Could Matsui be heading to the bench soon?

A healthy Jeff Mathis could spell trouble for struggling DH Hideki Matsui, who signed a one-year, $6.5 million contract with the Angels last December.

Mathis, who has been sidelined since April 20 because of a broken bone in his right wrist, is hoping to begin his minor league rehab soon and once he’s ready to return to the club, Matsui’s spot in the lineup could be in danger. Mathis is the Halos’ best defensive catcher, but Mike Napoli has been the club’s hottest hitter this month and could move to the DH position that is currently being occupied by Matsui.

Even though Matsui is hitting just .229 with a .302 on-base percentage this year, his manager Mike Scioscia told the L.A. Times that he’s not giving up on the veteran hitter.

“His track record — and I mean recent track record, not seven years ago — is clear,” Scioscia said. “Maybe his timing is not right, maybe he hasn’t squared balls up on a consistent basis, but he’s shown that it’s in there; he was our best hitter the first three weeks of the season. We’re confident he’s going to be productive.”

Matsui said through an interpreter that he “feels good physically,” though one has to wonder whether his arthritic knees aren’t a factor in his struggles.

“The results just aren’t there,” Matsui said, “so I’m going to have to keep working until they are.”

The killer for the Angels is that Vladimir Guerrero, the man who hit in the DH position last year, is now hitting .339 with 10 home runs and 37 RBI for division rival Texas. The Halos thought they had sewn up their hole at DH last winter with the signing of Matsui, but in the early going it appears that allowing Vlad to escape to Texas was a poor decision.

It’s kind of amazing to think that the 2009 World Series MVP might be benched soon, but if Matsui doesn’t start hitting that scenario will surely become a reality.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

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Angels win thriller, stave off elimination

Thanks to their 7-6 victory over the Yankees in Game 5 of the ALCS on Thursday night, the Angels saved themselves from elimination to force a Game 6.

L.A. starter John Lackey gave up three runs on six hits over 6.2 innings of work, while striking out seven and walking three. He was cruising until the sixth inning when he allowed a double to Melky Cabrera, then walked pinch hitter Jorge Posada on a terrible call by home plate umpire Fieldin Culbreth.

The call definitely rattled Lackey, who wound up walking the bases loaded before retiring the second out of the inning. He was relieved with the two outs and the bases loaded, but the Halos bullpen wound up getting shelled as the Yankees put six runs on the board to take a 6-4 lead.

But the Angels answered back with three runs of their own and then held on over the final two innings to secure the victory.

The call by Culbreth completely swung the momentum in the Yankees favor. Lackey had every right to be pissed, although he allowed his emotions to get the best of him and Mike Scioscia had little choice but to relieve him. Had New York wound up winning, the Angels could have pointed to that call as their death nail.

Joe Girardi will once again be subject to criticism following his decision to let starter A.J. Burnett go back out for the seventh inning. The Yankees had all the momentum and Girardi should have had more faith in his bullpen, but he allowed Burnett to start the inning and A.J. would up allowing the first two batters to reach base to spark the Halos.

Another Yankee that will face some heat is Nick Swisher, who went 0-for-5 and popped out with bases loaded in the top of the ninth to end the game. He had a solid regular season, but he’s hitting just .118 so far in the postseason and has killed several scoring opportunities for the Bronx Bombers.

Game 6 is set for Saturday at 8:07 p.m. ET and will feature Joe Saunders vs. Andy Pettitte.

Umpires complain of verbal abuse after Angels-Red Sox game


What with all the padding, you think MLB umpires would be able to take some ribbing. This past Wednesday, after Nick Green nearly struck out two times in one at-bat against Angels closer Brian Fuentes, manager Mike Scioscia and staff let the umpires have it. Umpires must pass through the visiting team’s dugout at Fenway to get to their locker room. It’s a stadium design unique to the ballpark and perfect for postgame confrontation.

“Their deportment as we left the field, going through the Angels dugout, left a lot to be desired,” plate umpire Rick Reed told the Boston Herald. “We filed a report after the game and I would think there will be a coach or two over there that would be regretting his actions today.”

Attempts by The Associated Press to reach the umpires for comment before and after Thursday night’s game were unsuccessful. A Fenway Park security guard who knocked on the door of their changing room before the game said they were unavailable because they were on a conference call with the commissioner’s office; after the game, a reporter’s request for an interview was similarly declined.

With two outs, the bases loaded and the Angels leading 8-7, pinch-hitter Nick Green quickly fell behind 0-2 to closer Brian Fuentes and offered at the third pitch. But first base umpire Jeff Kellogg ruled he did not go around, and Green stayed in the box.

Green then fouled off three pitches before taking three balls to walk in the tying run. The last was a knee-high fastball that had catcher Mike Napoli jumping out of his crouch in anticipation of a strikeout.

Later, Reed commented that the pitch “very well could have been a strike.” Not a smart move, Rick. Look, I’m not even an Angels fan and I know Green should have been called “out” on at least one of those pitches. Mr. Magoo himself was in hysterics. Reed made matters worse when he admitted that Napoli’s “framing” of a pitch earlier in the count justified giving Green an advantage. Wow. You never hear umpires being this honest about skewing calls. There’s not a catcher in Major League Baseball that doesn’t frame pitches. Nevertheless, if they’re caught doing so, they should receive a warning. In my opinion, Reed’s decision to thereby “get back” at Napoli is even more inexcusable.

Lastly, I think Mike Scioscia has the best “oh-no-you-didn’t-Blue” face in baseball.

Mikey’s MLB power rankings

We are now in September, which means pennant races are becoming reality and every game is more meaningful.

Read the rest after the jump...

MLB Power Rankings—Top 5 and Bottom 5

It’s getting down to pennant race times and there are some incredibly tight races and a lot of teams that are at least in contention. Here we’ll take a look at who we think the Top 5 teams are right now and who the Bottom 5 are as well.

Top 5

1. New York Yankees (73-43)—Not only did the Yankees sweep the rival Red Sox last weekend and make quite a statement, they’ve won 10 of 11 and are 22-6 (.786) since the all-star break. That is just scorching.

2. Los Angeles Angels (68-45)—You have to feel for the surging Rangers and even the Mariners, because neither one is going to catch this fundamentally sound team. If Mike Scioscia isn’t the best manager in baseball, he’s surely the most underrated.

3. St. Louis Cardinals (65-52)—The Cards grabbed Matt Holliday before anyone else could and he’s batting .493 with a slugging percentage of .813 in his first 75 at-bats with St. Louis. Pujols/Holliday has got to be the most fearsome 3-4 tandem in baseball.

4. Los Angeles Dodgers (69-47)—The Dodgers hung on without Manny for a few months, and then cooled off when he returned. They’ve lost 7 of 11 but still lead their division by 5 games and are 32-14 against NL West opponents.

5. Philadelphia Phillies (65-48)—Suddenly with Cliff Lee and Pedro Martinez, and Jimmy Rollins finally finding his stroke, the defending champs are poised to make another run deep into October and possibly November.

Bottom 5

1. Washington Nationals (41-75)—They recently won eight in a row but still trail the Phillies by 25.5 games and the fourth place Mets by 13.5. So yeah, they’re still the worst team in baseball.

2. Pittsburgh Pirates (46-69)—The Pirates actually looked half decent early in the season, but they did what they always do in July—made a whole bunch of trades and pretty much surrendered the season as well as the next three seasons, as they’ve lost 11 of their last 13 games.

3. Kansas City Royals (45-70)—Remember the Royals were 14-12 and everyone started talking about this team being decent for the first time in two-plus decades? We remember, but then they remembered that they were the Royals.

4. Baltimore Orioles (48-67)—This team has some great young players like Adam Jones and Matt Wieters and Nick Markakis, but playing in that division is almost unfair.

5. Cleveland Indians (49-66)—Once again, the Indians have disappointed and started selling off players. Cliff Lee, like CC Sabathia last year, is the reigning AL Cy Young winner, and the Tribe also dumped popular catcher Victor Martinez and infielder Ryan Garko. Next year sure has a familiar ring on Lake Erie.

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