The baseball All-Star break is a traditional time for reflection, rest and reloading. For the Los Angeles Angels and Los Angeles Dodgers, it means seeking improvements that will allow them to boost their chances of having a successful season.
In the case of the Dodgers – defending World Series champions – the top priority will be the starting pitching rotation. With injuries and the suspension of Trevor Bauer, manager Dave Roberts has had to resort to assembling four or five relief pitchers in place of a starter. If not for the efforts of Julio Urias (11-3), the Dodgers might be sinking. The team’s All-Star ace – Clayton Kershaw – is on the injured list with inflammation in his left forearm.
“I don’t know how long it’s going to be,” said Roberts about Kershaw being out of the lineup. “We’re trying to be smart about this and understand that we have the All-Star break. Obviously, there is a lot left of the season, so pushing him doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.”
The Dodgers are in a three-way race in the National League West, two games behind the San Francisco Giants and four games ahead of the third-place San Diego Padres. However, even if the boys from the Bay manage to outlast Robert’s Blue Crew in the race for the NLW flag, the playoffs – via the wild card route – are a virtual shoo-in for the Dodgers, who have the second-best record not only in the National League but also all of Major League Baseball.
The wild card path might seem like a bit of a comedown for the fellas from Chavez Ravine, but it would be a dream come true for the Angels. Not only have they not made the playoffs since 2014, they have not posted a winning record since 2015.
Grabbing a wild card slot is not unthinkable, since the Halos are just 5.5 games out of that position. Historically, Angel fans will remember that in 2002, when their team won its only World Series title, it entered the playoffs as a wild card entry.
On State College Boulevard, the main question for the second half is when will Mike Trout return? His absence has not been a drag on the team, as Shohei Ohtani, David Fletcher and Jared Walsh are having outstanding years at the plate. Ohtani, for example, has 33 home runs and 70 RBIs, while Fletcher has 103 hits and
is hitting .309.
After straining his right calf on May 17, Trout has been sidelined. After the All-Star break, Trout will be on a rehabilitation assignment with a minor league team. If all goes well, he could be back in the Angel dugout on July 17, but that’s probably a little early. “He’s doing really well, actually,” manager Joe Maddon told the Associated Press. “He’s on pace. He’s on target.”
Returning the best player in baseball to the diamond could really improve the Angels’ chances of hitting their target of playing well into October.
Pete Zarustica writes “Sports Monday.” The All-Star game is Tuesday at Coors Field in Denver.