Optimism abounds as Angels show potential
ANAHEIM -- The Rangers certainly will recall the rival uniforms and the scenery when they visit Angel Stadium for the first time this season with a three-game weekend series starting Friday night.
What Josh Hamilton and Co. might not recognize are the expressions and body language of the Angels, who seemed almost submissive at times in losing two of three and yielding 25 runs to the two-time American League champions in Texas from May 11-13.
"We're not going to look at them as Goliath, if that's what you're asking," Mark Trumbo said in response to a question about the mighty Rangers. "They're the American League champions and a pretty good ballclub. We respect that. But I'll take our chances against anybody.
"Obviously, we're leaps and bounds better than a month ago. The at-bats we're having have showed that as well."
Trumbo was ruminating following a big performance (homer and two singles, three RBIs) with a downbeat ending (flyout leaving two stranded) in a 6-5 loss on Tuesday night that enabled the Yankees to escape a three-game sweep.
"The last 10, 12 games have been outstanding," Trumbo said. "The comebacks are one of the coolest things as far as I'm concerned. It shows a lot of character and is a confidence booster going forward."
The Angels' eight-game winning streak ended when Dewayne Wise squeezed Trumbo's fly ball, but it was the way it unfolded that kept the beat uptempo in the Angels' clubhouse.
Down, 5-0, after Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano took Ervin Santana deep in the third inning, the Angels scored four times to draw even in the fourth. The comeback began with Trumbo's two-run homer to right -- his 10th of the season and fourth in four games -- and concluded with Mike Trout's two-run double to right center.
Along with ultra-swift and talented center fielder Peter Bourjos, Trumbo and Trout are at the forefront of a new wave of Angels. These athletes have caught C.J. Wilson's attention with their attitudes as much as with their multiple skills.
"Our team has a lot of guys with personality," Wilson, the Rangers' former ace, said. "A lot of that is showing through. I have this PMA -- Positive Mental Attitude -- tattoo, and Mark and I talk about being positive, focusing on what's coming up, not what's already happened.
"He's an extremely talented player. You see him in this utility role, playing all these positions, and that's not easy. But doors are opening up. He's taking pitches that are close, that he used to go after. He's a very cerebral player, studying and working hard. That's why good things are happening to him."
Trumbo is blazing. Hits in 12 of his past 20 at-bats have driven his average to .348 with 27 total bases in that span raising his slugging mark to .632. With that surge came a high level of expectation from Angels partisans in a crowd of 40,111 as Trumbo stepped in to engage Rafael Soriano with two on and two outs in the ninth.
Running the count full, Trumbo stayed alive, fouling off a virtually unhittable pitch, before lifting Soriano's slider to medium range left to end it.
"That was a great at-bat," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Mark is having a great year. He just missed that last pitch. Hit it off the end of his bat."
Perfectionist that he is, Trumbo thought he could and should have done more with Soriano's delivery.
"I don't have a ton of history against him," Trumbo said. "It was a good pitch to hit. I just didn't pick it up in time and broke my bat. They're not all going to fall."
If Trumbo is a deep thinker, Trout is a Type A personality, a guy who never stops moving. If there's a faster athlete in the league, it's Bourjos. Trout is more advanced than any 20-year-old in memory.
"Trout comes up [from Triple-A Salt Lake] with no pressure in his head," Wilson said. "You see that youthful exuberance, the impact he has. He just goes out and plays. He already knows how to be a leadoff man. He's a pure baseball player. We're seeing guys more relaxed at the plate, more confident.
"We're focusing on the right things now. It's not like, `Oh, man, you just gave up three runs.' It's more like, `OK, now we come back and score some runs.' We're doing a better job of forward thinking in terms of optimism. We have a lot of guys who have positive attitudes and are starting to show it on the field."
In spite of the loss of their ace, Jered Weaver, for an indefinite period with lower back issues, the Angels remain well armed for the challenges ahead.
Wilson is putting up All-Star numbers (6-4, 2.77 ERA) in his debut season with the Angels. In his past 14 innings he has yielded one earned run and just three hits, striking out 12. He goes Saturday against Yu Darvish after underrated Jerome Williams (5-2, 3.81) takes on Colby Lewis on Friday night.
Dan Haren, the co-ace with Weaver since he arrived from Arizona, is back in form after an uncharacteristic rough start. Haren has been touched for one earned run in his past 16 innings, striking out 21 without issuing a walk.
Garrett Richards, a kid with a golden arm, will fill in for Weaver. The bullpen -- solidified with Ernesto "Big Ernie" Frieri's amazing work alongside Scott Downs and Jordan Walden -- is solid again.
The Angels appear on the verge of taking flight. Oh, and there's also this Albert Pujols fellow, starting to find his groove.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.