Angels’ 2014 Fate Rest in the Hands of C.J. Wilson

Angels’ manager Mike Scioscia made a decision a couple of days ago to start Matt Shoemaker in game two at home in the Division Series against the Royals, and to hold off on using C.J. Wilson until game three in Kansas City. Showmaker was great, but as in game one, a single bad pay in the outfield led to a KC run that meant a tie game in regulation, and an extra-inning loss. Friday with Shoemaker pitching, Kole Calhoun’s error meant a second-inning run, and a one-one tie until Eric Hosmer homered in the 11th. This strangely mirrored Thursday’s series opener, when in the third, Mike Trout lost a ball in the lights, resulting in an Alcides Escobar RBI double, and a two-two tie after nine, followed by a Mike Moustakas 11th-inning home for the first Royals series win.

Thus, down two games to none in a best-of-five series, the team with baseball's best regular season record needs a strong, winning effort from Wilson, who has been a disaster on the road this season, to avoid being swept by a team making its first post season appearance in 29 years. Wilson, 4-8, 5.31 on the road this year and who is also 0-5 with a 5.97 ERA in his last seven postseason starts, faces Kansas City ace James Shields, who could not protect an early 2-0 lead
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and was charged with four earned runs in five innings in the Royals 12-inning, 9-8 wild card game win over Oakland. In seven prior post season appearances, all with Tampa Bay, Shields is 2-4 with a 5.25 ERA, but he is 6-3 lifetime against the Angels, with a 3.31 ERA.

Of course, if the Angels had gotten any production whatsoever from the heart of their lineup, they would up up by two games, instead of down. Facing the strong and deep KC bullpen and starters Jason Vargas and Yordano Ventura, Trout, Albert Pujols, Howie Kendrick and Josh Hamilton are a combined two for 34 with one RBI in the first two games. In particular, Hamilton, who came back for the playoffs after essentially missing the last three weeks of the regular season, has looked not just totally over matched, but unmotivated, and just maybe Collin Cowgill, or maybe Efren Navarro, should get the start in left field today against Shields. As a team, the Angels are hitting .141 after two games, and some kind of a shakeup is needed. However, the LA Times’ Mike Digiovanna has reported that as of yesterday, Scioscia intends to stick with Hamilton in left field, despite all this and the fact that Hamilton is two for 25 lifetime against Shields.

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I just have to also mention how ironic it is that Kansas City won each of the first two games on extra-inning home runs after they not only hit the fewest homers in the majors over the season, but were the only team in baseball to not break the 100-homer mark. They also scored 122 less runs than the Angels, who led the majors in runs scored.

Long before the Angels and Royals take the field this evening, the Tigers will be making their last-stand against Baltimore, with their fate in the hands of David Price. I sort of like the Orioles’ chances, and those of Bud Norris, who was 4-0 with a 2.08 ERA in September. Baltimore goes into the game having thoroughly trashed Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer and the Tigers’ bullpen. But, despite his long career as a manager, now with the Orioles and previously with Arizona and the yankees, Buck Showalter has never been to a league Championship Series. Back in 1995 while managing New York, his team was also up two games to none, but then proceeded to blow the next three, to Seattle. Could that happen to him again, 19 years later?

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