Angels May Have To Bash Their Way To Win Without Weaver
The Los Angeles Angels entered the 2013 season playing with fire. Yes, the Halos added former AL MVP Josh Hamilton to create potentially one of the best lineups in recent baseball history along with Mike Trout and Albert Pujols. However, Los Angeles also entered the year with 60% of their starting rotation new and essentially putting heavy pressure on ace Jered Weaver to stay healthy.
That plan lasted less than a week.
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Weaver left Sunday night's game against Texas in the sixth inning when after he grabbed his left (non-throwing) arm while falling off the mound trying to avoid a batted ball. X-rays that night were negative and it was thought Weaver wouldn't miss any time.
However, on Tuesday the news came that Weaver had a fracture in that left elbow and could miss 4-6 weeks, a devastating blow to the Angels in a very tough American League West. Weaver finished third in the AL Cy Young voting a year ago, throwing his first no-hitter and winning a career-high 20 games - despite missing nearly a month with a back injury - against just five losses with an ERA of 2.81 and an MLB-best WHIP of 1.02. Weaver was an opening 6/1 co-second favorite at Bovada to win the 2013 Cy Young.
The Angels this offseason were hoping to re-sign Zack Greinke, a trade acquisition from the Brewers last season, but Greinke got a huge deal from the cross-town Dodgers. The Angels also traded Ervin Santana and bought out Dan Haren, leaving Weaver and C.J. Wilson as the only returning starters. To fill out the rotation, the Angels signed veteran Joe Blanton and traded for the Braves' Tommy Hanson and Mariners' Jason Vargas. It's fair to say, however, all three of those guys come with questions.
Young Garrett Richards may just fill the huge hole in that rotation. He pitched in 30 games last year, starting nine, and was 4-3 with a 4.69 ERA. Weaver, who should miss anywhere from 6-8 starts, was due to start Saturday against the terrible Astros. Richards began this season working out of the bullpen and had allowed one earned run and three hits in 4 1/3 innings over four appearances.
This injury puts all the pressure on Wilson to anchor the staff. The lefty pitched like a No. 1 for the first half of last season but wasn't the same in the second. He also had offseason surgery and has been uneven in two 2013 starts with a 5.25 ERA. The Angels may regret not signing free agent Kyle Lohse. He had a career season with the Cardinals last year, going 16-3 with a 2.86 ERA, but couldn't find work until late March (because of draft compensation tied to Lohse) when the Brewers signed him.
Los Angeles remains the 9/2 second-favorite to win the AL pennant at the book, but if the rotation falls apart without Weaver the team might be in a gigantic hole simply to win the AL West. L.A. is the -125 favorite there. Certainly the injury changes all their series odds until Weaver returns.
Things Looking Upton for Braves
Right now, the best offseason trade in baseball looks like Atlanta acquiring outfielder Justin Upton from the Diamondbacks. Upton flashed his immense talent in 2011 with the Snakes by finishing third in the NL MVP voting, hitting .289 with 31 homers, 88 RBIs and 21 steals. All those numbers slipped appreciably a season ago, and it was clear he wasn't happy in Arizona.
Upton is now playing alongside brother B.J., a free-agent signee from Tampa Bay, and clearly enjoying it. Justin enters Wednesday leading the NL with six homers and is batting .400 with nine RBIs. He didn't hit his sixth homer until June 20 last year.
Last week, B.J. homered to tie a game in the bottom of the ninth against the Cubs and then Justin homered to win it. It was the first time in baseball history that brothers homered for the same team in the same inning. Justin Upton opened at 20/1 at the book to win NL MVP honors. His brother was 33/1, and B.J. is struggling so far other than that home run.
Weekend Live Betting Games
On Thursday, the book offers the series finale of Blue Jays at Tigers (a matinee game) as well as the finale between the Yankees and Indians. New York will be closely watching starter Phil Hughes in that one. He began the season on the disabled list due to a bulging disk in his upper back and wasn't good in his first start, allowing four runs and eight hits in just four innings. The Yanks look flawed as it is, so if Hughes is ineffective that's a big problem. Cleveland's Mark Reynolds likes facing Hughes with two homers and five RBIs in 12 at-bats.
On Friday, the Live Betting games are Giants at Cubs, Orioles at Yankees and Astros at Angels. Baltimore was one of the biggest surprises in baseball last year in battling the Yankees down to the wire for the AL East title and then losing to New York in five tightly-contested games in the ALDS. The Orioles were both lucky and good a year ago, going an MLB-record 29-9 in one-run games. They are 0-3 in those situations entering Wednesday.
Braves-Nationals and Orioles-Yankees is scheduled for Saturday, with Dodgers-Diamondbacks and Orioles-Yankees (ESPN national TV game) on Sunday.
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