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<  Gary Hill - High Heat

Can the Angels be a two-game tonic?

By Gary Hill

The Mariners wing their way to Los Angeles thirsting for a much-needed victory after a devastating four-game series in Cleveland. Seattle was swept aside by the red-hot Indians as three of their four wins came in their final at-bat.

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Albert Pujols is off to another slow start, hitting just .241 though 43 games. (AP)
Meanwhile, the Angels have wilted under the weight of heavy expectations. Their offseason dreams consisted of a division title, a pennant and a World Series appearance. Reality has slapped them in the face. The Angels are sitting in third place in the AL West with a record of 17-27. They are 2.5 back from the Mariners in the division and a full 11.5 games behind the Rangers for the division lead.

The splashy offseason acquisition of Josh Hamilton so far has not worked out as hoped. Hamilton has scuffled through a .216/.271/.351 start. Albert Pujols has struggled through a May where he is hitting .224 with four walks. It is the second year in a row where he has started the season decidedly un-Pujols like.

Despite a few offensive warts to start the season the Angels still are 14th in baseball in runs scored. They have launched 48 homers as a team, which is 12th, and are hitting .256, which is 13th. The offense has been average, but well short of lofty expectations considering the names of Hamilton, Pujols, Mike Trout, Mark Trumbo and Howie Kendrick that stuff the lineup.

However, the major issue for the Angels has been pitching. They are 28th in all of baseball with a 4.77 ERA. They own the second-worst WHIP (1.47) in MLB. The Angels' staff is 27th in batting average against (.270) and 28th in walks allowed (165). The ace of the Angels staff, Jared Weaver, has only started two games this year due to injury. Barry Enright, Michael Roth, Garrett Richards and Jerome Williams have all been pushed into rotation duty with less than stellar results. Joe Blanton has started nine games and boasts the worst ERA in the AL (6.62).

The Mariners will see Williams (2-1, 3.05) and (3-3, 3.72) in these two games. Williams and Wilson have been two of the more consistent pitchers on the Angels' staff. Wilson beat the Mariners at Safeco earlier this season, allowing three earned runs on seven hits with two walks and nine strikeouts over 5 1/3 innings. It was the only win the Angles had in the four-game series. Williams pitched once out of the pen, but did not draw a start last time around. He has been an effective weapon out of the pen for skipper Mike Scioscia, but mass ineffectiveness by other starters have shoved him into the rotation. Williams is 1-0 with a 1.69 ERA in 21 innings out of the pen this season. He is 1-1 with a 4.76 ERA in 17 innings as a starter.

The Mariners were rolling along in the six series previous to the stop in Cleveland (5-0-1). They will look to recapture the momentum in Los Angeles tonight.

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