Opposite dugout: Star power of Trout and Pujols has Angels poised for another postseason run

angelslogo.jpgManager: Mike Scioscia (16th season)

Record: 57-50

Last 10 games: 3-7

Who to watch: CF Mike Trout (.303/.394/.611 with 32 HR, 68 RBIs, 6.7 WAR), RF Kole Calhoun (.277/.330/.438 with 15 HR, 59 RBIs), 1B Albert Pujols (.257/.316/.519 with 30 HR, 66 RBIs), RHP Garrett Richards (11-8, 3.46 ERA), RHP Houston Street (26 saves, 2.66 ERA)

Season series vs. Orioles: 2-1

Pitching probables:

Aug. 7: RHP Kevin Gausman vs. LHP Andrew Heaney, 10:05 p.m., MASN2
Aug. 8: RHP Ubaldo Jimenez vs. RHP Garrett Richards, 9:05 p.m., MASN2
Aug. 9: TBA vs. TBA, 3:37 p.m., MASN2

Inside the Angels:

The Angels have a tough race for the division ahead of them. After entering the All-Star break a half game up on the Astros in the American League West, they now find themselves 2 1/2 games back from Houston. Los Angeles has been streaky to start the second half of the season, coming out of the break with a six-game win streak, but suffering a six-game losing streak that ended just last week. Although they are currently the first wild card team in the AL, the Halos need consistency to catch back up to the Astros.

One would figure with the star power of center fielder Mike Trout and first baseman Albert Pujols, the Angels offense would be blowing teams away offensively. But Los Angeles' slash line of .246/.308/.392 ranks in the lower half of the American League. They also rank near the bottom in runs (447) and runs batted in (425), and are second-to-last with 881 hits. Their sixth-best 118 home runs have helped produce runs for the Angels, but even then they still rank behind division rivals Houston and Seattle, the Yankees and Blue Jays, and this weekend's opponent, the Orioles.

On the other hand, the Angels pitching has done well in Anaheim. They rank in the American League Top 5 in ERA (3.60), shutouts (19), 62 quality starts and runs (403, with 381 earned). They also walk one of the fewest batters (281) even though they don't strike out too many (795). Opponents' .243 batting average against L.A.'s pitching is also good for fourth-best in the league.

The Angels are led by one of, if not the best, players in the game. Mike Trout leads the Halos in every major offensive category. His .303/.394/.611 slash line leads all of L.A.'s eligible batters, while his slugging percentage is second in all of baseball. And his major league-leading 32 home runs, complemented by 68 RBIs and AL-best 6.7 WAR, have Trout as a serious contender for his second straight American League Most Valuable Player award. Trout's 10 home runs against the Orioles are his most against a non-division opponent. Along with Trout is veteran slugger Albert Pujols who, again, has put up some big numbers at the plate. His slash line of .257/.316/.519 isn't really intimidating pitchers, but his AL third-best 30 longballs along with 66 RBIs sure are, if not his name alone.

With Trout and Pujols taking all the power numbers, the Angels have solid batters who can get the job done to fill out the rest of their lineup. Right fielder Kole Calhoun is second to Trout on the team batting .277, while also hitting for a .330 on-base percentage and .438 slugging percentage. He has also knocked 15 homers and 59 RBIs. Shortstop Erick Aybar is slashing .273/.312/.334 with 35 runs batted in, and second baseman Johnny Giavotella has added a .264 average with his own 37 RBIs. Third baseman David Freese usually fills out the rest of the Angels' infield, but he has been on the disabled list since July 23 with a fractured right index finger. Freese's contributions this year have mainly been his 11 homers and 43 RBIs.

Left-handed rookie Andrew Heaney will start this series off for the Halos at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Since coming to L.A. in the offseason, Heaney joined the Angels rotation in late June and started off great. After getting a no-decision in his first start of the season, Heaney won five in a row. Although he got double-digit run support in three of those outings, he still pitched for a 1.83 ERA over the winning streak. He suffered his first loss on the season last Saturday when he pitched 5 1/3 innings against the Dodgers while only giving up four hits, two runs, two walks and striking out three. His 1.97 ERA on the season is the best of any Angels starter this season even if in limited outings. Heaney is undefeated at home this season, going 3-0 with a 2.08 ERA in four starts, and has never faced the Orioles.

Right-hander Garrett Richards will bring his 11-8 record and 3.46 ERA against the Orioles on Saturday. If there is one thing Richards has done this season, it's get results. He has earned a decision in all but one of his starts, a game in which he pitched seven innings of one-run ball with the Angels having to win in walk-off fashion. He also pitched a complete-game shutout on July 18 against the Red Sox in which he only gave up two hits and one walk while striking out six. Richards is 7-2 with a 2.36 ERA at home this season, but something has to prove this weekend. He has never beaten the Orioles in three starts over seven appearances with a 5.70 ERA against Baltimore.

Neither the Angels nor the Orioles have officially announced their starters for Sunday's finale. If the rotation stays the same for L.A., right-hander Matt Shoemaker (5-7, 4.01 ERA) will get the start, while we'll wait to see if Chris Tillman gets the nod for the O's or is pushed back a day. Stay tuned for updates.

The Angels have been able to ride Trout and Pujols' outstanding seasons and will continue to do so baring a huge setback. After posting the best record in the American League last year, the Angels are once again looking like a strong playoff team. While they have their sights on the Astros for the division title, they can't look too far ahead with five teams behind them within three games for a wild card spot. The Orioles are only 1 1/2 game out from the Twins for the second wild card team and two games away from Los Angeles. So if the Angels are going to make up for their disappointing postseason last year, they need to take the rest of this year one series at a time.

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