“Welcome back to the postseason, Halos, that most celebrated
of achieved destinations, where tradition dictates you’ll soon
be squished in the manner of a grape beneath the dancing
feet of Jonathan Papelbon.”
— Jeff Miller, OC Register
Ummmm, I don’t think so. Not even close. The only “grapes” involved in the Angels’ sweep of the Red Sox were the kind used to make this:
But let’s start at the beginning. Thursday flew by as I tackled a mountain of paperwork at the office, canceled my subscription to the OC Register and spoke with the editor’s secretary. She provided me some phone numbers for the mucky-mucks in the sports department but I was unable to reach any of them on their direct lines. Gee, I wonder if they were out at the Big A with their complementary press passes? By the time I got home, I was fired up and ready for a good game. With all the talk about the “one-two” punch of Jon Lester and Josh Beckett, I was praying John Lackey would have his best stuff. Did he ever. It was a great pitchers duel that continued into the 5th inning and we were all holding our breaths, wondering who would blink first. Lester did. Erick Aybar led off the bottom of the 5th with a double, Chone Figgins bunted him over to 3rd and Mr. Patience, Bobby Abreu, skillfully drew his third walk of the game. Then it happened…my Torii Hunter blasted one up, up and over the centerfield wall!
It was a thing of beauty, but given the Red Sox ability to throw runs up on the board in later innings, I said a quick prayer for insurance runs. Kendry Morales delivered in the 7th with an RBI and one more run came in on a bad throw by Jason Bay. After giving up only 4 hits, Big John Lackey left the mound after 7 & 1/3 to thunderous applause. Darren Oliver was superb, finishing the game without allowing a single base runner. Fantastic! I had hoped and prayed for a win and got just that. To top it all off…it was a shut-out! Sweet.
As you can imagine, I was itching to update my blog after Thursday night’s win. After attempting for nearly 2 hours to access MLB Blogs, I gave up and hoped I’d have some time at work on Friday to send out congratulations to my boys and revel in the victory a little. It didn’t happen as, once again, it was a busy day, cut short by my early departure to get to the Big A for all the action of Game 2. Since I’d gone into work wearing my World Series Champs t-shirt, jersey, hat and lucky postseason red underwear, I only needed to feed the birds, grab my hubby and get on the road. There was no traffic at all on the 5 freeway and we were in the stadium by 5 PM. I couldn’t help but shake my head at the number of “fans” who were attempting to enter the ball park with ALCS tickets!! I use the term “fans” lightly as true baseball fans undoubtedly know the difference between ALCS and ALDS. One unfortunate woman had bought Game 2…Game 2 at Fenway! Jeez!!
We headed to our seats which were in a very lively terrace section on the right field side. I told my husband I needed to eat some dinner quickly because I knew I would not be able to eat once the game started. This was not a typical fun night at the ball park. My nerves were kicking in big time and at no time would I be taking my eyes off the field. I inhaled my sandwich and nervously waited. They showed the new pre-game video montage again and again I became emotional. Okay, that’s an understatement. I began sobbing and didn’t think I’d stop. The whole Nick Adenhart thing just hit so close to home. I was missing my Dad. This was my first postseason game without him. My husband was helpless to comfort me so he just handed me those stiff, scratchy stadium napkins and let me have my cry. Jered Weaver took the mound and wrote “N.A.” in the dirt of the mound with his finger and I let loose one last sob, then got myself together. I grabbed my thundersticks and began cheering with all my might. I’ll spare you the pitch-by-pitch recap. The Red Sox scored first in the top of the 4th but the Angels responded quickly with a run of their own in the bottom of the inning. The Angels broke the tie in the bottom of the 7th with Erick Aybar and Maicer Izturis leading the charge. Josh Beckett was done with 4 earned runs, his “punch” never materializing. Jered Weaver pitched his heart out, allowing only one run on 2 hits. He matched Lackey’s 7 & 1/3 innings and received a well-deserved standing O when he left the field.
Darren Oliver, Kevin Jepsen and Brian Fuentes provided solid relief and once again, it was an amazing game! The crowd roared with every strike, every out, every Angels’ hit and every Angels’ run. We were on our feet nearly the entire game. As we departed the Big A, the crowd was chanting “Sweep, sweep, sweep!” so loudly, they were probably heard in Huntington Beach. I didn’t join in. I couldn’t. You know how superstitious I am. And that night, my superstitions got the best of me as I decided NOT to blog. I hadn’t blogged after Thursday’s game and they won on Friday. So, if I didn’t blog after Friday’s game, well, I just felt it would bode better for Sunday’s game. But Sunday would be at Fenway. Fenway. I decided to remain hopefully, cautiously, optimistic.
2:00 AM, Sunday morning and I couldn’t sleep. I scrolled through the recordings on the DVR, looking for something that would perhaps lull me to sleep. Instead, I watched the Angels’ rally, held after their last regular season home game…again. I listened to Torii Hunter and Bobby Abreu fire up the crowd. Jered Weaver described how honored he was to receive the first Nick Adenhart pitching award. I watched the fans cheering the players as they piled aboard a bus bound for John Wayne Airport. Then I fell asleep and dreamed of another Angels’ victory.
Let me just say, baseball can do for me what football will never do: get my butt up at 9:00 AM on a Sunday. Here in So Cal, it was overcast and gloomy. I turned the game on and saw a bright, sunny day at Fenway. I wondered who the sun was shining for. Scott Kazmir was good, not great, but at least he kept the Red Sox from running away with it. The Red Sox had a big 3 run inning in the 3rd and Kendry Morales cut the lead with a solo HR in the top of the 4th. The Sox scored 2 more in the bottom of the 4th and were all smiles in the dugout with a 5-1 lead. The crowd at Fenway seemed to finally perk up as well. The Angels scored one more in the 6th which hardly phased the Red Sox or their fans. But the Angels got their attention in the 8th when Bobby Abreu had a lead-off double and Red Sox reliever Billy Wagner walked Vlad Guerrero. Tony Francona decided he’d make the call to the bullpen. Well, I don’t think he used the phone. I think he just talks to Papelbon in his head, like some people talk to God. Honestly, I expected Papelbon to make an entrance like this:
Or maybe like this:
But no, he took the mound like a regular guy and promptly gave up a two-run single to Juan Rivera. What?!? This was interesting. But only for a moment as Reggie Willits, pinch running for Rivera, was quickly picked off to end the inning. The Red Sox then added a run in the bottom of the 8th and again sent Papelbon out to secure the final 3 outs of the game and what they expected would be a 6-4 win. Or not. The first two outs came fairly easy but the 2009 Angels never say die. Aybar singled up the middle, then took 2nd base, uncontested. Chone Figgins managed a walk of his own, bringing Abreu to the plate. When Abreu smacked the Green Monster with a solid double and Aybar came around to score, I was cheering and waving my rally monkey. And when they walked my Torii Hunter and loaded the bases, I yelled, “Make ’em pay, Vladdy! Make ’em pay!” Vladdy drove Papelbon’s first pitch right up the middle and dropped it right in front of Jacoby Ellsbury. Now I was screaming!!! Figgins scored the tying run and Abreu hustled in for the go-ahead. This was unbelievable! For the first time this entire season, I didn’t panic when Brian Fuentes took the mound. I knew what had just happened would not be in vain. I knew the unimagineable was about to happen. This would be a sweep! Fuentes did what Papelbon couldn’t and shut down the side, 1-2-3.
It was a half hour before I felt confident that none of my neighbors had called 911 to report my screams of joy which could totally have been mistaken for the blood-curdling sort. It was hard to do much of anything the rest of the day. I realized I’d spent the previous four days a wound-up bundle of nerves. Now it was time to exhale. Oh, and watch every second of news coverage I could find. The idiots at TBS immediately cut away at the end of the game to show a re-run of “Seinfeld”. Not even a moment of locker room champagne dousings. Somehow I find it hard to believe they would’ve done that had the Red Sox just completed a sweep in the ALCS. I guess my guys will continue to be the Rodney Dangerfield of the MLB…no respect, I tell ya. Whatever. We’re used to the unfair coverage and the lack of respect. Just think how stupid the local reporters look now. They all predicted a sweep…by the Red Sox. That’s okay. Everyone can keep dissing my guys, but the fans will always keep the faith. We know how bad our Angels want this. And we know what they’re playing for.
Angels Baseball…Fan Strong!
As planned, I headed out to the Big A for Wednesday’s day game, the last of three versus the Tigers. With my Angels in danger of losing 4 in a row, I had my rally monkey in tow and was ready to help my guys turn it around.
First of all, it was hot. Really, really hot. If you watched the game on TV, it I’m sure the stadium appeared to be practically empty. That was because nearly everyone with field level seats retreated up to the shade of the terrace level. Hardly any players were seen hanging out on the railing in front of the dugouts. They too opted for the shade-covered benches instead.
It may have been sizzling, but that stadium was a big, steaming bowl of yummy goodness! Torii Hunter had a two-run homer in the 1st, Joe Saunders looked great coming off the DL and we saw a couple great double-plays and Chone Figgins almost steal home. (Okay, so he AND the crowd missed the 3rd base ump call time-out…it was still a kick to watch and would’ve been the highlight of the game if he’d pulled it off!) Needless to say, I went to the game expecting a win and that’s exactly what I got.
Thursday night was another story. We were treated to the pre-game ceremony as Brian Downing and Chuck Finley were inducted into the Angels’ Hall of Fame. It was a very nice tribute to a couple of great players and the highlight reels were a trip down memory lane for everyone. It just would’ve been nice if the Angels could’ve won. Oh, and they didn’t just lose. They were shut-out. By Oakland. Ugh.
There’s not much to say about it. Once the game started and it wasn’t about Brian Downing and Chuck Finley anymore, it was all about Trevor Cahill. He was ON as he gave up just 2 hits in 7 full innings. Michael Wuertz pitched a clean 8th and Andrew Bailey got the save, giving up one additional hit. Ervin Santana had a decent outing himself, allowing the A’s only 2 runs in 6 innings and striking out six batters. Matt Palmer provided 3 innings of perfect relief. But the Angels’ offense just couldn’t get to Cahill. Torii Hunter had to bunt to get on base. I think that says it all. I must mention the incredible play Maicer Izturis and Erick Aybar made in the 7th. If you haven’t already seen it on a high-light reel (it was #1 play of the day on ESPN), you really should check it out: Aybar and Izturis These two don’t get nearly enough credit. Even Torii Hunter called it one of the best plays he’s ever seen. The crowd clearly recognized brilliance when they saw it.
The game was another frustrating loss but it was a make-up game from April, the game that was to be played the night after Nick Adenhart’s tragic death. The Angels had a dismal month of April so we’ll just say “technically” it was an April game and move on.
I’ll just say, Friday night’s game began like an April game but ended like a 2002 October game. Kendry Morales had a solo HR in the 2nd but the A’s came right back and scored 5 runs in the 3rd after the Angels’ defense fumbled a couple of opportunities to get Trevor Bell out of the inning unscathed. The Angels were trailing 2-6 in the bottom of the 7th when their bats caught fire and blew the game wide open with a 7 run inning which included a 3 run shot by, again, Kendry Morales. When the smoke cleared, the Angels had won 11-7 and Kendry Morales had gone an amazing 5 for 5. He had a pair of doubles to go with his pair of HRs and tied his career high of 6 RBIs.
Ummm, no Tex. That’s SIX ribbies. You need two hands for that one.
Overall, it was a terrific come-from-behind win that seemed to wake up my boys and get them going. Combine the win with the Rangers’ loss to the Twins and the Angels are sitting 5 games ahead again.
After hearing the rumors all day, it was announced during the game that the Angels had acquired lefty Scott Kazmir from the Rays. Hopefully Kazmir will be just what the starting rotation needs to power through the rest of the season and beyond. He seems to have worked through any physical issues and had a strong outing in his last start, going 6 innings and striking out 10. In exchange for Kazmir, the Rays will get two promising prospects and…here’s the part that makes my stomach all queasy…”a player to be named later”. Those, without a doubt, are words no baseball fan likes to hear.
For those Rays fans who are mourning Scott Kazmir’s departure, it looks like I’ll be in your shoes very shortly. I know that being a fan means having to take the bad with the good. And it’s never easy.
Baseball…the road will never be the same.
That’s because I’m eating my words. I know, I know. I said I wanted a close race all the way into September. Would you believe me if I said I was talking about the AL East? How ’bout the NL West? (
Mannywood? Mannywoops!) I’m the first to admit the last few games have been painful.
But on the bright side, it could be worse…
I think what makes it so tough to watch the Angels struggling lately is the fact that they were playing so darned good! They weren’t playing well and getting lucky. They were playing like a true championship team. I may be behind with my posting but I haven’t missed a single moment of Angels baseball. Let’s do a quick little re-cap:
Saturday vs. Blue Jays (W 7-3) Ervin Santana had a good 6 innings, Angels’ relievers were strong. Offense combined for 11 hits with Erick Aybar going 3 for 4. Vladdy and Juan Rivera each had a home run. All in all, the Angels seemed to bounce back nicely after losing 2 in a row.
Sunday vs. Blue Jays (L 3-8) Trevor Bell had his bell rung, giving up 6 runs in just 1 and 2/3. The Angels managed to score 3 in later innings but on 12 hits, that was it. The walks (6) didn’t help. This was the 10th and final game of their road trip and it seemed as if they were victims of delayed jet lag.
Monday vs. Tigers (L 7-10) Oh, this one hurt. By the time the Angels were able to score their first run in the 6th inning, they were already down by 10. At this point, I was just happy it wouldn’t be a shut-out. But then things started happening. They scored 4 in the 6th and had scored 3 in the 8th with 2 runners on and 2 outs. But then in came Fernando Rodney for a 4 out save and the party was over. Bobby Abreu’s 3 run shot in the 8th turned out just to be for show.
Tuesday vs. Tigers (L 3-5) John Lackey again was going for career win #100. And again, it was not to be. The Angels looked as if they were going to pick up from where they left off the night before as Howie Kendrick skyed a 3 run shot to right field but former Angel Jarrod Washburn (a new Tiger) decided that was enough. He and Tigers’ relievers held the Angels to 9 hits and no additional runs while all of the Tigers’ 5 earned runs were courtesy of Big John.
If this keeps up, the Rally Monkey’s gonna need some Prozac.
Fear not, Angels fans! Drastic times call for drastic measures. Yours truly, Lucky Lori, is headed to the Big A! I will be there in person to whip my boys into shape and turn things around. Now, I know I have not been out this season to see my Angels in person as much as I usually do, but the timing couldn’t be better. With the Angels lead over the Rangers dropping to 4 games, we need a win on Wednesday. The Rangers beat the Yankees 10-5 Tuesday night. Come on! WE do that…not stinkin’ Texas! So yes, I’m fired up. In fact, I’m not even worried about jinxing anything when I tell you the Angels have won every game I’ve been to this season. And not only am I going to the game…it’s a day game! That’s right, guess whose hubby gave her the day off? It was pretty easy, actually. I’ve been been walking around in a zombie-like state, clutching my Rally Monkey and mumbling, “Let’s get Figgy with it,” and singing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” totally off key. He’s calling it a “mental health” day and he’s absolutely right. Whatever it is, I’m expecting…no, demanding…a win and when it happens, I’ll come home in such a good mood he’ll probably score a little monkey lovin’. I know, TMI.
On a serious note, Monday, August 24, would have been Nick Adenhart’s 23rd birthday. My thoughts and prayers were with his family and friends on what I know was an unbearably difficult day. July 30th was my dad’s birthday, the first one since his passing in March. I know it’s supposed to get easier but I’m not experiencing that yet and don’t expect to for quite some time. I miss him so much every day and continue to try to make the most of this baseball season without him. I know he’ll be smiling on Wednesday when he sees two of his daughters and two of his grandkids having a great day out at the Big A. With Dad as an Angel in the outfield, how can they lose?
Baseball…bringing families together.
From Baltimore to Cleveland, the Angels are showing no sign of slowing down. Tuesday night was the first game of three with the Indians and as I had hoped, rookie Trevor Bell got his first win. Bell went 5 and 1/3 and although he gave up 9 hits, not a one made it over the wall and he was backed up by some great Angels defense. The double-plays have been spectacular. Sheer poetry in motion.
Of course, the Angels offense hasn’t been too shabby. Every Angel in the lineup was an owner of a .300 batting average or better. And what continues to impress me is the patience every player is showing at the plate. Erick Aybar went 2 for 4 but he drew 2 walks. Chone Figgins went 1 for 3 and he also drew 2 walks. Who cares how they get to first base as long as they get there. Just ask former Angel David Eckstein who, during his tenure with the Angels, developed quite the reputation for taking one for the team. And the Angels must be at the top of the stats for getting to first on a bunt. Aybar, Figgins and Izturis could always keep busy in the off-season by running relay races. These guys are just plain fast.
Any team would be lucky to have 1/3 of that kind of speed on the bases. To top it off, they are excellent fielders and they can hit. We’ll just call them our triple-triple threat. And they’re just so darned cute! They always look like they’re having the time of their lives. Why not? They are. I can only imagine it’s like someone paying me a couple million to scrapbook for 8 months a year. Shheessh. If only. You can bet your sweet bippie (although I have no idea what a bippie is) I’d be smiling the entire time, even if placed on the DL with a paper cut.
Wednesday night’s game had to have left the Indians shaking their heads. Jeremy Sowers made the start for Cleveland and gave up only 4 hits to the Angels in 6 and 2/3 innings. Indians relievers Chris Perez and Jess Todd threw shut-out baseball. How could manager Eric Wedge ask for more? Well, he’d probably ask for the win but, amazingly, that wasn’t to be. Let’s just say Jered Weaver’s haircut was on fire.
Weaver threw his second career shut-out. After the game, he was quick to give credit to catcher Mike Napoli and the rest of his teammates. And it was a team effort with the Angels defense making incredible plays. The only Angels runs came in the 5th inning when they combined a walk by Napoli, a double by Kendry Morales and a single by Howie Kendrick to score two. Aybar beat a bunt to first, Figgy had a sac fly that moved Kendrick to 3rd and Bobby Abreu’s groundout scored the third run. No one, and I mean no one, manufactures runs like the Angels. They say imitation is the highest form of flattery so it doesn’t surprise me to see more and more teams attempting to play the Angels brand of baseball.
It’s no secret Mike Scioscia has had a huge impact on the Angels as a team but it’s become more and more apparent that he has also made an impression on many other teams in the MLB. Get ’em on, get ’em over, get ’em in. It’s a pretty basic concept but in the wake of the whole Sammy Sosa / Mark McGuire whoopla, teams began relying on the long ball to win games. Think of how many teams rely on their DH to clear the bags and win games? A DH who never takes the field with a glove? Prior to Vladimir Guerrero’s injuries, Scioscia routinely rotated players into the DH spot to more or less give them a bit of a rest for the night. What other team in play-off contention does that? Don’t forget, the Angels are the only team without a grandslam this season. Who cares? Because the Angels don’t depend on home runs to win games, for Angels fans they are icing on the cake. Sweet, beautiful icing.
And superb pitching like we saw Wednesday from Jered Weaver must be the sprinkles. Oh, so what famous sibling do I think Weaver resembles now that he’s chopped his locks off? London loverboy, Prince Harry. If you’ve seen Weaver with his hat off, you know I nailed this one.
Weaver’s our Prince of the Pitching Mound. 6.5 games up on Texas? All is well in the Kingdom of Halos.
Baseball…the sport of kings.
And yes, it totally ran away with me. Curses, voodoo, black magic spells? Turns out they were only in my head. Not only did the Angels beat the White Sox Thursday, Big Daddy Vlady had a home run as did Jeff Mathis, Bobby Abreu and Erick Aybar. With 9 runs on 11 hits, my thoughts are decidedly less dark and foreboding than they were yesterday.
I don’t regret yesterday’s post nor do I think I spoke too soon. What I do in everyday life, because I’m a professional worrier, is to imagine the worst possible outcome in a situation. I visualize in vivid detail the entire scenario and by doing so, am able to completely avert disaster. Don’t laugh. My “worry method” works.
It’s what keeps my planes in the air,
my cruise ships afloat,
and water pipes from bursting and flooding my house when I’m on vacation. And obviously, it’s what keeps my Angels from being swept by the White Sox. Since I wanted my Angels to come home on the heels of victory to face the Rangers this weekend, I couldn’t waste any time turning things around for them. What better way than to envision the possibility that someone had put a curse on the team that could potentially keep them out of the World Series for a hundred years? Believe me, worrying about a White Sox sweep would not have been enough. Go big or go home. It worked, didn’t it?
Jeff Mathis came into Thursday’s game hitting .197 and batting 9th in the order when he hit his 2 run shot in the 2nd, which only proves I’m even more powerful than I thought I was. I’ve decided, however, to give my overactive imagination the weekend off. While it would be very nice to completely dominate the Rangers,
I don’t know that it’s necessary to be 7.5 games up on them by the end of the weekend. The Angels have proven, once again this season, that adversity isn’t such a bad thing. They’ve seen more than their share and have come roaring back and played their best ball. This is one of the reasons I don’t get more upset with bad calls. More often than not, when a bad call is made that robs them of an out or a run, it ends up being the tide-turner that makes all the difference in a game. Usually…must I type AJ Pierzynski’s name yet again? Fine, but I pick the picture.
Pierzynski’s equally offensive manager, Ozzie Guillen, showed his sensitive side when he emerged from the dugout in the 5th inning Thursday, to complain to umpires about the delay of game as batter Howie Kendrick and pitcher John Danks stepped out of the batter’s box and off of the mound while stadium personnel rendered help to a young fan in the stands who had been hit by Kendrick’s flying bat. I’ll bet Pierzynski and Guillen get together after games to kick dogs and take candy from babies.
Ervin Santana may not have had one of his best starts, but he sure kept his cool and got himself out of big trouble in the 3rd after he loaded the bases by walking Gordon Beckham, giving up a hit to Jim Thome and nailing Paul Konerko with a pitch. His nerves may have gotten the better of him for a moment as he walked in a run, but he rebounded by striking out Jayson Nix (looking) who earlier hit a 3 run homer off him in the 2nd and getting Chris Getz to tap one right back to him. The White Sox were unable to score again except for Dewayne Wise’s solo shot in the 9th off of Kevin Jepsen. Jason Bulger delivered another 2 innings of solid relief and continues to see his ERA drop.
Bobby Abreu’s home run was his 250th of his career. Abreu’s addition to the Angels has been tremendous not only for his stats, which earned him the title of American League Player of the Month for July, but also for his shining example of plate discipline that seems to be rubbing off on his teammates. We are seeing the Angels burn through pitches and draw walks like never before. No doubt the Angels’ offense is benefitting by following in Abreu’s footsteps.
With his HR Thursday, Abreu became only the 6th player in MLB history to combine 250 homers with 2000 hits, 1000 runs scored, 1000 RBIs and 300 stolen bases. Those are amazing numbers and yet another reason Angels fans are finding it so easy to forget (and forgive) that he was ever a Yankee.
And speaking of Yankees…it’s time to wrap this up so I can go read some Yankees and Red Sox blogs. In the first of their four game series, the Yankees proved to the Red Sox that they are not the same team the Sox faced in this season’s previous match-ups. The Yankees beat the Red Sox 13-6 and almost immediately, blogs everywhere were being updated with the usual rivalry rhetoric that never fails to entertain. I’m ready to sit back and enjoy the fireworks that make me love to be a baseball fan.
Baseball…for people who share a taste for excitement.
Okay, so I whined a little yesterday. I didn’t expect to elicit any sympathy from baseball fans who have gone from drivers’ license to AARP card without their team making a play-off appearance. What it boils down to is, I sometimes wonder if I have any business being a baseball fan in the first place. It’s not that I don’t have the stamina, dedication and loyalty it takes to support my Angels. There’s no question there. But what kind of sane person invites stress into their life?
I’ll tell you who…me and obviously anyone who’s reading this. Wouldn’t it be easier to be a fan of something that doesn’t really matter much? There’s got to be something out there that would provide loads of pleasure with minimal pain.
I tried watching a sport fishing competition on TV with my husband. Sure, it was kinda exciting but it was way too brutal for me. I ended up feeling doubly guilty when I cooked up the salmon we caught in Alaska last year. (On the grill with a little dill butter…deelish!) And getting “skunked” is basically a shut-out on the high seas.
I experimented with car racing. I like cars and I like driving really (really) fast so this would be exciting, right? I settled in to watch the Indy 500 with a cold Fresca and some salt and vinegar chips. I dozed off during lap 37 and woke up during lap 162 with a chip in my hair. When I did a little channel surfing and got stuck on an episode of “Hannah Montana”, I knew this was not the sport for me. But if Helio Castroneves ever shows up on “Dancing With The Stars” again, I’ll be sure to tune in.
I was running out of options so, because I’m a much bigger fan of animals than I am of humans, I watched the Westminster Kennel Dog Show. Hmmm. These dogs didn’t look like any dogs I’d ever seen in my neighborhood. Not a cockapoo or labradoodle in the bunch. No, these were more like the “Yankees” of dogs. All pure-bred, perfect specimens with their snobby owners. And the dogs didn’t look like they were having much fun. No one threw a single Frisbee and the judges were disturbingly hands on. Stranger danger, Spot.
I guess I’ll just have to stick with Angels Baseball…all of it. The ups and downs, the highs and lows, the wins AND the losses. Yep, they’re stuck with me. But while my whining was just a momentary rant, I’d like to bring up some previous whining that was neither momentary nor truly warranted.
Almost the entire month of April, “fans” were very vocal about not wanting Kendry Morales at first base. They criticized his defense and his hitting. The comparisons to Mark Teixeira were unfair and patience was almost non-existent for Morales who was beginning his first season as an everyday player. Not only has he silenced his critics, Morales’s is a bargain with real All-Star potential.
Erick Aybar had nearly the same amount of criticism as Morales. Angels fans clearly remember Orlando Cabrera’s clutch bat and outstanding plays at short stop. No one really wanted to give Aybar a chance but we have watched him blossom into a well-rounded player who is totally capable of hitting in the clutch, stealing bases and launching incredible double-plays. Another All-Star in the making, for sure.
Gary Matthews, Jr. has probably borne the brunt of critical “fans”. While I can understand where some of the criticism stems from, Matthews expected to be a starting outfielder when he came to the Angels. Sure, he had his share of struggles last season, but by all accounts, not many players worked harder than Matthews in the off-season or at spring training to re-establish himself as an everyday player. I have little doubt Matthews can put up big numbers like he did in Texas, but without a lot of playing time, you just can’t expect miracles. When (if) Vlady comes back, it will be as a DH and having Matthews to rotate in the outfield will be a benefit in the long run. We’re already starting to see what he’s capable of doing given some regular at bats. I wish him lots of luck. I hardly consider him some kind of villain. He’s a player with heart who just wants to play.
Yes, the trade deadline is fast approaching, but to be honest, I don’t have a whole lot to say on the matter. What’s the point? What happens, happens and I certainly don’t have any say in it. In my perfect world, everything falls into place for the Angels with their current staff and together they battle all the way to a championship. I know that right now the starting rotation is out of sync but every one of those guys has the potential to get it together and pull off starts like John Lackey did today in the Angels’ win over the Indians. (And super kudos to Howie Kendrick on his 5 RBI’s. He’s been picked on too so I’m happy to see Howie getting his groove back.) There isn’t a single player I’d want to be traded or I think needs to be traded, but I will say this, as much as I’d hate to see Robb Quinlan playing somewhere else, he deserves much more playing time than he gets with the Angels. He should have an opportunity to contribute everything he can to a club and it’s just not happening for him in Anaheim. He’s an underrated talented guy. He can do so much more if given the chance.
The Angels are off Thursday then they will take their 60-40 record to Minnesota for more action with the Twins. Oh, those pesky Twins!
Baseball…double the pleasure, double the fun.
Tonight (Tuesday) the Angels played their 99th game of the season. As the game was ending, I began to think about what my state of mind was last year at this time. Here are a few visuals that I feel accurately capture my mood at the end of July, 2008:
This season, things are a little different:
Love hurts sometimes. Not every season can be a walk in the park, right? And Tuesday night was NO walk in the park, that’s for sure. Jered Weaver seemed out of sorts in his circa 1980’s uniform in honor of Retro Night and the Indians scored 1 in the first and 1 in the second. The Angels answered with 3 runs in the 3rd but the Indians were back for more and led 4-3 at the end of 5. Weaver was out, Matt Palmer was in and he pitched 3 scoreless innings of relief, giving up only 1 hit. Then came the 8th inning. Erick Aybar was on, beating out the throw to first. Bobby Abreu was a cool customer and patiently drew a walk. (Pitching change.) Juan Rivera singled into left field and Aybar scored the tying run. Mike Napoli hit into a double-play, but Abreu moved to third. (Pitching change.) Maicer Izturis drew a walk of his own and Kendry Morales was up. Guess what? He walked too and the bases were loaded for Gary Matthews, Jr. who hit a solid, base-clearing double out to the wall. Reggie Willits popped up to end the inning, but I had my insurance runs. Or did I?
Of course I did! There wasn’t any way Brian Fuentes would blow TWO saves in as many nights, right? He walks Andy Marte. Asdrubal Cabrera hits a double. Jamey Carroll hits a single and a run scores. This. Is. Not. Happening. Jason Bulger is feverishly warming up in the bullpen. Sin-soo Choo walks and the bases are loaded with the go-ahead run on first. Mike Scioscia sends Fuentes to the shower. For the second night in a row, Fuentes not only blows the save, but fails to get a single out. I must say, I’m shocked. But now I’m praying for Bulger and a happy ending. Bulger gets Victor Martinez to hit into a double-play and one more run scores. Now the tying run’s at third. Jhonny Peralta grounds out to Aybar and not only does Bulger get his first career save, good ol’ Matt Palmer ends up with the win, improving his record to 9-1! What a completely different outcome from the previous night. Ha! Take that, Indians. Just another Halo victory, my as$.
Baseball…it’s better out west.
What team doesn’t expect a lot from the meat of their order? Who doesn’t want one of their big guns coming up to the plate with a couple men on and the game on the line? Let’s face it. With Torii Hunter, Vladimir Guerrero and Juan Rivera all on the DL, the Angels meat of the order has gone from looking like this:
to looking like this:
But not like some cheap fast-food burger…more like one of those really good restaurant burgers where the server asks you how you want it cooked. And you can get mushrooms on it. Or bleu cheese. Yum.
But much can be said for appetizers. Sometimes you get to the restaurant and you’re starving, so you quickly grab the menu and order a couple of appetizers and you start munching on a plate of tasty little morsels and before you know it, you’re so full you don’t even need to order an entree. Appetizers are delicious too and sometimes they’re just enough to get the job done.
But every once in a while, you just want dessert. Something decadent and rich to satisfy that sweet-tooth. Maybe drizzled with something on top or oozing with a creamy filling. Desserts are always less expensive than dinner but sometimes they sure do hit the spot, don’t they?
And then there are times when I go to a restaurant, I look over the menu and I still can’t make up my mind. I just don’t know what I’m in the mood for. That’s when I usually just go with whatever the chef recommends.
How can you go wrong? The Angels are a veritable buffet of baseball talent. In any given game, you just don’t know who will pack the biggest punch or pull off the unexpected. They are multi-talented and oh-so flexible. But more importantly, they’ve got chemistry and chemistry should never be underrated. This is a group of men that obviously enjoy playing together and have tremendous respect for each other. This hasn’t happened by chance. The Angels organization puts as much emphasis on personality and sportsmanship as it does talent and ability. We don’t hear about turmoil in the clubhouse or rivalry between players. This, with a team that has rotating outfielders, two catchers and has started a dozen pitchers. You’d think there would be reports of animosity or players jockeying for positions, but there’s none of that. All we see is a group of guys playing hard together, then celebrating together. Considering it wasn’t long ago that we watched this same group of guys mourning together, this recent streak of come-from-behind and edge-of-your-seat wins is all the more meaningful. If any team has come from behind this season, it’s the Angels. And this Angels fan is loving it.
Baseball…it’s what’s for dinner.
Tuesday’s double-header with the Royals was everything Angels fans could’ve hoped for and more. If the Angels’ pre-All-Star sweep of the Yankees and their 3 of 4 weekend in Oakland weren’t enough proof that they can absolutely get the job done without Super-Vlad and Torii Hunter in the lineup, then today’s games surely must have erased all doubt.
Today’s double-feature may as well have been called “The Erick Aybar Show” as he went an astounding 7 for 9 with a walk. Each time he came to the plate, it wasn’t a question of IF he’d get a hit, but rather WHERE he’d hit the ball.
In the first game, which the Angels won 8-5, the Angels struck first, scoring 3 runs in the 2nd inning. They lost their lead in the 5th, but DH Mike Napoli tied it up with a solo HR that nearly crossed the state line. Ervin Santana struck out 7 but gave up 5 earned runs in 6 innings. Not exactly spectacular, but with run support coming almost entirely from the bottom half of the lineup, he had nothing to worry about. Gary Matthews, Jr. and Reggie Willits (in only his 18th game of the season) each chipped in 2 RBIs, once again proving that you never know where the key hits will come from. Darren Oliver and Kevin Jepsen provided solid relief and Brian Fuentes collected save #29 (still tops in the majors).
The nearly empty stands at Kaufmann Stadium began to fill up in anticipation of game 2. I was curious to see what changes Mike Scioscia would be making on the field and in the lineup. Howie Kendrick took over for Maicer Izturis at 2B, Willits switched from LF to RF, Robb Quinlan took over in LF and Bobby Abreu was the DH while Napoli caught for rookie Sean O’Sullivan. O’Sullivan, who only had one strike-out, was helped along by some solid defense and only gave up 2 earned runs in 5 1/3 innings. When Justin Speier took over in the 6th, the Angels had a 3-2 lead. I’ve refrained from criticizing Speier for the mere fact that I really like the guy, but he’s been all over the place lately and I was feeling a little uneasy. I told myself that if he did not have a good outing today, I’d have no choice but to “mention” it in my next post.
Luckily, for Justin’s sake, I have nothing but good things to report. When he came in with 2 on and 1 out, he struck out 2…no problemo! So, in the top of 7th, either just because they could or to give Fuentes the 9th inning off, the Angels busted the game wide open, scoring 7 runs. Royals fans were alternately gasping, booing and finally, giving their team a wholly sarcastic standing ovation when the inning, mercifully, came to an end.
As the song from “Les Miserables” goes, “A little fall of rain, can hardly hurt you now.” I’m sure the Royals are wondering if perhaps they might have fared a bit better had they played in that TEENY, TINY BIT OF DRIZZLE that was happening last night. Oh well. Guess we’ll never know. Fine by me!
In a recent post, fellow blogger Jonestein opined as to whether it’s worth giving up future talent to rope in a “now” man in a bid to make it to (and win) a championship. I suppose that would depend on whether or not Roy Halladay would report to the clubhouse with a backpack full of WS rings with your team’s logo on them. Many think he would. I happen to think quick fixes don’t always pan out. One of my true joys of being an Angels fan has been the privilege to watch young talent make their way up through their amazing farm system and take the mound or have their first big league at bat.
There’s a special excitement that happens when cameras pan to the rookie’s parents in the stands and you can’t help but feel like you’re watching a baby’s first steps or witnessing the big break of a future Hall Of Famer. This isn’t the first season Angels fans have seen an injury-ridden team helped out by young players who get that call and hop on a flight from Salt Lake City. Sure, “going deep” is great but having depth can be greater. A sole player can win a Cy Young award, Gold Glove or batting title. But it takes a team to win a championship. So, fellow fans…do you want the quick fix or are you in it for the long haul? And how much does a fan’s perspective differ from an owner’s? Seriously, who needs the ring more?
Baseball…put our team to work for you!
It’s Friday and the Angels are about to face the Yankees. How does it get any better? None other than “Greg Brady” sings the National Anthem. Groovy.
Then the first inning started. Derek Jeter’s first-pitch double quickly turned into a 3-0 Yankee lead. Not so groovy. Somewhere, “Carol Brady” could be heard saying, “Oh, Mike (Scioscia)!” I was watching the game through the patio door while I sorted through boxes of crap for Saturday’s yard sale. Suddenly, the door slid open and my husband thrust his arm out, his hand wrapped tightly around my rally monkey’s neck. “Do you want to sell this?” he asked. Apparently I married a comedian. “No, but what kind of Harley do you have?” I asked him. “A Heritage, why?” he responded. “Oh, I just want to make sure I got it right in my Ebay listing.” He must learn not to mess with me or my monkey.
I wasn’t in a panic but I will admit I was a bit concerned. I was convinced Joe Saunders was due for a solid start but it didn’t look like that was happening. By the 4th inning, I was done sorting through stuff (and had vowed never to walk into a Target store or tune into QVC again) and went inside to really watch the game. The Angels were down 4-1. Juan Rivera had scored back in the 2nd off of Gary Matthews, Jr.’s 1000th career hit but now I felt like the Angels needed my undivided attention. The Yankees scored another run and I knew they didn’t need me as much as they needed Torii Hunter and Vladimir Guerrero. Then came the 5th inning.
Joe Saunders may have had his troubles in the early innings, but Joba Chamberlain saved his meltdown for the 5th. Trailing 5-1, Chone Figgins led off with a single. He stole second (of course) and scored on Bobby Abreu’s single. Juan Rivera was on after a bad throw to first by A-Rod that pulled Mark Teixeira off the bag. That left 2 on when Kendry Morales launched one over the center field wall to tie the game.
THAT finally quieted down the Yankee fans who had infiltrated my Big A in droves. But the fun wasn’t over yet. The Angels scored 2 more in the 6th and the Yankees responded with 1 of their own in the top of the 7th before Darren Oliver came in to get the final out and leave the bases full of pinstripes.
The phone rang in the bottom of the 7th after Derek Jeter dropped a pop-up. It was my friend who couldn’t believe what she’d just seen. It just so happens that Jeter is the only Yankee that I like. (Oh, besides Jose Molina…’cause once an Angel…you know the rest.) So, I actually felt bad for him…for about a millisecond! Little Erick Aybar’s 3 run homer was a thing of beauty and meant I could breathe just a bit easier in the 9th. Just a bit, though, because in their usual fashion, the Yankees did not go quietly and had 2 on when Brian Fuentes came in to get his 25th (MLB leading) save.
I don’t know what it is about the Yankees that seems to bring out the best in the Angels. It’s just a crazy phenomenon that can’t be explained. I’m certainly not going to get cocky. Torii’s out, Vlady’s out and tonight we saw Juan Rivera leave the game after hurting his leg after a misstep at first base. But like I mentioned in a recent post, with the Angels, you truly never know where the game-changing hits or defensive plays will come from. One thing I do know? If anyone can cool off the red-hot Yankees it’s my Angels.
Oh, and if anyone needs a microwave, drum set, coffee table or Harley Davidson Heritage, the sale starts at 8:00AM. Don’t worry about my rally monkey. He’s in protective custody.
Baseball…the pause that refreshes.