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The state of the West

Struggling Dodgers still in contention in NL, while Angels hold six game lead in AL

Posted: July 15, 2008 12:25 a.m.
Updated: September 15, 2008 5:02 a.m.

NEW YORK - It's difficult to describe what has gone on with the race in the National League West. Not so much for the American League West.

The Angels have a stranglehold in the A.L. West. The Dodgers are battling to stay above .500 while still contending in their division.

At Monday's Major League Baseball All-Star Game Press Conference in New York City, Russell Martin, the Dodgers' lone representative, and Angel Francisco Rodriguez both shared the same opinion on what is needed to put their teams in charge of their respective divisions - offense.

"We haven't played that good of baseball," Martin said of the Dodgers, who trail the Arizona Diamondbacks by one game for the lead in the N.L. West. "We've had streaks where we've been hot.

We've had streaks when we've been cold, but the main thing is we got pitching and our pitching has been keeping us in ballgames all year long.

"We haven't lost that many games where we've been blown out. We've played a lot of close games. We're not overmatched in any way by any team. Thinking about it that way, we have a chance, especially in our division."

The Dodgers have the best pitching staff in the National League coming into the All-Star Break. The team's ERA is 3.64.

But the offense has struggled mightily. The Dodgers are 15th out of 16 teams in home runs in the National League.

Yet the whole division is struggling to produce offensively.

The five teams rank ninth (Arizona), 10th (Colorado), 13th (Dodgers), 14th (San Francisco) and 15th (San Diego) in runs scored.

"I think we've all sort of underachieved," said Colorado Rockies All-Star Matt Holliday. "I think expectations coming into the season for the N.L. West were pretty high. Obviously the Diamondbacks and the Dodgers are first and second and they probably have the best pitching in the West, so they probably have the best advantage."

Martin said simply that the offense needs to step up. The Dodgers have committed to its young players and also gave center fielder Andruw Jones $36 million for 2008 and 2009. The Dodgers might just have to wait to see if Rafael Furcal can return from back surgery.

As for the Angels, they're in much better shape with a six-game lead over Oakland in the A.L. West. It helps that the less-talented Athletics traded starting pitcher Rich Harden to the Chicago Cubs July 8.

Yet Angels Vladimir Guerrero and Torii Hunter's numbers are slightly down. The Halos are 11th in hitting in the A.L.

"We're playing great baseball right now," said Rodriguez, who now owns a major league record for most saves before the All-Star Break with 38. "Starting rotation's been amazing. Bullpen's doing the job. I know the offense, they're not producing the way people expected, but we're winning ball games - that's the bottom line. To go where we need to go we need to continue what we're doing."

For Rodriguez though, it seems to be a foregone conclusion that this will be his last season as an Angel.
Rodriguez and the Angels disagreed on contract numbers before the season. He ultimately signed for one season.

He said the team has not offered him a new contract, as he is a free agent after the season.

When asked if he would consider an offer from the Angels now, he replied, "Probably no."

On if he was happy in Anaheim, he said: "Yeah I am, but this is a business. I'm not a fan. I'm an employee so I think way different than you."


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