September 26, 2015; Anaheim, CA, USA; Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout (27) climbs the fence in the fourth inning to catch a fly ball hit by Seattle Mariners first baseman Jesus Montero (not pictured) at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
(American League team gaining momentum)
Los Angeles Angels: A seven-game win streak has pushed the surging Angels into a playoff spot as the second Wild Card. They trail the Rangers by two games for the division title, with a four-game set in Texas looming to wrap up the season. That series will likely decide the division, while the team that falls short still has to contend with the Astros to keep hold of the Wild Card. The Angels are also three games back of the Yankees, so even if they fail to win the division there is still a chance they could claim home-field advantage in the Wild Card game.
The Angels resurgence coincides with Mike Trout getting back to doing Mike Trout things. The reigning MVP battled through an injury that resulted in a dismal August, but he’s bounced back with a 1.016 OPS this month that includes 7 home runs. Trout is one homer behind the league leader in the category this month and his 40 home runs this season puts him at 4th in the league. He also made the highlight reels again by robbing another victim of a home run with his glove last week. Trout has reclaimed the league-lead with an 8.9 WAR and .978 OPS. As long as the Angels hang on to a playoff spot, it should be an interesting battle between Trout and Toronto’s Josh Donaldson for the AL MVP.
L.A.’s rotation has gotten a boost down the stretch from Nick Tropeano. The rookie is 2-0 with a 2.53 ERA over 4 starts this month, to go along with 26 strikeouts in 21.1 innings. Hector Santiago was the ace of this staff in the first half (2.33 ERA), but his second half struggles (5.40 ERA) make it all the more important for the back of the rotation to step up.
If the Angels make the playoffs, who do they have leading their rotation? As great as Tropeano has been down the stretch, they won’t entrust that responsibility to a rookie. Santiago’s second half fade may take him out of contention for the honor. Veteran Jared Weaver has the most postseason experience, but he’s having a mediocre season and left his last start early with shoulder tightness. The guess here is it will be Garrett Richards. While he hasn’t come close to matching the production from last year’s breakout season, he’s still having a solid year and is finishing strong, with a 3-1 record and 3.41 ERA in September.