Weak Ending to Angels' Weekend: Saunders Gets Hurt, Halos Get Crushed

Johnathan KronckeCorrespondent IAugust 10, 2009

ANAHEIM, CA - JULY 27:  Joe Saunders #51 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim throws to first base against the Cleveland Indians at Angel Stadium on July 27, 2009 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Well that was certainly an interesting week.

Like the Mickey Mouse roller coaster up the road, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have experienced extreme highs and low lows in the last seven days.

The week began with a 13-4 slaughter of the Minnesota Twins, completing their three-game drubbing and firmly placing the Angels among baseball's best.

Respect was being earned, attention paid, and all was right with the world.

Then they went 2-4 over the next six games and things became a little muddied.

For starters, we knew things were bad with lefty Joe Saunders, but we didn't know just how bad. 

After surrendering five runs in less than two innings to the Texas Rangers on Friday, manager Mike Scioscia yanked him from the game.

He was put on the 15-day Disabled List that same night.

Officially, Saunders is sitting out the next two weeks to nurse a stiff left shoulder. The idea is that he will work through the knot in his shoulder and be rested in time to help the Halos survive the stretch run.

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Right. And yesterday I turned down Natalie Portman because I had a date with Megan Fox.

Saunders may very well be feeling some soreness, but whether or not that is what's keeping him out of the rotation is another story. 

Scioscia is not a man to tolerate weakness from any of his players, and after eight consecutive poor outings, Saunders has shown nothing but.

Make no mistake, this DL stint is more about resting Cool Joe's head than his shoulder.

Every player, past and present, will tell you they all feel some soreness during the season. In a 162-game season, even the toughest guys get aches, sprains, pulls, and other various ailments. Yet they somehow make it through.

All but the ones who are struggling to perform.

However, what really seems to be bugging Scioscia is that he knows Saunders is better than this.

If it were some rookie call-up or aging veteran who just couldn't get it together out there, the situation might be handled differently.

But Sosh walked to that mound on Friday night with fire his eyes and an ominous spring in his step.

Saunders has the ability to pitch with the best of them, and you can bet the young lefty got an ear full from his manager about working through mistakes and showing the opposition a little toughness.

We'll see if it took in two weeks.

Saunders's replacement on the roster turned out to be Jose Arredondo, last season's rookie reliever phenom.

Like the rest of the bullpen though, Arredondo struggled early this season and earned himself a trip back to the minors for some retooling. 

I fully expected to see Arredondo back up this week, but imagine my surprise when it wasn't at the expense of Justin Speier.

Ironically, Speier's last appearance was also Friday night, when he faced six batters and surrendered three home runs. At least we can be thankful they was no one on base.

On Saturday, Scioscia made another interesting pitcher-related move.

With a one-run lead heading into the top of the ninth inning, the Angels skipper chose to stick with Kevin Jepsen, the flame-thrower who absolutely dominated Texas batters in the eighth. 

Jepsen only stayed in to face the lead-off hitter in the ninth, but it was evidence enough of Scioscia's train of thought. 

Lefty closer Brian Fuentes, who came in to face three consecutive lefties in the lineup, has been terrible of late. He loaded the bases twice in the three appearances without recording an out, and has apparently lost the trust of his manager.

Scioscia is the kind of guy who uses his closer in save situations, in spite of how any other pitcher is performing at the time.

But when his closer fails, as Fuentes has recently, he is apt to change his ways.

Using Jepsen in a save situation like Saturday's shows that Scioscia was desperate to get a win—especially against the Rangers.

In 12 match-ups against Texas this year, the Rangers have scored seven or more runs seven times, been held under five runs only three times, and have racked up nine wins in all over the Halos.

Meanwhile, L.A. of A. has produced seven or more runs just three times, going 1-2 in those games, and has been shut out twice.

The Angels have two more series against their division rivals, a three games in Arlington and a four-game set to finish out the final home-stand in Anaheim. 

No matter what happens the rest of the season, I believe the A.L. West will be won in these seven games.

John Lackey has a different belief. After the game on Sunday, he had this quote for the Angels' Web site: “[The Rangers] can beat us 18 times, and if we play 19 games better against everybody else, it doesn't matter.”

Unfortunately, that is the corner this team has painted itself into. 

The Angels must perform unquestionably well against the rest of the league from here on out. Anything less, and we may be crowning a new divisional champ.

Just to be safe, maybe we should keep an eye on that Wild Card race.

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