Halo hopes are high … for now

SHOHEI OHTANI has now hit 101 career home runs (Angels photo).

Not since Bo Belinsky threw a no-hitter, dated Hollywood starlets and the new expansion team challenged for the American League pennant. Not since a wild card team from Disneyland made it to the World Series and overcame Barry Bonds and the San Francisco Giants.

Not since just about forever have the Los Angeles Angels lit up the Major League Baseball sky with a thrilling combination of hitting, pitching and attitude. With two-way international star Shohei Ohtani throwing fire and slamming homers (11 so far), Mike Trout playing back in All-Star form and Taylor Ward emerging as a possible MVP candidate, the Halos’ hopes and those of their fans, are – pardon the pun – approaching heaven.

“What’s so fun about this team and this offense is that we can ignite at anytime,” third baseman Anthony Rendon said. “We’ve had some games where we’ve ignited early and our pitching shuts them down the rest of the game, and we’ve had games where we’ve been shutout as hitters through eight innings on and then we come in and win it.”

After another disappointing season … that followed a bunch of other disappointing seasons … it’s all looking so good. But, wait a second. Isn’t this the team that routinely starts out hot and falls apart in the heat of July or August? Aren’t there a couple of heart-breaking injuries right around the corner? Couldn’t an earthquake swallow Angel Stadium?

If the boys from Orangewood Avenue do stumble, it may not be fate or the sun or slippery shower room floors. It may be – skeptics suggest – the schedule. Except perhaps for the Tampa Bay Rays (second in the AL East), the Angels haven’t had to deal with any of MLB’s powerhouses, but will soon.

From Monday (today) through next Sunday (May 29), the Halos face mostly second-tier teams. That’s five games with the 14-19 Texas Rangers and three with the 15-22 Oakland A’s. The other foes are the Toronto Blue Jays (18-17).

However, the first lap is over and things get tough. On Tuesday, it’s off to the Bronx to play the New York Yankees (25-9) with the best record in baseball, for three games. There are three games with a not-bad Phillies team, then four at home against a struggling Boston Red Sox squad.

That’s followed by three against the New York Mets, the NL West leaders, and then two up the freeway to face the Dodgers.  Summed up that means series with three division leaders.

Put another way, here’s this week’s cliché: “If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best.” This year that might just be possible.

Dodgers come down to earth

You can’t really say that the Los Angeles Dodgers, first place in the NL West and with a .636 winning percentage, are having a rough time. Let’s just say it’s a pause to catch their collective breath.

CLAYTON KERSHAW (Flickr/Malingerer).

Having said that, the Blue Crew did lose four in a row last week against the Phillies before bouncing back on Sunday with a win. And Dodger fans held their breaths when the news came that Clayton Kershaw was out of the lineup when “his back locked up on him,” according to manager Dave Roberts.

Kershaw, the Dodgers’ all-time strikeout leader, has had enough back problems to make the injured list for the past seven seasons. But not to worry, said Roberts.

“He came back to give us a chance to win the World Series this year,” he said. “So there’s going to have to be some managing of workload. With his experiences and intelligence, he knows when to push and when not to push, and now is not that time.”

Like we said, catch that breath.

“Sports Monday” is written by Pete Zarutica with wire service reports.






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