Tuesday night’s game versus the Mariners featured the same pitching match-up that we saw last week up in Seattle…Scott Kazmir and Felix Hernandez. Again, Kazmir was solid, going 7 innings and giving up 1 run on 3 hits. And again, Kazmir’s performance failed to garner him a much deserved win. But at least this time the Angels were the victors, winning it walk-off style in the 10th. As much as I don’t particularly like close games, “closer” (and I must use that term loosely) Brian Fuentes, had better get some time on the mound in these last few weeks or he will be a liability in the post-season. The second pitch home run he gave up to Mike Sweeney that forced a 10th inning was really hard to watch. When he followed that up with two walks, Jason Bulger had to come in and rescue the inning and ultimately, the game.
Jered Weaver had a good night on Wednesday, striking out 8 in 6 and 1/3. In all fairness, Ian Snell and Jason Vargas weren’t too shabby either. The difference in the game was what happened with runners in scoring position. The Angels were 3 for 10 with a base clearing double from Kendry Morales in the first inning. The Mariners were 0 for 7. It was almost a good thing that Trevor Bell gave up a run in the top of the 9th. Brian Fuentes needed the practice…and got the save, number 40. Of course, this is my favorite 40:
As we dig deeper into this final stretch, I can’t help but think about how consumed I am with my Angels and baseball. Consider how everyday words are taken over by baseball fans and now only pertain to the game and the road to the championship:
Clinch – Really…isn’t it everyones’ favorite verb? What other word can elicit the ultimate sigh of relief from a baseball fan?
Division – Math term? I think not. There’s three in each league and that’s all that matters.
Wild Card – Has nothing to do with poker all though the term “Texas Hold ‘Em” may still apply.
Record – In this age of CDs and Ipods, this one’s easy. Wins and losses, plain and simple.
October – The only month that matters. April is a close second.
Yankees – Used to be only Scarlett O’Hara could make it sound like a curse word. Now we all can.
Let’s face it. Certain words hold special meanings for baseball fans during baseball season. Just last week my mom mentioned on the phone that she had bought an “Angel” something for my car. How very cool, I thought. It’ll be a great addition to my Angels license plate frame, Angels antenna ball and Angels window flag. I picked it up this weekend:
Ooops. Guess I forgot there are other kinds of angels. What can I say? It’s baseball season.
Baseball…we love to fly and it shows.
While the summer may be winding down, the race to the play-offs is definitely heating up. It’s been over a week since I’ve had a chance to praise/criticize/brag about/plead with my Angels but I’ve not missed a minute of all the action.
The Angels started off their road trip on a high note last Monday as they shut out the Mariners and scored 10 runs. Thankfully, my week got very busy after that. Step-son-in-law’s birthday, a couple of days with my niece before she headed back to school, got a tattoo, family BBQ, work…having lots going on definitely helped to ease the sting of the Angels’ second and third games in Seattle. I was unable to watch those games live and was more than happy to fast-forward through them, then quickly delete them from the DVR.
Tuesday was awful. The Angels’ loss to the Mariners, combined with the Rangers winning both games of their double-header, had the Angels losing 1.5 games in the standings in a single day. And Wednesday wasn’t any better as Scott Kazmir’s great Angels’ debut was squandered when his teammates provided absolutely ZERO run support. Not exactly a warm welcome.
Luckily, things improved when the Angels got to Kansas City. They managed to win the first game on only 3 hits and took the second game in extra innings. By Sunday, my boys were looking much better, hitting and dazzling us with 4 perfectly synchronized double-plays.
Monday, Monday…can’t trust that day. I was ready for the sweep. Me, the couch and the remote for live, uninterrupted viewing of the game…on a paid day off! What’s better than that? Oh wait…I know this one…A WIN?!?! No such luck. Instead it was 3 errors and 12 left on base.
The Angels are headed home and will face the Mariners again. Their schedule for these final 26 games of the regular season is tough. Yankees, Red Sox, White Sox…all critical games. The Angels have not played their best ball against the teams in their own division and they have 7 more games with the Rangers, who I’m sure will be hoping to make their move and surge ahead in the final two weeks. We’re getting quality starts and seeing fantastic defense. It’s time for the Angels’ bats to heat up again and make it happen. Fasten your seatbelts, baseball fans. It’s going to be a bumpy ride!
Baseball…catch the wave! (But don’t DO the wave…it’s a rally killer!!!!!)
When I finally got to sit down in my air-conditioned family room to watch Saturday’s Angels/Yankees match-up, I was feeling a little bad for all the Angels fans in attendance at the Big A. Yankee, fans? Not so much…except for our Jane Heller (Confessions Of A She-Fan), who I knew had made the long drive down from Santa Barbara to see her beloved Yankees close up. It was the top of the fifth, 90+ degrees and the Angels were losing, 4 to 1.
As I counted my loot from our yard sale and applied cold aloe vera gel to my sunburned face, I said to myself, “Gee, if only my boys could have a fifth inning like last night!” Instead of rubbing my face, I might as well have been rubbing one of these:
My wish came true…and how! The Angels exploded all over Andy Pettitte as well as Yankees relievers, Dave Robertson, Brett Tomko and finally, Phil Coke. When the smoke cleared, the Angels had won, 14-8. Jered Weaver had his 10th win of the season and the home runs he gave up to A-Rod and the newest Yankee, Eric Hinske, were basically meaningless considering the crazy run support Weaver received from his teammates.
Somehow, some way, the Angels continue to be Yankee kryptonite. The funny thing is, it really doesn’t matter who the Angels are currently playing…they just need to win. The Rangers are battling it out with the Mariners within their own western division and winning will ideally keep the Angels on the top of the heap. But there’s no denying the Angels/Yankees rivalry, although the playing field (no pun intended) is certainly a bit more leveled than it was back in 2002 when the Angels’ total payroll was about 1/3478 of the Yankees’. The great financial divide between the two teams undoubtedly fueled the rivalry and was a definite source of pride when the bargain-basement Angels would wallop the elitist Bronx Bombers. Ironically, because owner Arte Moreno has loosened the purse strings to attract and compensate some of the best in the business, the Angels’ lack of success in the post-season has become a real bone of contention for fans.
It’s only natural that with big money comes big expectations. We’ve already witnessed, as the Angels struggled terribly early on in the season, how quickly some fans became cynical. Angels fans did not respond to the foibles of the 2002 Angels with disgust or frustration simply because they didn’t expect that rag-tag team to be real championship contenders. Sure, all fans hoped they could pull it off but it was hardly expected. If we adopt the notion that a team’s payroll should guarantee a championship season, we risk becoming the type of fans who live and breathe this philosophy. Simply put, we risk becoming Yankees fans.
Okay, here’s a little tidbit for all the Yankee fans I just ticked off: The $236 I made working my *ss off in the sizzling Southern California sun at my yard sale today doesn’t even come close to what I had to pay a plumber to come to my house at 7:00 PM on a Saturday night. But at least I have this: 2 Angels come-from-behind wins vs. the Yankees…priceless!
Baseball…what’s in your wallet?
A weekend sweep of the Diamondbacks put the Angels in their rightful place…1st in the west!
I can’t say they deserved the ranking any earlier in the season. They looked woefully lost in April following the death of pitcher Nick Adenhart. They also had 3 of their ace starters on the DL and a bullpen that had a disturbing habit of giving games away in the final innings. There were cold bats, base running errors and a closer who had an extremely tough time finding the strike zone. But somehow, things came together and in recent weeks and we’ve seen the team really gel.
The Angels emerged from this final series with the Diamondbacks with the best record in the MLB for interleague play, 14-4. Anyone who wants to minimize that achievement needs to keep in mind that the Angels faced the Dodgers, the red-hot Rockies and the Giants, all of whom sent their very best to the mound.
I’m not at all surprised that the Angels are in sole possession of first place. I knew they’d get there eventually. Texas, Oakland and Seattle have all made instrumental changes to their teams that will keep this a tighter race than we’ve had in recent years. But I believe the Angels have that key formula that will take them all the way into the post-season.
They’ve got incredible defense, led by my ALL-STAR Torii Hunter, stealing HR’s and extra-base hits in center field. The infielders rarely fail to impress and have entertained us regularly with some amazing double-plays. The Angels’ offense is back on track with everyone in the line-up contributing from lead-off man, Chone Figgins, to their pitching staff who threw in a few hits of their own when given the chance during interleague play. The bullpen has settled down and closer Brian Fuentes has been outstanding during his latest outings. While this is all quite reassuring from a fan’s perspective, I believe the Angels once again have that one vital ingredient that has been lacking for the last few years.
Without real competition in the division, they haven’t needed it. Well, they’ve got competition now and the only way they’ll prevail is by having that one important element, that little bit of magic that carried them to a championship in 2002. What is it?
Baseball…it just tastes better.
The Angels head to Toronto tomorrow. Perhaps the change of scenery will do them good. This last homestand was awful. It started with a 3-17 bulldozing by the White Sox and ended with, well okay, so it ended with a win. Yeah, a walk-off win in the 9th. Woohoo. I guess I’m still harboring some anger over Saturday’s ridiculous loss. Closer (or more accurately, IMPOSTOR), Brian Fuentes, was handed Matt Palmer’s shut-out, 3-0 lead in the 9th and single-handedly incinerated it. I’ll get over it…eventually. But I am SO over Brian Fuentes. I would like to personally put him on a flight back to Denver.
What??? You don’t actually think he’s earned the right to fly commercial? (Good luck clearing those Rockies, Brian!) I am the furthest thing from a fair-weather fan but Saturday’s game really got to me. I had trouble sleeping that night. I kept re-playing that 9th inning over and over again in my head. (Okay, I’ll admit it…only because I know he won’t go back and read this…not having hubby home to spoon me didn’t help.) By game time on Sunday, I was toying with the idea of recording the game and indulging in a “General Hospital” marathon (a truly disgusting habit…I need an intervention).
How loyal am I? When the Angels were down 8-1 in the bottom of the 6th, I didn’t even turn the channel. Was I my usual optimistic self? Nope. Can you blame me? The previous 5 games were hard to shake. A lack of hitting, an unsteady bullpen and some really lame base running mistakes had taken their toll on me. Everyone’s entitled to a bad day, including me.
Sure, the Angels seemed to have something going on when they scored 4 runs in the inning but there was no way I was going to fall victim to false hopes again. In the 9th, down two runs, Izturis and Figgins each managed to draw walks. They’re on with 1 out. In the past, I would’ve been up and pacing the family room. Instead, I remain prone on the couch and actually feel my eyes roll. Awwww…hate me if you want. Tuesday night, tying run at the plate, ohhhh…game over. Sound familiar??? Abreu flies out to left. Here we go again. Vlady hits a blooper to right and a run scores. Huh? I sit upright. Mariner’s closer, David Aardsma, intentionally walks my Torii Hunter. I move to the edge of my seat and start thinking, “Make him pay, make him pay,” like I usually do. Juan Rivera comes to the plate…and walks! In comes the tying run! I feel my pulse increasing but suddenly, there’s a flash and I see…a week ago, Dodger game, tied in the 10th, Angels can’t score, Dodgers get their walk-off. I shake my head like an Etch-A-Sketch to erase the image. Kendry Morales is at the plate. Now I’m on my feet. And then…
I knew they could do it. Good luck in Toronto, guys. I have faith. I always do.
Baseball…believe in something better.
The Angels have averaged less than 6 hits in each of their last 4 games. That just isn’t going to get the job done. They were lucky to have gotten a win in one of those games, but that can be credited to Jered Weaver and his continuing dominance of White Sox hitters.
John Lackey had a mediocre night Friday against the Mariners, giving up 5 runs in 7 & 1/3 innings. The 3-5 loss wasn’t exactly a runaway, but how can the Angels expect to win a game when 6 out of 9 in the line-up were hitless? I mean, they’re hitting the ball (only 5 outs were strike-outs), but they’re popping up or grounding out. Juan Rivera had a good night, a very good night. There were only 5 Angels hits in the entire game and 3 of them were his, including a solor HR in the 5th.
He also made a Torii-esque catch over the left field wall to rob Russell Branyan of his own HR. Unfortunately, before the applause in the stadium could even die down, Jose Lopez launched one that did make it over the wall…about a foot and a half beyond Rivera’s reach. (There’s only so much your defense can do if you’re going to leave ’em dangling right over the plate.) Juan Rivera had a great 2006 season. He was an everyday player, either filling in for Garret Anderson in left field or DH-ing. He had a .310 season, with 23 HR’s and 83 RBI’s. I felt like he was on the verge of becoming a “major player” (pun intended) in the ’07 season. Like A-Rod major.
Then Juan had to go and break his leg playing winterball. He wasn’t back until September and only played in 14 games at the tail end of the season. He had a decent 2008, but played in less than 90 games. With no shortage of outfielders, who knows how many starts he’ll get but if he continues to hit in the clutch, I hope we’ll see plenty of him in the DH spot. Mike Napoli did great until his bat got all icy cold.
That’s one thing about Napoli…it’s almost like he’s got an on/off switch. He’s either hitting up a storm or nothing. Absolutely nothing. Yes, Vlady’s back. But he’s 2-16. It’s not unusual for one or sometimes two players in the line-up to be going through a drought, but these last few games made me think I should:
But I think I’ll wait until the Angels are out of town. I would hate to see this weekend’s games rained out. Definitely not THIS weekend. THIS weekend I’m a:
Woohoo! I love my husband, but for 5 days a year I get to:
- Read a book without someone interrupting me numerous times, telling me to check out the “Die Hard” bike on American Chopper
- Wear the same pajamas from Friday night to Monday morning without someone threatening to call a hazmat crew
- Watch a few award-winning, subtitled foreign films without someone asking me how long ’til they show boobies?
But most importantly…I get to watch my Angels games in peace without someone moaning or groaning every time an Angel batter strikes. More than Christmas, more than Opening Day, more than Sephora’s Annual Friends & Family Sale, I look forward to my husband’s fishing trip to Mexico. (I’m not allowed to mention which town they visit as every year the guys worry that their sleepy little fishing village will turn into another Cancun. 14 years, still only 1 streetlight. No problema.)
For those keeping score…
Friday: Angels 2
West Coast Hookers 5 Dorado, 1 Black Marlin
East Coast Bobbers 3 Dorado, 1 hangover
In the first two games of this four game series with the Mariners, the Angels had a total of 29 hits. It was unfortunate they couldn’t have saved, oh…about a half-dozen of those hits for tonight.
I’m sure Ervin Santana sure wishes they had. In his second start of the season, he gave up just a single run in the first inning. The way the Angels have been hitting in Seattle, I never would’ve guessed that one run would decide the game. Santana lasted 6 & 2/3 innings in an odd pitching duel full of pop-flies and ground-outs. Strikeouts were hard to come by. Santana had 3 and Jakubauskas had only 1 in his 6 innings.
I don’t know what the weather was outside of Safeco Field, but inside, the Angels seemed to be playing in a dense layer of fog. Or maybe it’s just me and my roaring allergies that have pretty much kicked my behind today. It was a really dreary game. With only 6 base runners the entire night, there were few exciting moments. Half of those base runners were on in the 4th. My Torii Hunter doubled, Kendry Morales and Gary Matthews each drew a walk and the bases were loaded for Howie Kendrick. I swear I looked away for only a second to crack open a fresh can of Fresca and POOF…it was over with a fly ball to right. By the top of the 8th, I seriously contemplated changing channels just to see if it would change the game.
I only think about changing the channel but never do. (Besides, that Adam Lambert creeps me out a little. Is it just me? BTW…the other guy won.) Isn’t it funny how superstitious we fans are? If the Angels have a hot rally going, I won’t leave the room or even change seats. Poor Sunny, who starts yelling “night-night” at 7:30 PM on the dot, has climbed out of his cage and marched to the bedroom to put himself to bed on a few occasions. (Sorry, Sun-Buns…Mom can’t leave when the Angels are batting!)
(I’ll answer the most asked question in advance: He’s completely potty-trained. He sleeps 10-11 hours and goes right to the toilet in the morning, even though he always asks for breakfast first???)
Fans and our superstitions…that topic deserves its very own entry. I still have the lucky red underwear that took the Angels all the way to the 2002 World Series. (And the shirt I was wearing when I met Bono, but I couldn’t tell you where my wedding dress is.) I can admit it here because something tells me no one reading this will find it even remotely odd.
Even though this was a bummer of a day, (I’m really missing Dad tonight), my husband knows I’m a “glass is half full” kinda gal. To cheer myself up, I’ll recap the good things that happened today:
1. Santana may not have gotten the win but he had a rock-solid outing.
2. The Tigers beat the Rangers.
3. Big Papi’s drought is over. (I don’t like to see any star struggle as he has.)
4. The other guy won American Idol. (What the heck is his name?)
5. Sunny is fast asleep and his mommy tucked him in.
Now, I’m chock full of allergy meds and headed to bed myself to dream of an Angels win.
Sleepy in So Cal
Baseball…we never sleep.
My miracle man, Matt Palmer, is now 5-0. Granted, he didn’t have his A game, but as it turns out, his C+ game was good enough. Palmer gave up 7 hits (2 were HR’s) and the Angels relievers, who took over after 5 innings, gave the Mariners nothing! Zilch, zero, nada!
Not even a walk. Now THAT’S a miracle! When Brian Fuentes came in to close things out in the 9th, he had only a one-run cushion. But lo and behold…he struck out the side! Now, I know I’ve been a little tough on Brian. But I have to say, I really liked what I saw tonight. Sure, he had a couple of full counts, that only means he made those critical pitches and kept it together under pressure. I like that in my men…ummm…I mean, I like that in my closers.
Brian and I have had our issues from the start. First, he came from the other side of the tracks…the National League…and I didn’t know a whole lot about him. Second, it didn’t help that he thought he could somehow take the place of my Frankie-Baby.
If anyone knows what a tough nut I am to crack, it’s Frankie. It was love at first sight when he popped up during the 2002 post-season and gave me a ring (okay, a replica World Series ring, given out to all 45K fans at the 2003 opener), but I wanted nothing to do with him when he tried to fill the shoes of my one and only, first love forever and ever…
I was the ice queen to K-Rod when my Percy left and it took quite a while for him to get back in my good graces. Things were good for a while (at least I thought so) but then he left me for the big city…and he didn’t even leave a note! In April, when all of us Angels fans were hurting, I turned to Brian for comfort. I needed him to show me that everything was going to be all right. But he couldn’t or wouldn’t so Brian and I have not had our bonding time…yet.
Not to mention, I’ve only seen him 12 times so far this season. Jeez. I saw Frankie nearly every night last year. Sure, ours was a volatile relationship. But that’s what made it so exciting and unpredictable. No matter how much he’d push my buttons or stress me out, I could count on him to do the right thing in the end. Yes, I know Brian’s only let me down twice so far, but our relationship is just too new for him to play with my heart like he does some nights. Tonight was a big step on a long road. It’ll take some time, but we’ll work it out. In the meantime though, Matt Palmer and I? We’re like this:
Baseball…it’s so tasty too!
If you ever have the opportunity to visit Seattle…GO! There’s much to see and do and it’s all surrounded by some of the most incredible scenery our country has to offer. The aquarium should not be missed, you must see the guys throwing fish at Pike Place Market and on a clear day, you can see magnificent Mt. Rainier from the top of the Space Needle.
The city is a magical gateway to the entire Pacific Northwest. You can travel south and stop at all the quaint little seaside towns that link the coast like treasured charms on an heirloom bracelet. Or you can explore breath-taking Puget Sound and hop a ferry that will take you to Victoria, British Columbia for a stroll through colorful Butchart Gardens followed by afternoon tea at the Empress Hotel.
Seattle’s nickname, “The Emerald City”, is certainly fitting. It’s an absolutely enchanting place. Mariners’ right fielder, Ichiro Suzuki surely must agree. It’s a city he (theoretically) sacrificed a World Series ring for. At least through 2012, anyway. Ichiro, like Torii Hunter when he was a Twin, is a player I’ve always hoped to see in an Angels uniform. Perhaps more fitting would be a Yankees uniform. Doesn’t Spiderman live in New York City?
During the game tonight, Kendry Morales’ second home run sailed over Ichiro’s head and into the seats. Ichiro watched while perched atop the right field wall. Does this guy have cleats or suction cups on the bottom of his shoes? As the ball was launched, Ichiro ran straight toward the wall and without pausing, ran straight UP the wall. It was like watching Fred Astaire’s famous tap dancing scene in “Royal Wedding”!
Only, there were no special effects. Amazing. And so were my Angels tonight. John Lackey had his first real start of the season, going 5 innings and giving up 5 runs (4 earned). Not exactly spectacular but, with help from his offense, it was his first win. Seattle scored 3 of their runs first but the Angels responded strongly. In addition to Kendry’s 2 HR’s (one a two-run shot), Juan Rivera went deep and my Torii Hunter had a base-clearing double, all in the 5th…a 5 run inning. The Angels combined for a total of 15 hits…not bad after their disastrous weekend in Texas.
Hopefully, they can stay on track tomorrow and keep Matt Palmer’s winning record intact. And I’m hoping Detroit will be able to snap the Rangers’ winning streak. That would certainly help. Hmmm. The Angels ARE in the Emerald City. Maybe they could go ask the Wizard?
Baseball…built for the road ahead.
Things are looking up for the Angels. At least it’s been less of a rollercoaster and more like:
They took 2 from Detroit, then lost 2 to the Mariners. But they won the last game of the series versus Seattle and then headed to Baltimore where they won both games of a two game series. Yes…that means they’ve put together a THREE game winning streak! Woo hoo!
Are so-called Angels fans still demanding Kendry Morales’ head on a platter? Hardly. The day after Angels Talk phone lines were clogged full of Kendry bashers, he had a 5 RBI game. He, Izturis, Kendrick, Matthews and the solidly reliable Hunter and Abreu, were getting it together and putting runs on the board. So, what’s an angry mob of “faux” fans to do? Without missing a beat, they turned their attention to Scotty Shields and the rest of the bullpen. And that’s when I get really mad.
There is no more lonely a job out there than that of a pitcher. I don’t have to spell out the misfortune that has befallen the Angels bullpen. If you really are a fan, you know exactly what the situation is. And if you really are a fan, you are kind and compassionate, not rude and belligerent. I, for one, am in awe of pitchers. What they do with a baseball and a grip defies all physics, if you ask me. Not to mention, I can’t hit a garbage can with an empty Fresca can from three paces away! I hate to disappoint the haters, but I must point out, the current three game win streak was due largely to Angels pitching. Maybe that’s why the mob was now focused on Erick Aybar after today’s game. It doesn’t matter that the Angels won. They’re NOT in first place in the west so someone must pay (at least according to the angry mob). Their cries of “Bring in Brandon Wood!” is reaching an Obama-like crescendo. Doesn’t anyone remember what happened when he came up in ’07? Wood will get his chance, and I hope for his sake he lives up to the hype this time. Why is it so easy for these half-hearted fans to dismiss a player like Aybar based on a handful of games?
Here we are, just hours away from the first of four games at the new Yankees Stadium. I’ll admit, Angels fans have always gotten a little (okay, a LOT) of satisfaction out of being able to smack those Yankees around a bit. Yeah, we refer to the Angels as “Yankee Kryptonite”. When it comes to playing the Yankees, we’ve always been able to have a superior attitude like, well…like Yankees fans have when playing anyone other than the Angels. But this series is going to be especially hard given the “David vs. Goliath” pitching match ups.
Fresh from his major league debut, Anthony Ortega will square off against A.J. Burnett. Matt Palmer will have his fifth major league start against C.C. Sabathia. Okay, I’m nervous just typing it. But have no doubt, I will be cheering for the rookies, as I always do. And if you “pretend” Angels fans can’t cut your team a little slack right now, then fine. This series against the Yankees couldn’t have come at a better time. These four games will be the true test of your real “fan-ness”. It’s survival of the fittest. If you are not a true-red Angels fan, your cover will be blown. Please keep in mind that I am much younger than this reference might indicate, but will the real Angels fans please stand up?
Baseball…where the rubber meets the road.