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.
The Angels finished up their four game series with the Orioles on Monday night. Can I just say that ending a series on a Monday really throws me off. All day I kept thinking it was Wednesday. No such luck. Oh well. At least the Angels ended their time in Baltimore on a high note, taking 3 of 4 games.
Ervin Santana had another good outing, giving up 3 runs in 6 innings. But in a game where both teams each had 9 hits, the Angels made theirs count. Kendry Morales had his two run shot in the 2nd and Macier Izturis had a solo HR in the 6th. Homerun-itis then struck Vladimir Guerrero who launched his own 2 run shot in the 6th and followed that up with a 3 runner in the 7th. Vlady is making up for lost time. His numbers suffered from all the time he spent on the DL. I think those whispered rumors that he’d lost his mojo for good can definitely be put to rest. Super Vlad will not go quietly into that good night. Yippee!
The Angels roll into Cleveland on Tuesday for 3 games. The Indians have won their last two but as long as the Angels offense stays hot everything should be fine. I’d like to see rookie Trevor Bell get his first win. His first game was a no decision. Torii Hunter will be back in the line-up. He’s playing every other day for a little while since he’s fresh off the DL.
There’s certainly no need to rush things as we all want him to be 100%, along with every other player. The Angels schedule will only get tougher in the next few weeks and the Rangers aren’t showing any signs of backing down. The same can’t be said for a few other teams. While every team is entitled to a slump, the Red Sox meltdown couldn’t have come at a better time for the Yankees. It’s got to be so frustrating for Sox fans to watch their team falling from grace so swiftly as the Yankees charge forward. Not pretty.
And in the National League, Dodger fans, who have been riding the hot tamale train since the season started, could be starting to squirm just a little bit. They no longer can claim the best record in baseball and have seen the Rockies chip away at their comfortable lead. They are now just 4.5 games ahead of the Rockies. Even my Angels have a better record than the Dodgers but here in Southern California you’d never know it. The local media, which originates in Los Angeles, continues to ignore the Angels for the most part. Whatever. We’re used to it. In the end, it doesn’t matter. I’ll eat a Dodger dog if I’m wrong, but I’ve got a feeling the Dodger train is about to jump the tracks.
Baseball…It’s the only game in town.
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.
Let’s talk about Sunday’s game, shall we? There isn’t any point in coming down hard on Ervin Santana for his miserable 3 and 2/3 innings. Why bother bringing up Shane Loux’s not so stellar 3 innings? And is there any reason whatsoever to mention the icy cold Halo bats? No. The Angels lost, and lost hard, in a 1-10 pouncing by the Twins in the final game of their four game series. But I know exactly who to blame for this loss.
Ooops. My bad. I had absolutely NO business even typing the word “eight” in my last post. I should’ve known it’d be the kiss of death for the Angels’ 8 game win streak. I guess I just got overly confident and really thought it would be okay to give my boys a little pat on the back for the incredible way they’d been playing lately. I will not make the same mistake twice so if you wonder why I fail to mention a winning or hitting streak or any other kind of pattern that may develop the rest of the season, just remember this post. I apologize to anyone and everyone who may have been adversely affected by Sunday’s loss. To all those who rejoiced or otherwise celebrated my Angels’ misfortune? I give you the bird (X 5).
(That’s Lucy, Lily, Lola, Liza and Leo-na.)
At least I was spared the horror of it all. My friend asked me to run to Long Beach with her to help her buy a new couch. We left just as the game was starting and didn’t think we’d be gone long. After five long hours in a large furniture warehouse that lacked A/C, we already knew it hadn’t gone well for the Angels because when we called home, Mr. Lucky (Bubba) and her son, Zachary (Little Bubba) would only say, “You aren’t going to like it.” My friend remained optimistic and thought they might just be teasing us. I knew they weren’t. I am my husband’s polygraph machine. I don’t even need to see his face. I knew he was telling me the truth. When we got back to the house, both Bubbas were at a neighbor’s so I began to play back the game on fast-forward. Zachary stuck his head in the back door just as I got to Kendry Morales’s solo HR in the 4th. He said, “Oh, so you saw their ONLY run?” He slammed the door just in time and the remote control failed to smack him upside the head. He’s quick, that kid.
I was looking forward to Monday night’s game with the Indians because the Angels have gotten very good at responding positively to an embarrassing smackdown. Hmmm. Joe Saunders gave up 2 runs in the top of the 2nd which didn’t rattle me at all. Maybe one of those sweet come-from-behind wins was on the menu for tonight?
When Juan Rivera, Kendry Morales and Mike Napoli had back-to-back-to-back solo shots in the bottom of the 2nd, it certainly appeared that way. It wasn’t going to be easy as the Indians kept hitting and hitting and hitting. Up 6-4 when closer Brian Fuentes came out in the 9th, things were looking good for the Angels. With 17 straight saves in as many opportunities, Fuentes just needed to do his thing to lock in another W. I won’t go into the gory details, but the Tribe had a couple long balls of their own left in them and the final score was 8-6, Indians. Fuentes’s ERA jumped from 2.78 to 3.79 and he was unable to get a single out before being pulled. Hey, he’s a man, NOT a machine! Just like any closer out there (think Joe Nathan), he was bound to have a bad night and tonight he did. I just hope he got it out of his system and can erase it from his mind. The Angels really did minimize the damage with solid defense including 4 double-plays. Had it been the Angels who got 20 hits, I have no doubt they would’ve scored WAY more than 8 runs. See? I knew there had to be a silver lining somewhere.
Baseball…we’ll give you something to smile about!