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Hunter Withdraws From 2009 All-Star Game, Joins Vlad on DL

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vlad injuredApparently an All-Star Game selection was Superman’s kryptonite this season.

The Halos’ Superman of the first half, Torii Hunter, withdrew himself from competing in the upcoming MLB All-Star Game today due to an injury he’s been playing with for almost 2 months. Nelson Cruz, a power-hitting outfielder for the Texas Rangers will replace Hunter in the Mid-Summer Classic.

As you may remember back in the first series with the Dodgers at Chavez Ravine in May, Torii slammed into the center field wall straight on while trying to make a grab on a long fly ball. Well, like Torii usually does, he made the catch… but he had to come out of the game for what would later be a nagging strained adductor muscle in his right side. He would re-aggravate it in a series with the San Francisco Giants in mid-June on an eerily similar play.

This injury not only forces Hunter out of what would have been his 3rd All-Star game, but also forces him to go on the Disabled List, where he’s eligible to come off and play on July 22nd.

If there’s any time to go on the DL, it’s now. With only 1 series left to play before the All-Star break, he’s only scheduled to miss 9 games, instead of being somewhere around 13 or 14 games if it had been any other time during the year.

Hunter also earlier declined an invitation to participate in this year’s Home Run Derby.

The Angels’ offensive leader is tops on the team in home runs with 17, and his 65 RBI ranks 3rd best in the American League.

As they say, misery loves company. It’s hard to call Torii misery, but his company will be Vladimir Guerrero.

The Big Daddy will join Mr. Hunter on the DL as well after planting his left leg awkwardly in right field during a game with the Rangers Tuesday night.

The current diagnosis consists of a strained muscle behind his left knee, as well as a hamstring strain.

Just as it seemed the Vladdy was getting his extra-base power back, he hits another setback in a year where he’s already missed 38 games while on the Disabled List. Vlad is scheduled to come off the DL at the same time as Hunter.

Coming up to replace the two men who combine for 11 All-Star appearances will be catcher Bobby Wilson, and “Mr. Get called up, play a few games, get sent back down” himself, 3rd baseman Brandon Wood.

This may now allow Jeff Mathis to be the regular catcher, while moving Mike Napoli back to the Designated Hitter role where he hit the ball exceptionally well earlier in the season with Vlad on the DL.

Wilson is hitting .261 with 6 home runs and 27 RBI for AAA Salt Lake.

As for Wood, he’s batting .313 with 17 homers and 52 RBI and has the 3rd best slugging percentage mark in the Pacific Coast League with a .592 mark for the Salt Lake Bees.

The Halos have a tough 3-game set with the Yankees before the All-Star break, and without their #3 and 4 hitters in the lineup, they’ll have their work cut out for them against quality starters in Joba Chamerlain, Andy Pettitte and C.C. Sabathia.

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Angels Enjoying Interleague Success

aybar lackey abreuWith only 3 games left to go in Interleague play, the Angels are wishing it didn’t have to end so soon.

The Halos hold the MLB’s top Interleague mark at 11-4 against the National League, and are a game below .500 at 27-28 against all other American League teams.

Interleague play started off with the Los Angeles Dodgers in a Freeway Series at Chavez Ravine back in late May. The Halos would take 2 of 3 from the Blue Crew before playing 9 of their next 15 games on the road against American League teams.

Over that 15 game stretch, the Halos would sputter by going 6-9. They would take 2 of 3 at Toronto, their only series win over this 15-game span, but drop 2 of 3 to both the White Sox and Mariners at home as well as 2 of 3 to the Tigers and Rays, each on the road.

Then Interleague play came back, just in the knick of time for Mike Scioscia’s club who now sat at an even .500 with a record of 29-29.

Scioscia would give his players a tongue-lashing following their enormous 11-1 loss in the final game of a 3-game set in Tampa Bay.

Pitching had been awful (John Lackey had 9 ER in that 11-1 in loss), and all pitchers, starters and relievers alike, were just in a funk of walking batters with ease.

Hitting had been sporadic at times, but was just poor altogether to be brutally honest.

The Angels headed back to the friendly confines of the Big A, hoping that some home cooking would do the trick to get them out of the funk that they had been mired in for about half a month.

That would be just the case.

Or maybe it was just because the Padres are just plain bad.

Either way, the Halos would sweep the Padres in a 3-game set which the Angels outscored San Diego 26-7.

Game 1 featured home runs from Torii Hunter and Kendry Morales, while also pushing Matt Palmer’s season record to a surprising 6-0.

Torii Hunter would record his 1st career 3 home run game in game 2 which the Angels would win 9-1 backed by a solid effort from starter Joe Saunders. Saunders would throw 8 1/3 dazzling innings of 1-run ball, while striking out 5 Padres hitters.

Game 3 would be all Jered Weaver, who would throw his first career shutout in a 6-0 win for the Halos, moving his record to 7-2, and lowering his ERA to an incredible 2.08.

The Angels would then travel up to the Bay Area for a 3-game series with the San Francisco Giants. The Halos were coming in hot, hitting an uncharacteristic 9 home runs in their series with San Diego.

The Angels would pick up where they left off, blasting 6 home runs in the first 2 games, winning both contests 9-7 and 8-1 respectively.

The Giants would throw out 2008 NL Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum for the final game of the series, and he was tough as nails on the hot Halo offense through the first 7 innings. But the Angels, entering the 8th inning trailing 3-1, would tax Lincecum for 3 runs in the half-inning, and would end up closing out the game by a score of 4-3, securing themselves of their 2nd consecutive sweep of an NL West opponent.

The Angels would come back to Anaheim riding a 6-game winning streak thanks to their all-of-a-sudden hot offense, and were set to take on the Dodgers at home.

The Halos would win game 1 5-4, a game that I was fortunate enough to be at. Over the years, this Angels/Dodgers rivalry has begun to grow more intense, and on that night of game 1 of the Freeway Series in Anaheim, the Big A was electric with fan energy.

Before the first pitch was even thrown, all you could hear were fans chanting, “Let’s go Angels!” and “Let’s go Dodgers!” The crowd was into it from the first pitch, all the way until the final out in the 9th recorded by Brian Fuentes. The general dislike between the two teams was tangible, and that made the atmosphere of this game one of the best that I’ve ever been a part of (and that includes Adam Kennedy’s 3-homer game against Minnesota in the 2002 ALCS as well as World Series Game 1).

The cross-town Dodgers would break the Angels’ season-long 7-game winning streak and nail down the final 2 games against the Angels including the incredibly hyped-up “Battle of the Brothers” featuring Jeff Weaver of the Dodgers and Jered Weaver of the Angels. Jeff would get the better of his younger brother en route to a 6-4 win, and Clayton Kershaw would throw 7 spectacular innings of shutout ball in game 3, resulting in a 5-3 Dodger victory.

The Angels took 2 of 3 from the visiting red-hot Colorado Rockies (who had entered the series winning a remarkable 16 of their past 17 games). The Rockies killed the Angels 11-1 game 1, but the Angels rallied to win 4-3 in game 2, and would whoop the Rockies in the finale by an 11-3 final.

The Angels have now gone 9-3 in their last 12 games, all against NL competition.

The Halos travel to the Valley of the Sun next to take on the Arizona Diamondbacks for a 3-game series (hopefully they’ll close the roof at Chase Field considering temperatures are forecasted to be 100+ for all 3 days), hoping to build on their overall Interleague success.

The Angels are now in a tie for 1st place for the first time since the early goings of the season. Go Halos!

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Sending Out an SO’S

o'sullivanIt seems to me that the word of the year for the Angels is “setback.”

I’m pretty sure over the course of this early season, I think I’ve heard the word setback more than I’ve heard the word win.

Kelvim Escobar recently had a minor setback, so the Halos threw him back on the DL.

And just announced today, Ervin Santana felt some discomfort in his forearm, and said, “I don’t want to pitch until I’m not feeling any pain.” Who knows how long that could be.

So who do we turn to now?

Why, none other than 21-year-old right hander Sean O’Sullivan, who made his first major league start back on June 17th in San Francisco. O’Sullivan would throw 7 marvelous innings of 1-run ball, while allowing 5 hits and striking out 5 Giants.

The El Cajon native was a 3rd round draft choice of the Angels back in 2005 out of Valhalla High School and has since been climbing his way up through the minors, and up to the major leagues.

This year for AAA Salt Lake, O’Sullivan’s numbers don’t really stick out at you. He’s compiled an ERA of 6.06 in 10 starts for the Bees this year, while garnering a respectable record of 5-2 in those starts. Over the course of his minor league career, O’Sullivan has put together an overall record of 36-19 (his best year was 16-8 last year with the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes), with an ERA of 3.62, but the ERA has risen as he has moved up in the ranks.

Mike Scioscia put it best, “One thing about Sean, if you look at his Minor League career, is he wins games. He’s not going to light up a radar gun, do anything that makes you say, ‘Wow.'”

O’Sullivan left all his minor league stats behind him when he made his first career start against the Giants, and threw some promising spot-start innings. Heck, he even got his first career base hit in only his second career at-bat!

“It was everything I thought it would be,” was all O’Sullivan had to say after his first career start.

He’s on tap to be the starter for the Halos on Tuesday when they play host to the Rockies for game 2 of a 3-game set. Sean will try to remind Scioscia that sending out an “SO’S” is no longer a worst-case scenario.

Go Halos!

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Angels Find Power Surge

hunter 3 homersFor years, Southern California residents have seen those “Flex Your Power” commercials on TV.

Over their current 4 game winning streak, the Angels finally got that memo.

Season after season, the Angels have always been one of the best teams in team batting average, but at the same time have been one of the worst home run hitting teams in the major leagues, and entering their 3-game series with San Diego, the Halos dead last in the American League in total team home runs.

When the Padres came in to town, the light went on. They flexed their power, and it’s now spilled into a series by the bay.

In Friday’s game against San Diego, the Angels hit 2 home runs. Torii Hunter blasted his 13th homer of the season and Kendry Morales jacked his 10th in an 11-6 whooping of the Padres.

Then on Saturday, Torii Hunter and the Halos erupted to blast 5 homers off the Padres’ pitching staff. Torii had his 1st career 3 home run game, pushing his season home run total to 16. Kendry Morales hit his 10th, and Jeff Mathis hit his elusive 1st home run of the year in a game the Angels ended up winning by a comfortable 9-1 margin.

In the final game against the Padres on Sunday, the Angels didn’t slow up, or should I say Juan Rivera didn’t slow up. Juanito hit 2 home runs, giving him a total of 8 on the year. The Angels would shutout the Pads 6-0 in a game that featured Jered Weaver earn his first career shutout, allowing only 5 hits.

The Angels totaled 9 home runs in the 3-game set, after hitting only 42 in the previous 58 games (0.72 home runs per game).

Then they traveled up for a series in San Francisco with the Giants, and they carried their newfound power with them.

In Monday’s contest, when it was all said and done, the Angels tallied 4 more home runs against Barry Zito and company. Juan Rivera hit his 8th, Erick Aybar hit his 2nd, Bobby Abreu hit his 3rd in a back-to-back homer effort with Aybar, and in his 1st start of the season, Sean Rodriguez laced his 1st home run of the season. The Angels would win it (although the bullpen found a way to make it interesting yet again) by a score of 9-7, taking the 1st of a 3-game set.

What could be the reason for this power surge of home runs and offensive production? I can’t be too certain to tell you the truth.

However, prior to that 3-game set with the lowly Padres, Mike Scioscia had given the Angels an absolute tongue lashing, telling his pitching to step up, and more importantly, he told his hitters to start producing, or else (he already demoted Howie Kendrick to AAA to find his swing). Entering the 3-game set against San Diego the Angels had also dropped 4 of their last 5 games.

So far, it’s safe to say that the starting pitchers have taken Scioscia’s words to heart, given the fact that the last 3 starters (Joe Saunders, Jered Weaver and John Lackey respectively) have each gone at least 7 innings and given up less than 3 runs.

And the hitters have no doubt made noise with the bats. It’s as if someone corked all of the Halos’ bats recently, blasting 13 home runs during their current 4-game winning streak. As a matter of fact, the Angels have hit nearly 1/4 of their home runs on the season in the past 4 games alone!

So who says Southern California needs to conserve their power?

The Angels are powering the southland with no signs of slowing up.

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