Just as the division rival Texas Rangers were adding a high-profile pitcher with a history of back problems in Roy Oswalt, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim were putting their ace Jered Weaver on the disabled list with lower back spasms.
For the Angels, their eventual 9-8 walkoff victory over the Yankees on Monday ould have been a turning point in the 2012 season, finally reaching the .500 mark and capping a seven-game winning streak after beginning the season in disappointing fashion. Instead, the club will be missing its best pitcher and owner of the season's first no-hitter for at least two or three starts, just as it looked to be turning a major corner.
Though much attention has been given to the Angels' addition of slugger Albert Pujols this offseason, the concurrent signing of former Texas ace C.J. Wilson to an already-lauded rotation signaled that pitching would be the foundation the team would build upon going forward. The bullpen began the year highly suspect, but the rotation has led the way in the team’s resurgence, maintaining a 2.38 ERA during during a 7-3 road trip.
For the Angels, losing Weaver is s a double blow. Not only do they lose the services of one of the game's best pitchers for at least the immediate future, but they now live with the knowledge that their primary divisional foe has added an ace-quality starter, even if Oswalt's health has become a bit of a wild card at age 34.
Likewise, the Angels' story is one that should sound very familiar to Red Sox fans, as Dustin Pedroia's thumb injury (suffered on the very same day) also coincides with his team finally reaching .500 after underachieving for most of the season's first two months. Like the Angels, the Sox have had to deal with bullpen upheaval, underachieving star first basemen and generally inconsistent play. Now, they each have an opportunity to climb back into their respective division races, and live up to the expectations of teams with star players in large markets.
However, injuries certainly make that a more difficult task, particularly when they're involving players as integral as Weaver and Pedroia, and seemingly at the most inopportune time. After losing Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford for most of the season thus far, it's tempting to see the injuries piling on for the Sox and wonder if they'll be able to overcome this newest (thumb) jam. But Boston still has a deep lineup even without Pedroia, as is the same with Weaver and the Angels' rotation.
So while two of baseball's most-talented teams on paper toil around equal records, they find themselves at the early crossroads of their seasons while dealing with injuries to some of their most important players. How they are able to deal with these losses will undoubtedly have a huge impact on which AL teams are still playing come October.