With clear skies in Orange County, the long anticipated matchup within the rivalry of the Angels and Texas Rangers will take place in earnest on Saturday as C.J. Wilson and Yu Darvish square off in the middle game of a weekend set at Angel Stadium.
The pitchers were slated to start against each other just three weeks ago, but a rain delay in the bottom of the first inning of the May 11th contest short-circuited the matchup as Texas rolled to a win against Jerome Williams and the Angels’ bullpen.
Darvish earned the win in that game and Wilson the loss despite facing just five batters before the rain delay.
The lefty got his revenge on his former team the next day, tossing six stellar innings while becoming the first pitcher in a decade to make a start on consecutive days.
Next up is a showdown with the pitcher brought in to replace him.
The Angels come into the contest as arguably the hottest team in the majors, winning nine of their last 10 to get above the .500 mark and to within 4-1/2 games of the Rangers after Friday’s 4-2 victory.
Not surprisingly, the streak has coincided with the emergence of Mike Trout as the early favorite for the American League Rookie of the Year award and the emergence of slugger Albert Pujols from his horrific April slump.
Since getting the callup from Salt Lake, Trout has posted a solid .309 average with five home runs, 19 RBI and eight stolen bases in 31 contests. The numbers are improved across the board from his debut last season, with three more RBI, four more steals, three
more walks and three more triples in the same number of at-bats.
Meanwhile, Pujols has been a power-hitting machine over the last two weeks.
Since former hitting coach Mickey Hatcher was given the gate on May 16th, Pujols has six homers, 12 RBI and five multi-hit games.
The duo, along with sophomore sensation Mark Trumbo, have given the Angels some offensive support for a pitching staff that had needed to be perfect in order to win.
The Rangers enter the contest on a three-game skid and are just 8-9 since taking two of three from the Angels in Arlington.
Josh Hamilton has been the savior for the team, hitting .366 with a major-league best 21 home runs and 57 RBI, numbers that were boosted by an incredible week against the Angels and Baltimore Orioles.
Darvish, meanwhile, has been everything that the experts predicted he would be after making the decision to come to the major leagues from Japan. The right-hander enters Saturday’s action with a 7-2 record and a 3.25 ERA in 10 starts. He has also proven to be a magician, overcoming an ugly 1.46 WHIP with 66 strikeouts in 61 innings pitched.
However, he has looked much more human in the last month, going 3-2 in May with a 4.50 ERA as teams finally took advantage of the number of walks issued.