8/17/2014 8:11 P.M. ET
Wilson finally commanding changeup
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
ARLINGTON -- One of few positives in what has so far been a down season for Angels starter C.J. Wilson has been the evolution of his changeup, a pitch he's been toying with the last few years and has finally came into prominence in 2014.
"I really committed to it in Spring Training," Wilson said. "I was going to [use] it no matter what happened."
Wilson -- 9-8 with a 4.71 ERA in 22 starts -- has thrown the changeup a career-high 12.6 percent of the time this season, up from 6.7 percent in 2011, 8.9 percent in 2012 and 5.9 percent in 2013.
It has basically replaced the cutter, giving him a pitch that's roughly five ticks slower than his four-seam fastball. And now that he's figured out how to consistently make it fade, the changeup has finally given the 33-year-old left-hander a pitch that tails away from opposing right-handed hitters, who are batting .258 against it.
Wilson said he's "thrown two bad changeups this year that I can remember. "
Now if only his other pitches were as effective this season.
"When I was on earlier this year," Wilson said, "I'd have good games because I would be able to throw changeups to the guy right away, instead of getting to the point where I'd have to get him to chase a slider or something like that."
Hamilton asks for day off 'to take a step back'
ARLINGTON -- Josh Hamilton went into manager Mike Scioscia's office on Sunday morning and asked for the day off because "I felt like I was spinning my wheels and not really getting anywhere," the Angels' cleanup hitter said.
Hamilton was coming off three strikeouts on Saturday and four on Friday. He now has five hits, and 18 strikeouts, in his last 38 at-bats. His batting average is down to .266, while he's stuck on eight home runs in 72 games.
And lately -- "probably about three weeks ago," he said -- Hamilton feels like he's been thinking too much about the slump, which is causing things to spiral even further.
"It weighs on you," Hamilton said, "because you know what you've done in the past, you know you've been successful and done certain things. And all of it is still there. But getting out of your own way, and allowing yourself to just let your talent play is where I'm trying to get to."
Scioscia has said the Angels haven't been seeing the trademark aggressive swings from their high-priced slugger, and that "he's not playing with the same confidence that he's had." Hamilton attributed that to "thinking about things too much," adding: "When I get to the point where I'm doing that consistently, and I'm taking it to the field with me, I need to take a step back."
Sunday marked Hamilton's second day off in a week, after also sitting last Sunday against the Red Sox, and the fourth time in seven days that Hamilton hasn't played in a game if you count the two off-days.
Asked if Hamilton will return to the cleanup spot when he returns to the lineup Monday, Scioscia said: "We're going to let him exhale a day and see where we are, but our lineup long range has him in the middle of it."
Hamilton, in the second of a five-year, $125 million contract, has displayed flashes of the player he was in Texas. He batted .444/.545/.741 in his first eight games, showing signs of bouncing back from a down 2013 season in which he batted .250 with 21 homers and 79 RBIs.
But then he broke his left thumb, missed nearly two months and went on a 23-game homerless drought shortly after returning. He maintained a .288 batting average by Aug. 3, then re-introduced the toe-tap in his load and started displaying some of his trademark power, hitting a ball out of Dodger Stadium in batting practice on Aug. 4 and then homering in the game later that afternoon.
Ever since then, things have gone south.
And now, Hamilton's focus is day by day.
"It's understanding that I'm not going to be where I normally am at the end of the year [numbers-wise], but it doesn't mean I can't have a good week, a good two weeks, and it turns into a month, and just like last year, finish the season strong and help the team in certain situations," Hamilton said. "That's what I'm looking for right now. We've got a great team, guys are getting the job done, but if I can step up and add a little to that, that's probably the best thing."
Trout slumping amid deep counts
ARLINGTON -- Mike Trout works a lot of deep counts, and that's generally a good trait. It's indicative of his discipline, selectiveness and overall comfort hitting with two strikes. But it's also dangerous, and sometimes, even for a hitter of Trout's caliber, it can lead to slumps.
The Angels' center fielder is in the midst of one now.
Trout entered Sunday's series finale against the Rangers on an 0-for-16 drought that includes seven strikeouts and has dropped his batting average to .289, and Angels manager Mike Scioscia believes it's a product of being "a little passive."
• Heading into Sunday, 283 players have put the first pitch in play more often than Trout, who's tied for 11th in the Majors in overall plate appearances.
• Trout has hit with two strikes 308 times, third most in the Majors.
• Trout is a .221 hitter with two strikes this season, which is still 44 points higher than the Major League average but is still low because, you know, hitting with two strikes is hard. For his career, he's a .345 hitter with a .575 slugging percentage on the first pitch.
Asked about hitting more first pitches after going 1-for-3 with a walk in Sunday's 3-1 loss, Trout said: "There are some times when I'll go up there swinging, but I get too big sometimes and get myself out. I'd rather see some pitches."
• Trout snapped an 0-for-18 slump with a line-drive single to left field in Sunday's eighth inning, but was picked off shortly thereafter to give him his first caught stealing since Sept. 6, 2013.
• Hank Conger went 0-for-4 in Sunday's 3-2 loss and is now 2-for-20 in August, while starting only six of 15 games behind the plate.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.