The Los Angeles Angels came into the season with expectations of a World Series run. The signing of Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson indicated to many that this franchise was ready now to play with the big boys. Never afraid to spend money, the off-season moves indicated an even more aggressive shopping mentality, and put the Angels in contention to unseat the Rangers in the American League West.
Overcoming a slow start by both Pujols and the team during the season's opening month, manager Mike Scioscia had nevertheless guided his team to within shouting distance of first-place Texas. After a 2-1 loss in Oakland on May 21, the last place Angels were eight games behind the front-running Rangers. But over the next two months, they found themselves playing incredible baseball, keyed by the Cy Young-type run by ace Jered Weaver, and the increased production from a suddenly hot Pujols.
A huge four-game series in Arlington saw the Angels take the first two from the Rangers, the latter a 6-2 win to improve Weaver's record to 14-1 on the season. Pulling to within three games of the division lead, the momentum was undoubtably on the Angels side, and it seemed as if they had finally put themselves in the driver's seat to take over the division from the two-time defending American League champions.
The Weaver win was on July 31, giving L.A. a record of 57-47. Once the calendar turned to August however, the team took a nose-dive downward, losing 11 of 16, and falling dangerously close to becoming irrelevant for the playoff push. Weaver has lost back-to-back starts, including getting shelled last night 12-3 by the Rays, giving up a career-worst nine runs while falling to 15-3. Wilson has won just one start since June 26, and while pitching decently enough, is allowing too many base-runners, three times walking five batters during this two-month stretch.
The emergence of Mike Trout has been the biggest bright spot for the Angels this season, and Pujols putting things together is helping the cause. Add to that the continued growth of first basemen Mark Trumbo (.286, 29 HR, 74 RBI), and Los Angeles does have the offense to make things interesting as the season winds down. But the pitching needs to improve significantly down the stretch, as L.A. has surrended at least seven runs or more on eight separate occasions this month. If they don't, it could end up costing Scioscia his job, as those kind of whispers are already starting to circulate.