Dan Haren

Haren and Pujols come up big: are the Angels finally turning the corner?

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At some point you have to hit rock bottom. It’s just that, if you can’t hit anything, even rock bottom looks hard.  But maybe last night the Angels finally turned things around, putting together a game that went the way they hoped things would go often this year.

The Pujols signing aside, the team’s strength heading into the season was its rotation, with four guys — Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson and Ervin Santana — who could lead most teams’ rotations.  It’s been an erratic year for them so far, but last night Haren pitched a four-hitter and struck out 14.  While he’s still only 2-5, he lowered his ERA to 3.76 and, for once, got a couple of runs to work with.

Those runs came from the other piece of the puzzle: Albert Pujols. He hit a homer and singled twice, driving in two of the three Angels runs. It’s a modest turnaround so far, but he has hit in nine of his last ten games and has raised his average and his OBP by nearly 30 points since Mike Scioscia gave him a day off on May 5.

False hope? Reading too much into a performance against a poor Mariners team? Something to grow on?  It could be any or all of those things. But for at least one night, the script was followed for Anaheim.

Video: Adrian Beltre and Carlos Beltran give signs from the dugout

OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 23:  Adrian Beltre #29 of the Texas Rangers stands in the dugout before their game against the Oakland Athletics at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on September 23, 2016 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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The Rangers got a bit of a breather on Saturday after clinching the division lead during Friday night’s win. Naturally, it was also a prime opportunity for another of Adrian Beltre‘s well-documented antics, as he spent his off day directing the Rangers’ infield defense with a series of signs. Even with Carlos Beltran‘s help, no one, least of all those playing the infield, appeared to have any idea what Beltre’s gestures were intended to convey.

You can add this to the list of in-game oddities Beltre has become so well-known for over the years, running the gamut from the way he kicked a ball over the foul line to his histrionics every time someone comes close to touching his head. If nothing else, it’s a convincing audition reel for the third baseman’s future in major league coaching — a career path that, I’d imagine, would end up looking something like this:

Yordano Ventura exits game with back tightness

DETROIT, MI - SEPTEMBER 24: Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals pitches against the Detroit Tigers during the first inning at Comerica Park on September 24, 2016 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)
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Royals’ right-hander Yordano Ventura was pulled in the fifth inning of Saturday’s matinee against the Tigers with an apparent injury. After throwing four pitches to start the fifth and serving up a Justin Upton double, Ventura was visited on the mound by head trainer Nick Kenney. Per Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star, he’s day-to-day with back spasms and lower back tightness.

It’s just another bump in the road for the defending champions, who currently sit 6.5 games back of a postseason spot with seven left to play. Through 176 innings in 2016, Ventura posted a 4.35 ERA and 1.2 fWAR, a considerable downgrade from the 4.08 ERA and 2.7 fWAR he contributed during last season’s championship year despite a moderate bounce-back in the second half.

Prior to his early exit from Saturday’s game, Ventura went four innings for the Royals, giving up three runs on 10 hits and two walks and striking out six of 24 batters faced.