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Senior Baseball Columnist

Weekend Buzz: Angels, Tigers mirror images, starting with MVP candidates


The Angels have the pitching for October, if they can get there. (Getty Images)  
The Angels have the pitching for October, if they can get there. (Getty Images)  

The Weekend Buzz while you were searching for this Eddie Money Travel agency. ...

1. From Disneyland to the Motor City: Hold a mirror up to the Angels, you see the Tigers.

Aim the mirror at the Tigers, you see the Angels.

Each is lurching through a messy, expensive, disappointing ... but, even at this late date, still salvageable season.

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Each has a horse in the fiercely debated American League MVP award. Both ironically and astoundingly, neither horse is the big-hitting first baseman each team signed to a staggering $200 million-plus contract last winter, Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder.

Instead, the MVP right now is a footrace between Mike Trout, the Angels' fleet center fielder, and Miguel Cabrera, the Tigers' converted third baseman.

The managers of both clubs have been absorbing broadsides in recent weeks.

Arte Moreno on Saturday moved to quell speculation on his end when he told the club's Web site -- maybe the only outlet the temperamental Angels owner will speak with anymore -- that Mike Scioscia (and general manager Jerry Dipoto, for that matter) will be back in 2013.

Jim Leyland's status remains tenuous, believed to be tied directly to whether or not the Tigers make the playoffs.

Life for both clubs might be a whole lot more pleasant right now if Pujols and Fielder were involved in the MVP discussions.

Instead, Pujols was hitting .190 with one homer and nine RBI on May 8 and that, combined with early bullpen meltdowns, forced the Angels to spend the rest of the summer playing catch-up.

Fielder's start was nowhere near as frostbitten as Pujols', though he was a little sluggish early, too. But since Aug. 1, he leads the AL in on-base percentage (.455) and walks (31), ranks fourth in slugging percentage (.595) and ranks tied for seventh in homers (11).

For the season, Fielder is at .306 with 27 homers and 102 RBI. Pujols is at a career-low .286 with 30 homers and 100 RBI. Since May 9, Pujols is one of only two players in the majors to hit .300 or more with 25 or more homers and 85 or more RBI. The other is Detroit's Cabrera.

That each man has fallen into the Best Supporting Actor category ranks as one of the top you-had-to-see-it-to-believe-it moments of what has been an off-kilter summer. Pujols signed a 10-year, $240 million deal last winter. Fiedler signed for nine years and $214 million.

And there each man is, for all that dough, ushering a teammate into the spotlight.

Cabrera is challenging to become the first player since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967 to win the Triple Crown in no small part because, with Fielder hitting behind him, Cabrera is getting more pitches to drive.

The multi-faceted Trout largely is seen as the favorite to win the AL MVP award in part because, among many other reasons, he is leading the majors with 122 runs scored despite missing the season's first month. Of course, since he joined the Angels on April 28, Pujols has knocked in 92 runs -- 34 of them (37 percent) scored by Trout.

Both of these teams have the pitching -- Jered Weaver, Justin Verlander and beyond -- to play deep into October if they can just get there. And both helped themselves over the weekend.

But if both swing and miss, we'll be arguing all winter about which team was the more disappointing.

2. Bully Pulpit: Owner Arte Moreno, backing manager Mike Scioscia, told MLB.com over the weekend, "I've known all along that I am not changing my manager." Question is, when did GM Jerry Dipoto find that out?

3. Melky Cabrera removes name from batting race: Before painting him as a gentleman and a scholar, let's make sure he first removes a few million bucks from his free agent demands this winter, too.

4. Congratulations, Reds: Don't forget to pack your toothpaste, socks and Joey Votto for the playoffs! (that 33-16 record while Votto was disabled earlier this season may not translate in October).

5. Congratulations, Giants: Don't forget to pack your sweaters, extra underwear and Buster Posey for the playoffs! Oh, and don't forget to tell Melky Cabrera that the playoffs start Oct. 18 in Boise, Idaho (given that the Giants are 25-10 since he's been suspended).

6. RISP takers: The White Sox have lost five in a row and are hitting .075 (3 for 40) with runners in scoring position during that stretch. They've fallen from first to sixth in the AL in batting with RISP, and if they don't bang out a few clutch knocks soon, they're going to fall to second in the AL Central behind the Tigers. Kevin Youkilis, Adam Dunn, Paul Konerko, A.J. Pierzynski ... hello?

7. Oakland's Marathon Men: Following two one-run losses in New York, including Saturday's crushing 14-inning defeat in 5 hours and 43 minutes, A.J. Griffin, Jerry Blevins, Ryan Cook, Sean Doolittle and Grant Balfour were huge Sunday on the mound to help salvage things for the Athletics. Impressive resiliency after the A's battled the Yanks through 512 total pitches (271 for the A's, 241 for the Yankees), 31 total hits, 19 runs and 47 total players used (including 18 pitchers, nine for the A's and nine for the Yankees) a day earlier.

8. Chris Carpenter returns: Five innings pitched, two runs surrendered on Friday ... yeah, it might have been the toughest loss of the season for St. Louis, but the Cardinals woke up in the morning with Carpenter ready to pitch again this week.

9. Dusty Baker's heart: Best wishes Johnnie B. Baker following four days in the hospital. I'm no doctor, but I bet a little John Lee Hooker and B.B. King would snap the soulful manager's ticker back into a regular rhythm.

10. Who's your Ranger? "God bless the Texas Rangers," a death-row inmate says just before the state of Texas executed him Thursday. Better count him out for playoff tickets.


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