The Los Angeles Angels believe they are still in the playoff chase as they begin the second half of the season Friday night against the visiting Seattle Mariners.
Still 6 1/2 games out of the American League's second wild-card slot, the Angels first must fill holes in their lineup due to injuries suffered just before the All-Star break.
Second baseman Tommy La Stella, a first-time All-Star, sustained a fractured right tibia on July 2 when he fouled a pitch off his leg. He'll be out 8-10 weeks.
In the final game before the break, catcher Jonathan Lucroy suffered a broken nose and concussion as a result of a home plate collision with Houston's Jake Marisnick. Marisnick was suspended two games for the play, while Lucroy is out indefinitely.
The Angels will fill those gaps with Luis Rengifo at second base and a combination of Dustin Garneau and Kevan Smith at catcher.
Rengifo began the year in the minors before being called up for the first time in late April. After another short stint in the minors, he was called up again on May 21.
Though just 22, Rengifo has handled the pressures of playing in the majors well. In 52 games, he's hitting .260 with a .333 on-base percentage and 10 doubles while playing above-average defense.
"I don't put any pressure on myself," said Rengifo, who was acquired prior to the 2018 season in a trade with Tampa Bay for first baseman C.J. Cron. "I just go out there and have fun, try to help the team win. That's the most important thing right now."
On the mound Friday, the Angels turn to opener Taylor Cole, who will pitch the first inning and then be followed by right-hander Felix Pena.
Pena (6-2, 4.72 ERA) is 1-0 with a 5.23 ERA in two games this season against Seattle. In his career vs. the Mariners, Pena is 1-1 with a 10.97 ERA in three games.
Right-hander Mike Leake (7-7, 4.32) will start for the Mariners, who are in last place in the AL West and are expected to trade veterans for prospects before the July 31 trade deadline.
Among those who could be dealt is Leake, who ranks second on the team in victories and leads the team in strikeouts (83) and innings pitched (114.2).
Leake has been strong lately, going 4-1 with a 3.29 ERA in his last seven starts, including 7 2/3 scoreless innings against St. Louis in his final start before the break. He is 1-1 with a 4.15 ERA in two starts against the Angels this year.
The Mariners used 53 players before the All-Star break, setting a major league record going back to the first All-Star game in in 1933. Starting Friday against the Angels, Seattle fans should expect more of the same as the team looks toward the future.
"You're trying to give guys opportunities and there's a certain window for that opportunity," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "You say, 'OK, it's not going to work for this guy, let's move on to the next.' The one thing you have to offer is at-bats and innings. At the end of the day, we want to find out about as many people as we can this season."
--Field Level Media
Angels open second half against rebuilding Mariners
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