Angels, Dodgers bring the heat

SHOHEI OHTANI has 17 home runs and 45 RBIs for the Angels. Over the last week, he’s hitting .500 (Angels photo).

The hottest team in Major League Baseball is now the Los Angeles Angels. It helped that they ran up against the coldest team in the big leagues, as the Halos swept the Arizona Diamondbacks in three in Arizona over the weekend.

Six straight wins for the Orange County team put the Angel record at 33-32, a game over .500 for the first time since May 1. And into third place in the American League West. And all of this without Mike Trout.

“It really comes down to starting pitching,” said manager Joe Maddon. “Sandy was really good.”

He was referring to Patrick Sandoval, who pitched six strong innings Sunday, giving up just four hits and two runs to pick up his first win of the season. He had plenty of hitting help, too, as the Angels romped to a 10-3 win. Sandoval also contributed at the plate, notching a single, which was his first major league hit.

Speaking of hitting, catcher Max Stassi has been hot. He’s batting .389 over the past week, and Shohei Ohtani is hitting .500 over that stretch.  For the season, the Halo two-way star’s batting average is “only” at .269, but he’s hit 17 home runs and driven in 45.

The streak started on Monday and the Angels swept the Kansas City Royals in three, winning 8-3, 8-1 and 6-1. Then it was off to the desert, were they bested the D-backs 6-5 and 8-7 before Sunday’s series-capping win.

Of course, the schedule is getting a bit rougher for the Angels. Monday through Wednesday is a series in Oakland against the AL West-leading Oakland A’s. After hosting a struggling Detroit Tigers team (26-39) Thursday to Sunday, they take on the San Francisco Giants (40-25, first in the NL West) for two on June 22 and 23, and the Tampa Bay Rays (42-24, first in the AL East) in Florida for three, June 25-27.

Dodgers battle back into second

The Los Angeles Dodgers aren’t quite as toasty as the Angels, but darn close. They swept the Pirates in three at Chavez Ravine, then took two of three at home against the Texas Rangers.

A seven of 10 string upped their record to 39-26 and back into second place in the National League West, a game back of the San Francisco Giants and two games ahead of the San Diego Padres.

However, that last win on Sunday wasn’t easy. They jumped out in front 5-0 and barely survived a bases-loaded, no-out situation in the ninth to hang on to a 5-3 win.

Closer Kenley Jensen was the hero, retiring three straight batters.

“It’s tough to win a baseball game, and today, to be quite honest,” said manager Dave Roberts, “I don’t think we played a very good baseball game. But we came away with the win. Kenley came up big for us.”

Looking ahead, the Dodgers host the Philadelphia Phillies (32-31) Monday through Wednesday. Thursday is an off-day, and Friday will start a three-game series in Arizona.

Can Clippers rally again vs. Jazz?

The Los Angeles Clippers pulled it together on Saturday and defeated the Utah Jazz 132-106. So is that a blip or a flip in the series.

Tonight, LAC will host Game Four of the NBA Western Conference semifinals, trailing two games to one. Can they do it?  Maybe the key is with defense.

“We’re two-way players, myself, Kawhi [Leonard],” said Paul George. “We got guys that love to defend. We just have to step up, take the challenge and this is what the playoffs is about.”

Game Five will be Wednesday, back in Salt Lake City. Game Six (if needed) is Friday at Staples Center and Game Seven (if needed) is back in Utah on Sunday.

“Sports Monday” is written by Pete Zarustica.





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