No, I’m not going to give my Angels a merciless tongue lashing. I’m not going to dissect their lackluster performances in both of their losses to the Yankees either. I will, instead, point out the single bright-shining event of the last few days. The Angels gained a half game on the Rangers and their magic number is now 4.
And how did this happen? My Angels had a day off. Oh, and Oakland beat the pants off the Rangers, 12-3. How else could it have happened? My Angels have lost some steam and frankly, I’m baffled by it.
The addition of Scott Kazmir to the starting rotation has done much to reinforce a slightly shaky starting rotation. We’ve seen the bullpen find their groove with Jason Bulger, Kevin Jepsen, Darren Oliver and Matt Palmer providing solid relief. They’ve continued to hit, though perhaps not on the grand scale we saw last month. But most of the starting line-up continues to maintain batting averages hovering around the .300 mark. They did out-hit the Yankees in the last two games but they’ve not been hitting in the clutch. On Wednesday, the Angels went 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position! It’s as if all of the “post-season preview” talk that surrounded their games with both the Yankees and the Red Sox, had a terrible effect on my Angels. I certainly don’t have any medical experience (I do have a nifty box of Sponge Bob band-aids) but I’ve made my own diagnosis.
My Angels are suffering from a case of “post-season jitters” also known as the “championship chokes”. We’ve seen the symptoms before: sudden lack of confidence, uncharacteristic sloppy base running, sudden onset of unexplained errors. We know this is not typical of our usually sharp and on-the-ball (literally) Angels but it is an ailment we’ve seen in post-seasons past. Maybe this bug has struck early this season? And maybe, just maybe, it will run its course over the next week and be out of their system by the time the real play-offs start. Wouldn’t that be perfect?
I want my Angels to show up in October brimming with confidence, bringing their A game and being the superstars I know they are. I want bats blazing, lightning fast speed on the base pads and defensive plays being executed with the surgical precision that takes our breath away a second time when the re-play rolls.
Let’s face it. 2002 was magical…from start to miraculous finish. It cannot and will not ever be duplicated. But I don’t know a single Angels fan who hasn’t had a “feeling” about this season. There’s no denying it would be an amazing story of tragedy to triumph. I’m not saying the Angels should win the World Series because Nick Adenhart died. But I sure would love to see them win it for Nick. That would be a story. And my favorite stories all have happy endings.
Baseball…make someone happy.
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.