ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Mark Saxon, our good friend from ESPNLosAngeles.com, sizes up this three-game series by updating us on the Angels. Here goes:
Q: What's the attitude right now in the clubhouse? Are the Angels surprised that while the division is over, they still have a lot to play for in these final three games?
MS: No, they're kind of just rolling with it. They weren't playing very well for a while, losing games to mediocre teams, but they got the wheels back on, it appears. We all knew these games would be big, right? We just didn't know why.
Q: Since Mike Scioscia decided to go with Jered Weaver and Ervin Santana on short rest, how have they done? Do you see a difference because of it and looking back now, do you think it was the right decision?
MS: He did it a second time with Weaver when the Angels were in Baltimore. That looks like a sound decision now because it will get Weaver another start, on Wednesday. It's hard to say how it will play out in the long run. Weaver has already thrown more innings than ever in his career and his fastball velocity is down, but he's still been effective. The Angels will be thrilled if that Wednesday start means something.
Q: Did you notice anything about Mark Trumbo since the big walkoff homer that helped get the Angels going? Has that been a springboard for him?
MS: Trumbo was voted by the players as the team MVP, for good reason. He leads the club in home runs and RBIs. But he has been struggling lately, in part because he is playing on an injured right ankle. I wouldn't be surprised if he misses Monday night's game.
Q: How has the Angels bullpen performed?
MS: Generally, it has performed poorly. It leads the league in blown saves. Some of that falls on the offense, which rarely gives the relievers more than a one-run lead to protect. The closer, Arlington native
Jordan Walden, has been quite good lately. The setup guy, Scott Downs, has been virtually flawless. Beyond that, it's a quagmire. Fernando Rodney started the season as the closer, moved to the eighth inning,
then mop-up man and, now, he never pitches. Lately, he has been grumbling about his role to anyone who will listen, which apparently doesn't include Mike Scioscia.
Q: Give us a quick scouting report on how the big-3 arms are doing. The Rangers are scheduled to see all of them this series.
MS: Gee, Richard, I would think that by now you'd know who Santana, Haren and Weaver are. The interesting thing about the latter two is that they're pitching well with radically reduced fastball velocity. Weaver's average fastball has been about 88 mph in September. He used to throw 94. Haren has had a similar drop. Both guys have excellent command and secondary pitches. Santana has been a little more up-and-down, but generally stout. He throws harder and has a nasty slider.
Q: Anything else we should know about the Angels?
MS: Have you seen the tiebreaker for a three-way tie in the wild card? This is a long way from happening, but if it did, the Angels could have to play in Anaheim Wednesday night, at Boston Thursday, back in Anaheim Friday and in New York on Saturday. Sounds fun, huh? Compared to the alternative, I guess it is.