Unorthodox batting order suiting Angels
Slap-hitting Izturis, Aybar producing in lineup's third spot
ANAHEIM -- Angels manager Mike Scioscia has been saying all season long that his offense has been "searching for things." But now, it seems like the offense might have found what it's been looking for -- but it's come with an unorthodox batting order.After averaging just 3.8 runs per game in the month of June, the Angels have caught fire in the month of July, plating 5.9 runs per game this month entering Monday. And the recent surge has coincided with the July 1 decision to use a situational lineup that has had Maicer Izturis or Erick Aybar -- both shortstops with little power but great bat control -- in the No. 3 spot in the lineup. It's far from the conventional lineup that has a power hitter batting third as Izturis, and Aybar have just three home runs each this season. But it has worked, as the Angels have averaged six runs per game in the 10 games that either has started in the third spot this month. The Angels also carry a 7-3 record in those games. The arrangement has allowed the two to get on base before getting to the heart of the lineup, which includes Vladimir Guerrero, Torii Hunter and Garret Anderson. Izturis is batting .300 with a .349 on-base percentage this month and Aybar is batting .333 with a .419 on-base percentage in the same period. The Angels continued to use that lineup Monday against the Indians, as Izturis batted third for the fourth game in a row. "I think the situational look of working counts and getting things going before we get to Vlad, Torii and Garret has given us more opportunities with guys in scoring position," Scioscia said. "We've been more productive." The team is batting .278 with 19 home runs this month after hitting just .252 with 20 homers in June. Second baseman Howie Kendrick, who is batting .345 this month, said the offense is just finally coming around after suffering a team slump. "I don't think there's a change with anybody, but I think guys are just hitting their stride," Kendrick said. "For the most part, teams go through ups and downs just like hitters. We just had a rut at the same time. But it seems like right now our bats are little more lively." Scioscia said the lineup has been working so far this month, so he will continue to use it, and it's a lineup that he has used in the past when his team was struggling with its offense. "I think as long as we keep generating offense, we'll stay with that look," Scioscia said.
It's working, and for what we're trying to do it makes sense. But obviously, if things change and our lineup becomes deep enough to adjust some things or guys aren't as locked in, we can adjust down from that."
Rhett Bollinger is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.