Three keys for Angels in Game 3 against Royals
Halos' offense looking to break through in support of Wilson
ANAHEIM -- The first two games of this American League Division Series offered up nearly identical scripts: Solid starting pitching, very little offense, 11th-inning Royals home runs and a couple of Angels losses.
The Angels -- in the playoffs for the first time in four years, as baseball's No. 1 seed -- face a daunting 0-2 hole and need back-to-back wins in Kansas City for a chance to save their season. You can't win two without winning one, of course. So here are three keys for the Angels to finally get on the board in Sunday's Game 3 …
1. The good C.J. Wilson needs to show up
It was very much a Jekyll-and-Hyde season for Wilson, who finished it with a 4.51 ERA and 4.4 walks per nine innings. He pitched seven shutout innings against the Mariners on Sept. 17, gave up six runs (four earned) in two-thirds of an inning against the A's on Sept. 22 and finished his year with six innings of one-run ball in Seattle last Saturday.
Pitching in what will be an electric Kauffman Stadium, on the same mound as ace James Shields and against a hungry Royals team on the brink of advancing, will be a huge challenge for the 33-year-old left-hander. Like Jered Weaver and Matt Shoemaker before him, Wilson needs to give the Angels a chance.
2. Do the little things
Runs are at a premium in this series, if these first two games are any indication. Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, Howie Kendrick and Josh Hamilton have one hit among them, and the Angels have managed a combined three runs. That's a big reason they lost these first two games, of course.
But so was Trout losing Alex Gordon's flare in the lights in Game 1, or Kole Calhoun misplaying Eric Hosmer's base hit in Game 2, or Collin Cowgill getting thrown out trying to tag up to third in the eighth inning on Friday, or Mike Scioscia calling for a sacrifice bunt in three straight innings on Thursday. Execution and in-game decisions decided these first two games every bit as the lack of offense.
3. Take it one game at a time
It's the worst cliche in sports, but it's the mentality the Angels must take as this series shifts to Kansas City. Since the Wild Card first came into play in 1995, 17 teams lost the first two games of a Division Series at home. Only two of them -- the 2012 Giants and the 2001 Yankees -- came back to win that series.
The Angels don't need a miracle, but they need a three-game winning streak. And, as Pujols said, "We need to catch some breaks." They didn't get any at Angel Stadium, and they still played two close, down-to-the-wire games against a very good team. It's something to be encouraged about. ... Right?