Anaheim has to feel fortunate that Tommy Hanson (4-2 5.10) is returning from the DL for the first time in just over a month after suffering from a forearm strain. The right-hander's return should be a major plus for an Angels rotation that is still missing Jason Vargas, who has been out since mid-June with a blood clot in his left armpit. With approximately 66 games remaining, it could provide streaky Anaheim with one more run at one of the AL wildcards as their inconsistencies in pitching and offense are taking quite their tolls here in late July.
Hanson faces a Minnesota lineup that despite averaging just over 4 runs per game has tanked cashing in on opportunities all season long. A lack of patience combined with a lack of power and an over-aggressive approach has resulted in just a .244 collective batting average hitting just 87 HR. Injuries to their regulars are also to blame but don't tell that to Joe Mauer (.324 8 34) who is second in the AL in hitting and leads the Twins in hits, doubles, runs scored and walks. Justin Morneau (.270 7 52) has seen his numbers drop due to inefficiency however still has plenty of time to make the most of an otherwise disappointing season. Josh Willingham (.224 10 36) has been out 3 weeks undergoing knee surgery and much more was expected out of Trevor Plouffe (.259 10 36). Ryan Doumit (.235 9 40) has also struggled as has Brian Dozier (.233 8 35) although the offense has a chance to put their stamp on this series early not knowing what to expect from Hanson.
The Twins counter with Kyle Gibson (2-2 6.45) who last time out gave up three runs and walked four over five innings in another shaky outing, but the offense provided enough support for a 10-4 win over the New York Yankees on July 14. Gibson has only 4 starts in the majors, but hopes to work on his efficiency in the second half that could provide a permanent spot in an otherwise vulnerable rotation. Gibson faces an Angels lineup that could use all the offensive help they can get having averaged 2.1 runs while dropping 5 of their last 7. The halos had re-surged just around the ASB and are now averaging nearly 4.6 runs per contest despite remaining 5 games under .500 at 46-51. Anaheim is hitting .267 overall with 106 HR led by Mike Trout (.323 16 61) who is 3rd in the AL in hitting while leading the club with 124 hits, 29 two-baggers, 61 RBI and 21 stolen bases caught just 4 times (84%). Howie Kendrick (.308 11 41) has been instrumental over the past few months leading the Angels right back to respectability with some clutch hitting. Mark Trumbo (.246 21 57) leads the Angels in long balls but must bear down and improve on his efficiency as well as his 102 K's in just 372 AB's. It also has been a struggle for Albert Pujols (.249 16 58) and most fans are hoping he can have a strong second half considering he is used to slow starts. The same could be said for Josh Hamilton (.224 14 41) who has been a major disappointment conducive of Texas knowing what they were doing.
We get a decent price this evening at the A where winds are relatively calm, the ball has no trouble carrying out to right and right center field, and is aided by a couple of pitchers trying to find their niche. Right-handed pull hitters may be challenged straight out to left and left center, the deepest parts of the park. The return of Hanson could be challenged by Minnesota, who has enjoyed playing the role of spoiler against teams that sit right on the brink of dimly lit postseason hopes. Hanson hopes to put forth a more respectable effort with hopes of giving the Angels at least one more postseason run in them. Tonight we look for our 5th straight. Best of luck however you play!