My Angels completed their sweep of the Tampa Bay Rays today and it put me in such a chipper mood I thought I’d walk home from work.
Okay, not really. But I was singing in the car the whole way. Does that count? It was a great series for many different reasons. I’ll start with the obvious…we won all three games. Monday night was a back and forth battle as each team took turns scoring all the way until the 7th inning when Vladimir Guerrero hit his second homer of the night.
It was no ordinary homerun…it was Vlady’s 400th and as it turned out, was the game winner. How cool is that? Big Daddy Vlady is back!
Monday’s game may have been all about the offense, but Tuesday night’s game was a rubber match. Ervin Santana went toe-to-toe with David Price but the Angels eventually got to Price whereas the Rays were left lifeless by Santana.
He threw a complete game giving up only 3 hits in the 6-0 shutout. 5 of the Angels’ 6 RBIs came courtesy of Jeff Mathis and Reggie Willits, hitting in the #8 and #9 spots. Mathis came inches from having the Angels’ first grand slam of the season. He and Willits were perfect in the clutch but truly the night belonged to Santana. Ervin the All-Star is back!
Wednesday’s game marked the MLB debut of right-hander Trevor Bell. The 22 year-old was impressive through 5 and 1/3. The Angels were down 4-2 when Mike Scioscia pulled him but had Scioscia known what the Angels bats had in store for the second half of the game, I suspect he would’ve let Bell stick around.
In the bottom of the 6th, Gary Matthews, Jr. connected for a 3 run shot that literally got the ball rolling. That was followed up with Howie Kendrick’s own 3 run homer in the bottom of the 7th, which turned out to be a 5 run inning. Angels’ relievers allowed a combined 3 hits, 1 a solo HR to Pat Burrell given up by Jose Arredondo, who has rejoined the team after doing a little time in triple A. With a final score of 10-5, it was just one of those games that was a blast to watch. It had something for everyone, great pitching, great hitting, a few stolen bases and a couple of long balls thrown in for good measure. And once again, we got to watch a rookie make it to the big time. I always get a kick out of that.
The Angels are traveling to Baltimore Thursday and on Friday they play the first of 20 consecutive games without a day off. They are currently sitting 5 games ahead of the Rangers but I’d hardly call that a comfy cushion. I’m just glad they’ve been playing well on the road as they meet up with the Orioles, Indians and Blue Jays during this next road trip. I’m also loving the way each game is a sweet surprise as far who’s contributing the big hits. And my Torii Hunter is expected to be ready for Saturday’s game. I ask you, Angels fans…does it get any better???
Baseball…Play. Laugh. Grow.
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.
I probably could’ve used Ervin Santana’s new mouth guard for Wednesday night’s game with the Royals.
Even with these come-from-behind wins of late, I’ll admit to a little nail biting in the 8th inning when the Angels were down 6-4. Maicer Izturis had tied it up with a seemingly effortless home run in the 3rd, but the Royals had come back and scored 3 in the 5th and 1 in the 6th. The Angels were running out of outs when Mike Napoli tied it again with a 2 run shot. Chone Figgins then climbed out of his Kansas City funk by hitting a bases-loaded double that scored 2. It turned out to be a fun 5 run 5th and Justin Speier and Kevin Jepsen kept a lid on the Royals’ offense that had scored all 6 runs on Joe Saunders. Brian Fuentes took over in the 9th, recorded his 30th save and secured a sweep of the Royals. This forced me to ask the question: Frankie Who?
A couple of notable events occured prior to Thursday night’s game with the Twins. First, back home at the Big A for their series with Minnesota, the logo for the 2010 All-Star was unveiled. Owner Arte Moreno, Mike Scioscia and Angels all-stars past and present were on hand for the unveiling.
Gotta love the halo and it’s obvious with just a glance, who will be hosting the game. As far as logos go, I think it’s pretty cool. I’d say it sure beats these:
Meanwhile, on the south side of Chicago, White Sox fans were witnessing history as Mark Buehrle demonstrated pitching perfection! In just 2 hours and 3 minutes, Buehrle recorded only the 18th perfect game in major league history. Teammate Dewayne Wise’s amazing 9th inning catch robbed Tampa Bay’s Gape Kapler of a home run and helped seal the deal for Buehrle. Along with Prez Obama (who personally called him), I congratulate him on this incredible baseball feat.
Now, on to Thursday night’s game. Jered Weaver took the mound and immediately ran into trouble. The Twins, having been shown up by the A’s the previous night in a humiliating 16-1 loss, were going to respond by playing tough and they wasted no time scoring 3 runs. But after a shaky start, Weaver settled right down and worked a full 7 innings, giving up only 1 additional run in the 6th. The Angels tried to play catch up the entire game, scoring 2 in the 5th and 1 in the 6th. Going into the 9th, the Angels were trailing by just 1 run until reliever Jason Bulger gave the Twins 2 walks and a hit that they used to score another run. Down 2 runs in the bottom of the 9th, in typical fashion, Mr. Lucky asked me if Texas had the night off. When I told him they did, he began to reply, “Good. At least we’ll only lose 1/2…” I cut him off and begged him to go to bed or I’d make other sleeping arrangements for him.
He wouldn’t, but promised to be quiet. And I was anything but, as Twins closer Joe Nathan begins to lose all control of the inning. He walks Abreu and Morales flies out. Then Nathan hits Napoli with a pitch and Aybar flies out. Gary Matthews, Jr. drops one right into shallow center field and Abreu scores! The Angels are down just one run now. Howie Kendrick hits one back at Nathan who knocks it down but it continues past him and looks like it’s headed right for the 2nd baseman’s glove…BUT IT DOESN’T!! Instead, it bounces OFF the bag and rolls toward right field and the TYING RUN SCORES!! That’s when I knew the Angels would win the game.
And they did with Napoli doing the RBI honors. It was a fantastic game, and although we’re getting used to these Angels come-from-behind victories (they lead the MLB with 31), this had to be the most dramatic win yet. Tonight, announcer Terry Smith’s tagline, “Just another Halo victory!” was a huge understatement!
Baseball…the relentless pursuit of perfection.
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.