The Los Angeles Angels came out strong to start off the second half of the season against the Oakland A’s. Busting out of the gates were the Angels top of the rotation, Jered Weaver and CJ Wilson, who both dominated the A’s to earn the first two victories of the three game weekend series.
The inconsistency of the first half of the season for the Angels was the pitching. Well, the pitching seems to be coming back strong as the Angels outscored the A’s 6-1 in the first two games of the series. With a 4-1 victory on Friday night and 2-1 victory on Saturday afternoon, the Angels move back to three games under .500 and nine games behind the division leading A’s.
Weaver got things started on Friday, after having a few shaky starts since coming off the disable list in June, Weaver looked like his old self and once again dominated the A’s. Weaver (4-5) allowed four hits in 6 2/3 innings while striking out a season-high eight and walking four while throwing a season-high 118 pitches to improve to 3-1 in July. Weaver extended his scoreless-innings streak against Oakland to 24 2/3 and since 2011, Weaver has dominated the A’s with a 7-1 record and 0.84 ERA in 10 starts.
The Angels also got help from the offense as they got home runs from Albert Pujols, Erick Aybar and Mike Trout. Pujols leads all active players with a career .335 average in the second half after slugging his 16th home run of the season while Trout hit his 16th home run as well.
Closer Ernesto Frieri came in the ninth inning to shut the door on the A’s to earn his 23rd save in 25 chances, on his 28th birthday no less.
Then it was Wilson’s turn on Saturday afternoon to dominate the A’s. Without getting behind in the hitter’s count, Wilson has found success as he retired 18 consecutive batters at one point in the close victory. Wilson (10-6) gave up three hits in 8 1/3 innings while striking out eight and walked two on 119 pitches on the night.
In his last seven starts, Wilson is 6-1 with a 1.70 ERA as he has found more of the strike zone and has lowered his walks ratio. Wilson has looked like the pitcher the Angels had hope for when they signed him to a big contract two offseason’s ago.
Josh Hamilton put the Angels on top 1-0 in the first inning with a sacrifice fly to left field that scored Trout, who extended his hitting streak to 12 games. Alberto Callaspo then hit a solo shot to right field to cement the 2-0 victory over the A’s. The Angels have won 13 straight games in which Hamilton has driven in a run.
Frieri came in for the final two outs of the game and earned his 24th save of the season as he struck out pinch-hitter John Jaso with runners on first and second.
Well, Sunday was a different story for the pitching as Jerome Williams didn’t last past five inning as he gave up six runs, four earned, on eight hits with three walks and four strikeouts. Williams, who has been mostly reliable in the rotation, just had a rough day out there.
After giving up only one run in the first two games, the Angels couldn’t contain the A’s offense for long as they came out swinging with a 6-o lead in the first five innings. Second baseman Eric Sogard, hitting in the ninth spot, got the party started with a two-run home run to right field in the third inning.
Then Sogard scored in the fifth inning on a throwing error by Callaspo who was trying to throw out the speedy Coco Crisp at first base. Crisp later scored on a Brandon Moss single to left field to extend the lead to 4-0.
The A’s then got two more runs in the sixth inning on two throwing errors, one by catcher Chris Iannetta and one by first baseman Mark Trumbo to extend the lead to 6-0.
Despite the loss on Sunday, the Angels still had a strong showing this weekend against the AL West leading A’s and have given the Angels hope as their top two pitchers have begun to pitch like the pitchers the Angels envisioned. The question now is if they can keep it up but so far so good.