Is the Angels’ window for contending closing?

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After being swept out of the playoffs by the Royals last night Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto was asked if his team’s window for contending was closing and he strongly disagreed, telling Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com:

We had a fantastic season, won 98 games. Our desire was to win a world championship, and obviously we fell short, but I still feel really confident in the foundation of the players that were here. … We’re not a team that can’t sustain and can’t balance what we’re doing. We like the group of players we have; we feel like we’re a well-put-together team. Again, we fell short. Next year, with the full contingent, believing that we will have Garrett Richards back and in large part have a big part of the foundation of this team. We feel we’re tweaks and turns from being a very good team again. There’s no reason that will change.

Spending big on free agents Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, and C.J. Wilson has worked out horribly for the Angels and will continue to hamstring Dipoto, because he has very little payroll space remaining unless owner Arte Moreno approves a big budget increase.

With that said, Mike Trout is the best player in the league at age 23 and having him around erases a lot of mistakes and a lot of iffy payroll-related decisions. There’s no way the window is going to slam shut on a team coming off a 98-win season with Trout and a payroll approaching $200 million, but Dipoto has quite a few issues to address and not a whole lot of roster or payroll flexibility.

Pujols is signed through 2021, Hamilton is signed through 2017, and Wilson is signed through 2016.

Phillies walk off winners thanks to a poor decision by Marcell Ozuna

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The Phillies’ bullpen, which has not been good as of late, gift-wrapped Monday’s game for the Cardinals. Starter Nick Pivetta was brilliant, fanning 13 while allowing two runs in 7 1/3 innings. But things unraveled after he left the game. Victor Arano took over for Edubray Ramos to start the ninth inning with the Phillies leading 4-2, but he allowed a one-out single and a double. After striking out Harrison Bader, Arano appeared to strike out Yairo Munoz for the final out of the game, but the ball trickled through the legs of catcher Andrew Knapp, allowing a run to score and the tying run to move to third base. Lefty Adam Morgan came in to face pinch-hitter Kolten Wong. Wong tied the game up, sneaking a single into center field.

In the 10th inning, Jake Thompson gave up the go-ahead run on a leadoff home run to Tommy Pham. It seemed like it was just going to be another one of those losses that have become increasingly common for the Phillies lately. But the Phillies’ offense didn’t go down quietly, even though it hadn’t put a runner on second base since the start of the second inning when J.P. Crawford doubled. In the bottom half of the 10th, Hoskins blooped a single into shallow left-center to start the inning. Hoskins moved to second base on a ground out from Odubel Herrera. Matt Bowman intentionally walked Carlos Santana, then struck out Jesmuel Valentin. That brought up Aaron Altherr, who replaced Nick Williams after Williams took a baseball to the face off of the right field fence. Bowman fell behind 2-1, then threw a 90 MPH fastball that Altherr lined into left field. Rather than keep the ball in front of him, Marcell Ozuna decided to dive for the ball to make the final out, but he missed. The ball trickled past him, allowing the tying and the game-winning runs to score, giving the Phillies a come-from-behind win.

On the list of people happy to see Ozuna miss that ball are Altherr (of course), Arano, Morgan, and Thompson. But perhaps no one was happier than manager Gape Kapler. The win might help take the heat off of him somewhat after another poor performance from the bullpen. When a team struggles, everyone wants a scapegoat and Kapler is an easy target. He has been all year, undeservingly.

Phillies radio broadcaster and former major league reliever Larry Anderson said after the bullpen meltown, “Not everybody can pitch in the ninth inning. And I know Gabe Kapler thinks they can, but they can’t.” Aside from Ramos and Seranthony Dominguez (who was unavailable after throwing 52 pitches between Saturday and Sunday in Milwaukee), no one in that bullpen has been reliable. The closer, Hector Neris, just got optioned to Triple-A. You work with what you have, and right now, Kapler doesn’t have a whole lot. Thankfully for him, he wasn’t punished with another loss thanks to Ozuna.