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For Angels, no looking back at halfway point

Bullpen, aggressive baserunning key to club remaining above .500
MLB.com

LOS ANGELES -- With their 81st game of the season under their belt, the Angels have completed half of their season and stand at 41-40 following a 4-0 loss to the Dodgers on Tuesday night. The club has played much of its season with a pitching staff hampered by injuries to both starters and relievers alike.

Nonetheless, as manager Mike Scioscia says, the Angels have kept their heads above water and have hovered within at least two games of the .500 mark since April 25. They finished Tuesday one game back of an American League Wild Card spot.

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LOS ANGELES -- With their 81st game of the season under their belt, the Angels have completed half of their season and stand at 41-40 following a 4-0 loss to the Dodgers on Tuesday night. The club has played much of its season with a pitching staff hampered by injuries to both starters and relievers alike.

Nonetheless, as manager Mike Scioscia says, the Angels have kept their heads above water and have hovered within at least two games of the .500 mark since April 25. They finished Tuesday one game back of an American League Wild Card spot.

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"[Playing] .500 baseball is nothing to really throw a parade about," Scioscia said Monday. "But it's a start, and hopefully, we'll continue to get better."

For all their imperfections, there have been positives, starting with the bullpen. Entering Tuesday's contest, the unit had allowed just 21.1 percent of its inherited runners to score, the lowest mark in the American League and second-lowest in the Major Leagues. The group's collective 2.99 ERA in the month of June ranked second the American League entering Tuesday night, as well.

"We have a bullpen that's been terrific," Scioscia said following Tuesday's loss. "I think any team that has a bullpen that's formed the way ours is has a chance to keep their head above water and stay in a race, and that's what we are right now."

Offensively, the Halos' 74 stolen bases are tops in Major Leagues, a tribute to Scioscia taking advantage of the speed available on the roster.

"We're going to try and take every opportunity we can," Scioscia said. "There's been some ebbs and flows to that, but I think we have some more team speed this year than we've had in the last couple years. If the opportunity's there, we're going to try and take advantage of it, but it's something you can't force."

As players have settled in and broken out of early season slumps, the offensive production has returned in spurts, and for some, in stretches.

Right fielder Kole Calhoun has raised his batting average 42 points since the calendar flipped to May. Center fielder Cameron Maybin, who's swiped an American League-leading 24 bases, has turned into a key offensive piece in the absence of Mike Trout, primarily from the leadoff spot, where he's wielded a .342 batting average since moving to the top of the order.

The Angels have gone a surprising 15-13 since losing Trout, who began a stint on the 10-day disabled list on May 29 while nursing a torn UCL in his left thumb. Trout's 3.4 Wins Above Replacement, according to Baseball Reference, is tied for second-most in the American League.

"I think it's a cycle that would've happened whether Mike was injured or not," Scioscia said. "We had a lot of guys struggle early in the season."

Of course, there are tangible issues, too. The Angels' starting rotation is still mostly on the mend. Contributions from the likes of who's available, namely JC Ramirez and Alex Meyer, have kept the Halos in contention, though Scioscia says there's room for depth to be added and improvements to be made.

But for now, the Major League's longest-tenured skipper is focused on what he can control presently, something his players have echoed. They say daily improvement is necessary for the group to produce a successful season.

"I expect us to get better," Scioscia said. "There's no sense in looking back, no sense in looking at what's not here. We're confident in the fact that we're going to improve where we have to improve to reach our goal. We're not looking too far ahead, and hopefully do a little better job."

Kaelen Jones is a reporter for MLB.com based in Los Angeles.

Los Angeles Angels