We’re mid-way through September. The playoff race is as muddled as it can be thanks in large part to the implementation of the new postseason structure. Several very good teams currently compete for their chance to play in October, and every slight misstep looks like a gigantic leap backward. Every leap forward, meanwhile, is excruciatingly miniscule.
The contending Los Angeles Angels are no exception. The Angels are 2.5 games out of the final playoff spot in the American League. Every moment leading into October is crucial.
If the Angels are to overcome adversity and parlay opportunity into success, they sorely need the help of their dozing stars.
Culprit number one is none other than Albert Pujols, whose $250 million dollar signing appeared to seal at least a playoff appearance for the Angels. However, Pujols has hit only one home run in the month of September. His batting average is also a measly .224 for the month of September. In Sunday’s game against the Kansas City Royals, Pujols went 0-for-4, including a potential double he foolishly tried to stretch into three bases.
This is not the kind of performance one would expect from the man who became the face of the Angels franchise a winter ago. Pujols’ numbers are certainly worrying with the Angels in the middle of a pennant race. Whatever the slugger needs to do to find his swing again had better happen soon; the Angels will need all the help they can get.
Pujols is not the only big name the Angels need to wake up. The starting rotation, while solid, looked awfully meek in their four-game set against the Oakland Athletics. The Halos lost three straight before Jered Weaver snapped the losing streak. It appears the starting five have recovered, but concerns remain. C.J. Wilson gave up four runs—three earned—through five innings before he was pulled in an eventual 9-7 loss to the Royals. Wilson was an especially notable acquisition in the previous offseason, so his September needs to go better than his August (1-2, 7.99 ERA).
The Los Angeles bullpen does not feature the sheer star power of the starting staff, but everyone involved must summon a Herculean September.
Ernesto Frieri, the fireballing closer, joined the Angels in a deal with the Padres to bolster a shaky bullpen. While his red-hot start was enthralling, Frieri has cooled considerably since August. All three of his blown saves on the year came in the last two months, though his latest blown save can be blamed on a jumpy Mike Scioscia. With pressure mounting, Frieri does not appear to be the one who should take the ball with the game on the line.
Among all this talk of stars though, I have forgotten the sudden upsurge of an unsung hero, a small-time player making big-time plays. If the Angels do make the final surge for the playoffs, expect at least one no-name on the squad to make be a big reason why.
The Angels begin a crucial home stand against the Rangers on September 18. I can think of no better time to trigger some major star power.