Texas' Josh Hamilton was the runaway favorite to win the AL MVP in the season's early going, and was still the front-runner at the All-Star break. However, in just over a week's time, however, the leading contender - or contenders - might go to a pair of Angels. Mark Trumbo and Mike Trout look to continue their hitting tears and help the Angels pull within four games of the AL West-leading Rangers on Saturday.
Opening this series six games out of first place - its largest deficit of July - Los Angeles (51-43) beat Texas (55-37) 6-1 in Friday's opener. Jered Weaver pitched seven innings to earn his 12th victory, while Trumbo hit his 27th homer and Trout added his 15th. Trout, the AL leader with a .354 average, is batting .425 during a nine-game hitting streak, and is 3 for 6 with a homer and double against probable starter Yu Darvish (10-6, 3.96 ERA). The leadoff hitter also has three home runs in his last four contests, which is nothing compared to Trumbo's recent run. The Angels' cleanup hitter has seven homers in his last 11 games, and is now within one of the AL lead behind Chicago's Adam Dunn and the slumping Hamilton. Trumbo could have trouble tacking on to his homer total, though, given that he is hitless in five at-bats against Darvish.
Hamilton was hitting .404 with 18 home runs and 45 RBIs in his first 35 games but has cooled off considerably. He is 5 for 35 (.143) with two home runs and four RBIs in his last 10 contests, and following Friday's game, his batting average fell to .299, the first time all season it dipped below .300. Anaheim counters Darvish with Ervin Santana (4-9 5.60) who has not been on top of his game as of late. He's 0-1 with a 11.05 ERA over his last 3 starts, with the Angels losing each. Against Detroit on Monday, he gave up four runs - two earned - with eight hits in six innings of an 8-6 loss, but didn't get the decision. Santana hasn't enjoyed much success against the Rangers, going 1-3 with a 6.19 ERA in his last five starts in the series.
Darvish, who is 1-1 with a 3.86 ERA in his two starts against the Angels, allowed seven runs, eight hits and four walks in 6 1-3 innings of a 7-0 loss to Seattle on Saturday. He dropped to 1-5 with a 6.00 ERA in his last six road starts. One of those outings came at Angel Stadium on June 2, when he yielded three runs and six hits while striking out seven in 6 1-3 innings of a 3-2 loss.
We get a bit of an inflated price here given both pitcher's recent struggles, but given the game is right in Fox's prime time slot and taking place during the sunny and warm hours of Saturday, we expect the offenses to take advantage this afternoon. The Rangers might no longer be playing .600 ball, but still rely on a balanced and powerul offense to get the job done as evident by their .277 clip and 108 HRs. While Hamilton (.299 28 78) looks to get back on track, it certainly doesn't hurt to have Adrian Beltre (.321 17 59) picking you up as the All-Star leads the Rangers in hitting while putting up some solid all around numbers. Mike Napoli (.231 12 31) has been quite a disappointment this season seemingly pressing while battling injuries. Same goes true for Nelson Cruz (.263 11 54) who has not delivered in key situations with runners in scoring position. Ian Kinsler (.272 10 43) can sure use some momentum to get things going and Santana is going to have to right the ship if the halos lok to cut even further into their second place deficit. Meanwhile, timely hitting and effective pitching has boosted the Angels chances as one of the darkhorses in the postseason chase. They are hitting about .270 overall led by Trumbo (.307 27 66) and Trout (.354 15 46) while Albert Pujols (.281 17 57) has found his niche after going homerless the first month and a half of the campaign. Having Kenrdry Morales (.278 9 35) from a freak home plate injury 2 seasons ago along with veteran leadership from Torii Hunter (.268 10 39), and Darvish may have to have something extra in the tank in order to rgain his early season success. Best of luck however you play!