Angels are doing well but haven't hit full stride yet

Angels are doing well but haven't hit full stride yet
Angels first baseman Albert Pujols hits a solo home run in the eighth inning of the team's 5-4 loss to the Dodgers on Tuesday. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

The Angels have the second-best record in the majors, having started Tuesday 23 games over .500 for the first time in five seasons.

So just imagine how good they would be if they started playing up to their capabilities.


Just look at the numbers: Although the Angels are second in the majors in runs, they have only one .300 hitter in Mike Trout. Their injury-battered rotation ranks among the top four in the American League in five categories, including victories and innings pitched, but only two pitchers have started more than 20 games and only one has an earned-run average better than 3.59.

Yet, only the Oakland Athletics have won more games.

"I'll take it," catcher Hank Conger said. "I'll take the results."

The results weren't quite as positive Tuesday. After twice erasing one-run deficits, the second time on Albert Pujols' 513th home run in the eighth inning, the Angels lost in the ninth when David Freese's one-out throwing error allowed Juan Uribe to score from third base, giving the Dodgers a 5-4 victory.

Still the loss was only the second in six games for the Angels, who are 36-17 over the last two months, the best record in the majors over that span.

"It feels like we've been playing really great baseball," Conger said. "You look at our record and you worry like, is there another gear? It's tough to say."

The Angels have been winning from behind — their 33 comeback victories lead the majors — and from ahead, winning more than two-thirds of the games in which they scored first.

They've won with starting outfielders Josh Hamilton and Kole Calhoun spending a combined 79 games on the disabled list. They've won with left-hander Tyler Skaggs out more than a month because of injuries and with two-time All-Star C.J. Wilson winning only once since June 8.

Tuesday night they lost on a one-out single by Uribe, a hit-and-run single by A.J. Ellis that came within inches of a line-drive double play and Andre Ethier's nubber to third that Freese fielded cleanly before throwing wildly to the plate in an effort to get Uribe.

That pinned reliever Kevin Jepsen with his first loss of the season even though he hasn't given up an earned run in 20 appearances and has given up only two runs since May 4.

But even with the loss the Angels are only two games back in the AL West with less than two months to play. And to listen to Jepsen tell it, they haven't begun to play like they can.

"It's not luck. It's just playing good baseball and finding a way to win," said Jepsen, who leads the majors with 50 scoreless appearances. "And even when we're not playing the best baseball, finding a way to win.

"You get everybody hot at the same time? Whew. Then it will fun to watch. I'd say the feeling in here is when we win, that's what we're supposed to do."



With the majority of Southland viewers not able to get the Dodgers' SportsNet LA broadcasts, FS West's broadcast of Monday's game drew its largest audience for a Angel contest since June 1998. According to Nielsen, 228,000 households watched the game on FS West and 57,000 households watched on SportsNet LA. The average Angels game FS West this season attracts 84,000 households, up from 71,000 last season, according to FS West. ... The Angels' fundamentals-first approach was recognized in Baseball America's annual "Best Tools" survey. The magazine asked managers to rank the best big league players on a variety of skills and the Angels' Erick Aybar was voted the AL's best bunter and best hit-and-run artist as well as the league's second-best shortstop. Trout was selected the league's most exciting player and second-best hitter, and Garrett Richards' fastball was rated No. 1 in the league.

Times staff writer Bill Shaikin contributed to this story.