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Rounding Third: Angels making some noise again out West

By Chris Ruddick, MLB Editor

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - It may have taken some time, but the plan that Los Angeles Angels of Anahiem owner Arte Moreno and general manager Jerry DiPoto put into place prior to the 2012 season is starting to come to fruition.

And just think ... it only cost them nearly half a billion to get there.

No team has been more disappointing the last two seasons than the Angels. Big things were expected following the signings of Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson in 2012 and Josh Hamilton last year.

Mike Trout's emergence helped the Halos make a late charge in 2012, but last year the team was can't-get-out-of-their-way bad at times and finished six games under .500 and 18 games back in the American League West.

And that is with Trout emerging even further as the best young player in baseball, with him finishing second in the AL MVP race for a second consecutive season.

It's actually kind of amazing that manager Mike Scioscia was able to weather the storm considering the amount of money Moreno put into the team and the fact that a team that had been a mainstay in the AL postseason has now missed the playoffs in four straight seasons.

But to his credit, Scioscia is still one of the best managers in baseball. It's not as if he just forgot how to manage overnight. I like to judge a managerial change in one way: how quick would the fired one be hired.

In Scioscia's case, he would have been out of work for about a minute.

Oh, and the close to $30 million remaining on his contract probably had something to do with it.

Regardless, after spending like drunken sailors the past few offseasons, the Angels had nothing to show for it. Injuries, of course, were the biggest culprit, but they just weren't a good team, either.

And it looked like 2014 was going to be more of the same when Hamilton was befallen by a thumb injury in early April that was going to need surgery and cost him two months.

That was on top of David Freese being injured and Kole Calhoun missing time as well.

But a funny thing happened: the Angels actually played well. And now they seem to be fully healthy for the first time in a long time, and guess what? They are knocking on the door of the Oakland Athletics in the AL West.

In fact, if the season ended today, the Angels would be the top wild card in the AL.

"Certainly, when we you get some guys that have been out of the lineup back in, you have to feel good about the direction you're going to go in," Scioscia said. "Those guys are starting to contribute and it's fun. It's been fun to watch."

Hamilton homered in his return on June 3 and is hitting .344 with six RBI in the eight games since he's been back.

But, it's not just the players returning from injury, the Angels have made the Big A a house of horrors for the opposition of late. Since May 15, they are 11-3 in front of their fans and have not dropped any of their four series there, including one to Oakland this week.

"There's times in the last couple years where you show up to the clubhouse and didn't know if you were going to win or lose," Angels ace Jered Weaver said. "That's never a good feeling. When I was first coming up, it was always a winning mentality, we knew we were going to win that game. We're starting to get that feel back, that winning mentality back."

Speaking of Weaver, don't sell his resurgence short, either. The talented righty only made 24 starts a year ago because of injuries, but is 7-4 with a 3.31 ERA this season.

However, in his last 10 starts, he's reminded everyone of the pitcher who won 20 games just two years ago, as he has allowed more than two earned runs just twice in that span and struck out a season-high nine batters his last time out.

Take a look at the AL. Outside of Oakland - a team the Angels have beaten five straight times, by the way - is there another team out there that scares you?

Now fully healthy for the first time in a long time, there is not a team better set up for the second half than the Angels. And we know they will go out and get a player at the deadline if they need one.

Trout was probably denied at least one MVP the last two years because his team didn't make the playoffs. I have a feeling voters won't be able to use that excuse this time around.

06/11 13:06:12 ET

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