Vernon Wells has been catalyst in Angels’ turnaround
Reporting from Arlington, Texas -- If the Angels rally into the postseason, they’re likely to point to a stretch in mid-August as the point in which the season turned. And they’re also likely to point to Vernon Wells as the man who sparked the turnaround.
After going one for four with a run batted in Sunday in a 9-5 loss to the Texas Rangers, Wells has a seasonlong seven-game hitting streak. And six of the hits in that streak have gone for extra bases, raising his season average 16 points to .216.
Wells credits the success to changes he made to his stance after viewing video from his 2006 season in Toronto, when he hit .303 with 32 homers.
“Something needed to change,” said Wells, who closed his stance and shifted his weight in the batter’s box. “Over the last few years … I just started to develop bad habits. And you can get away with them sometimes.
“Hit for average, hit for power. That’s my game. I should be able to hit doubles, hit some homers, hit the ball harder and stay up the middle.”
As Wells has heated up, so have the rest of the Angels. With a home run Sunday, Howie Kendrick has five in his last six games while Peter Bourjos is hitting .351 with four home runs the last two weeks.
As a team the Angels are hitting .330 since Wells’ streak started, averaging 7.1 runs a game. Before that, they were hitting .248 and averaging half as many runs.
“It feels good,” Manager Mike Scioscia said. “You have to be able to pressure teams every inning. You’re only able to do that when your offense gets deep.
“Where at times we were trying to fill nine spots with maybe four guys swinging the bats well, now we’ve got probably 10 or 11 people.”
The Little League World Series was playing on three TVs in the Angels’ clubhouse Sunday afternoon. But few players were following the championship game, won by the Ocean View Little League team from Huntington Beach against a team from Hamamatsu City, Japan, with as much interest as catcher Hank Conger and reliever Hisanori Takahashi.
Conger played in the Ocean View Little League, helping it reach the Western Regional title game in 2000, while Takahashi’s Tokyo home is about 150 miles from Hamamatsu City.
The two made what Conger called a “respect bet” on the outcome, but neither player would go into specifics.
“We’ll say we’re betting for a … well, something will happen,” Conger said.
Fresh new start
Scioscia’s decision to use Ervin Santana and Jered Weaver on short rest in Texas was dissected from several angles, but lost in all the analysis is how the change might affect the pitchers whose starts were pushed back.
The Angels will get one answer Monday in Seattle when right-hander Joel Pineiro takes the mound for the first time in nine days.
“I feel well-rested. I feel strong. So we’ll see how it turns out,” said Pineiro, who left Texas for Seattle an hour before Sunday’s game to get a full night’s rest.
Pineiro, who briefly lost his spot in the rotation, pitched on extended rest one other time this season and it didn’t go well with Oakland rocking him for eight runs — seven earned — in a third of an inning. For his career, the right-hander is 9-14 with a 5.05 earned-run average in 32 starts pitching with six or more days of rest.
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