BASEBALL TONIGHT EXTRA
Yes, the Yankees may be the hottest team in the American League over the past week, but if you look at the way things have gone over the past month or so, the most dominant and most consistent team has been the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
After dealing with some injury woes in April, the Angels have rebounded quite nicely, posting a 24-9 mark since May 9. Vladimir Guerrero carried the team in that first month and his contributions were significant again in Wednesday's 6-3 win over Cincinnati.
But it's been more than Guerrero that has the Angels dominating the AL West. Unexpected contributors like Orlando Cabrera, Mike Napoli, Casey Kotchman (he's batting .417 since May 9) and the return to form of spark plug Chone Figgins have jolted the Angels' offense big time. Throw in some very strong starting pitching led by John Lackey and mistake-free work from the bullpen and the team's success isn't all that surprising.
FORWARD THINKING: THURSDAY
• Angels at Reds, 12:35 ET: Bartolo Colon (5-2, 5.70) missed his last scheduled start due to right triceps tendinitis. The Reds' Homer Bailey (1-0, 3.60) won his big league debut June 8 against Cleveland, allowing two earned runs over five innings while throwing 114 pitches.
• Rockies at Red Sox, 7:05 ET: Colorado's Jeff Francis (5-5, 3.81) is 4-1 with a 2.12 ERA in his past seven starts. Josh Beckett (9-0, 2.88) is 4-0 with a 2.81 ERA in five career starts against the Rockies.
• Braves at Twins, 8:10 ET: The Braves' Tim Hudson (6-4, 3.51), who was 5-1 with a 1.77 ERA on May 15, has tailed off, allowing five or more earned runs in four of his past five starts. It's hard to believe that the 2006 AL Cy Young winner Johan Santana (6-6, 3.24) is a .500 pitcher. The Twins have scored a total of six runs in his past four losses.
NEWS AND NOTES
• Houston reliever Dan Wheeler blew a save, then shoved starter Chris Sampson in the dugout on Wednesday night. Wheeler left after giving up three runs in the eighth inning in a 7-3 loss to the visiting Athletics. "There's nothing going on," Wheeler said. "I love Chris. It was just frustration on my part. I'm a professional, I should be better than that. I take full responsibility."
• The Athletics on Wednesday rewarded general manager Billy Beane and team president Michael Crowley with seven-year contract extensions. The A's have been to the postseason five times in seven seasons since Beane was hired in 1997.