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Pitching settles in, and Angels succeed

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Howie Kendrick has quietly been one of the Angels best hitters this season

The Los Angeles Angels are suddenly among the hottest teams in baseball. Since May 18 they have won 10 of 12 games.

During that span they lead the league in on-base percentage at .363 and are averaging six runs per game.

The pitching staff has settled down with a 3.06 ERA in the last dozen games. A big reason has been new addition Jason Vargas.

Settling in

Jason Vargas

Vargas

After going 0-3 in April, Vargas is 5-0 in May, allowing two runs or fewer in five of his six starts. Vargas’ changeup has keyed his success this month as opponents have missed on 41 percent of their swings against the pitch. Eighteen of Vargas’ 31 strikeouts in May came on changeups. Location-wise, he’s been able to spot the pitch low-and-away to both lefties and righties.

Howie stepping up

Lost in a lot of the Halos' early season struggles is the fact that Howie Kendrick has been hitting the ball with a lot of authority. Kendrick has 44 well-hit balls this season. The only Angel with more is Mike Trout with 45.

A year after hitting eight home runs the entire season, Kendrick has seven at the season’s one-third mark.

Kendrick is punishing mistake pitches up in the strike zone, hitting .435 on those pitches. That ranks 11th in baseball.

Today’s matchup

Dallas Keuchel (HOU) vs Tommy Hanson (LAA)

Tommy Hanson This Season

A couple of days after Jered Weaver made a successful return to the hill, Hanson will look to do the same. Hanson hasn’t pitched since May 4 because of a death in the family, but he’s strung together a few strong starts in a row.

It will be interesting to see what type of stuff Hanson brings to the mound as his last start saw him average a season low 86 MPH on his fastball. He topped out at 87 MPH in the start.