time of year, Kinsler sounded far less emphatic. He was practically mouthing corporate-speak.

"It doesn't mean a whole lot, but at the same time, they're in our division," Kinsler said. "You want to beat teams that are in your division, there's no doubt about that."

The Angels would probably prefer the old Rangers, the team that was young and talented but had a little trouble harnessing its emotions. Those teams are less dangerous. This Texas team doesn't look as if it plans on falling apart or losing its cool. Even after the Angels got to Texas' red-hot young starter, C.J. Wilson, their own ace, Jered Weaver, couldn't make a lead stand up. Then the Angels' offense went back into its shell against five Texas relievers.

The upshot was more muted frustration from a team that seems far from steaming but bordering on stumped about its stop-start-stop season.

"We're not doing enough things consistently as you go out on a baseball field to get momentum and keep playing a good game, keep playing a good game, keep playing a good game, where you get a little momentum and get confidence from that," manager Mike Scioscia said. "We've been very hot and cold and I think there's a better team in that clubhouse."

[+] EnlargeJered Weaver
AP Photo/LM OteroJered Weaver had his worst outing since August 2009, giving up seven earned runs to the Rangers.

What figured to be a good night for pitching wasn't. Weaver and Wilson both had awful nights and Weaver said he felt "terrible" about not being able to protect a 7-3 lead. He couldn't shut the door in the fifth inning after he'd gotten two outs. Kinsler had a two-run shot, his first home run this year. Weaver's pitch count was uncharacteristically high, his stuff uncharacteristically soggy.

Scioscia felt the need to come out of his office to give Weaver a little pep talk at his locker after the game. It was Weaver's worst start since August 2009. He had given up six earned runs in his previous four starts combined before giving up seven to the Rangers on Tuesday.

"Any time you bring in garbage to a team like this in a stadium like this, you're going to get hit around," Weaver said. "Just not a lot working for me today. Things weren't really shaky. I just tried to keep them off-balance as much as possible, but they have a great lineup over there and I just wasn't able [to] get some outs when I needed to."

There are some differences from a year ago, enough to give the Angels pause. Now, Vladimir Guerrero plays for the Rangers. He went 2-for-4 with a home run Tuesday and finished with three runs scored and eight total bases in the two games. He's batting .345.

A year ago, Neftali Feliz was still pitching in the minor leagues. In this series, he pitched two perfect innings to pick up back-to-back saves. He struck out Erick Aybar with an 82 mph slider and his next pitch to Howie Kendrick was a 100 mph fastball Tuesday.

"He's definitely a prototypical power closer," Scioscia said.

The Texas bullpen hasn't given up a run in its last three games.

The Angels were also 18-18 a year ago after being swept here. Now, they're 18-23 and have lost 10 of their last 12 road games. As usual, they can fall back on the belief that there's plenty of season left. At some point, there won't be, of course.

"They're having a great start to their season. It's nice to get off to a good start. Lucky for us, it's kind of early, so hopefully we can bounce back and try to get something going," Weaver said.

It was actually a watershed day for the offense, but those things tend to happen in this ballpark. The Angels were the only team in the majors not to have scored more than four runs in an inning until they broke out for five off Wilson in the fourth. Torii Hunter hit a two-run home run and pumped his fist to his family members sitting behind the Angels' dugout.

Shoe shine

It wasn't the first time the Angels had seen him do something freakish, far from it, but it was the first time it hurt them.

Guerrero, one of the game's great bad-ball hitters, lunged awkwardly for a Weaver curveball a few inches off the ground and pulled it over the left-field scoreboard for a home run in the fourth inning.

That gave Guerrero the rare distinction of having homered against every major league franchise. He had faced the Angels previously in one interleague series while with the Montreal Expos but didn't go deep.

Guerrero became the 31st player to hit a home run against all 30 teams. It was also his 415th home run, ranking him 42nd all time. He broke a tie with Darrell Evans.

Quote of the day

"The guys picked me up against a guy having a great start of the year, got some runs for me and I let them down. I feel terrible about it." -- Weaver.

Looking ahead

Wednesday's game is a big one for Joe Saunders, who is trying to build a little positive momentum off his complete-game shutout Friday against the Oakland A's. It came out of the blue for Saunders (2-5, 4.96 ERA), who has struggled with his command all year. Saunders has given up one earned run in his last two starts after giving up 15 in the previous three games.

The Angels face Chicago White Sox left-hander John Danks (3-2, 2.25 ERA), which is good news for Bobby Abreu. Though Abreu is batting only .160 against lefties this year, he's 4-for-9 with two home runs and six walks against Danks in his career.

Mark Saxon covers the Angels for ESPNLosAngeles.com.

Mark Saxon

ESPNLosAngeles.com
Mark Saxon is a staff writer for ESPNLosAngeles.com. He spent six years at the Orange County Register, and began his career at the Oakland Tribune, where he started an 11-year journey covering Major League Baseball. He has also covered colleges, including USC football and UCLA basketball.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

MORE MLB HEADLINES