Tagged: Torii Hunter

Keeping The Faith!

“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! 

                         ANAHEIM, CA - OCTOBER 08:  Torii Hunter #48 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim reacts to hitting a three-run home run as catcher Victor Martinez #41 of the Boston Red Sox look on in the fifth inning of Game One of the ALDS during the 2009 MLB Playoffs at Angel Stadium on October 8, 2009 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

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.weaver2-1.jpg picture by lafmyers

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.

  sleep.jpg picture by lafmyers

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. 

  bigfinish.jpg picture by lafmyers

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.

  torii1.jpg picture by lafmyers

 

Angels Baseball…Fan Strong!

 

 

Win, Lose, Win and a New Angel

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.

 

 

Good Morning Baltimore

I have to admit I did not watch Friday night’s game.  I, like most Americans, was glued to CNN watching that breaking news story that gripped the nation.

                

               map.jpg picture by lafmyers

 

Scientists Confirm New “Bermuda Triangle”

Wichita, Kansas (AP) – Scientists from MIT have confirmed the existence of a new “Bermuda Triangle”.  In response to disappearing aircraft, small watercraft and a number of farm tractors, scientists raced to the rural town of Fall River, outside of Wichita, to investigate the mysterious occurrences.  “We detected the presence of some type of magnetic force field that is approximately two hundred miles wide,” Professor Stewart Bradley reported during a press conference Friday afternoon.  Kent Hardy, an official with the FAA also provided more information regarding the rumor that a plane, believed to be transporting the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim from Orange County to Baltimore, had disappeared from radar Thursday evening only to suddenly reappear one hour later and landing without further incident in Baltimore.  “Although exact details are not available, I can confirm that the plane disappeared from radar at approximately 8:00 PM, eastern time.  We were able to reestablish contact one hour later although the crew reported nothing unusual had happened.”  While scientists are insisting some kind of atmospheric phenomenon is responsible, Fall River residents are reporting the sighting of a large, unidentified flying object, circular in shape with bright colored lights.  “I was bringing Paris and Nicole, my two dairy cows, into the barn when all of a sudden I saw this huge thing in the sky that looked like a ginormous  Frisbee and that thing just sucked up that big old airplane!” Tucker “Tadpole” Johnston, Jr. claimed.  Officials met the plane and interviewed all crew and passengers but no one recalled anything out of the ordinary happening during the flight.  “Everything was normal,” Angels third baseman Chone Figgins told reporters.  “We were singing 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall like we always do to pass the time and then we all took a nap.  But my belly button hurts.”

                            

Now, I’m not saying this could have anything to do with the Angels losing Friday night to the Orioles 6-16, but at least now it makes sense.  How else do you explain Jered Weaver giving up 6 runs in the first inning?  The O’s scoring 7 runs in the 7th?  It’s aliens, I tell you.  Aliens.

                 

By Saturday, the Angels were able to shake off any residual effects of the alien probing and were in top form, especially Big John Lackey who gave up one run in 7 rock-solid innings.  The Orioles sent rookie Brian Matusz to the mound.  Four of his five innings were shut-outs, but the Angels were able to score all 5 of their runs in the 3rd.  Orioles relievers only gave up one hit in the last 3 and 1/3 innings.  But the damage had been done.  Lackey had his 99th career win, Brian Fuentes had his 33rd save of the season.

              

Sunday’s game was just plain crazy.  I may as well start with the bottom of the 9th because that’s when Brian Fuentes blew the save and allowed the Orioles to tie it, 8-8.  The Angels loaded the bases in the 11th and 12th innings and couldn’t score a run.  Finally in the 13th, my Torii Hunter provided the go-ahead RBI but that was just the beginning of a 9 run inning (tied a MLB record, by the way) that had the Angels ultimately winning the marathon game, 17-8.  As the Angels were having their run-fest, my mom called.  Again, she was asking why the game wasn’t over when the Angels scored the first run of the inning in “overtime”.  I think I have no choice but to get a Powerpoint presentation together for her.  That’s okay.  I was just impressed she was watching.  And we were both impressed with the Angels. 

 

Baseball…Kid tested.  Mother approved.

 

 

Rays…A Drop of Golden Sun

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.

                      kick.jpg picture by lafmyers

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.

 

 

Big Bad Voodoo Vlady?

No one was happier than I was to see Vladimir Guerrero back in the line-up Tuesday night after his latest stint on the DL.  It wasn’t that the Angels desperately needed him back.  Their offense had been, as my grandma used to say, “cooking with gas” while he and Torii Hunter nursed their injuries.  But Vlady is an integral part of who the Angels are and we’ve all missed him.  From his twinkling, ear-to-ear grin to his indecipherable strike zone, Angel fans love the guy.

                       

Not to mention, the man cut off his hair in an effort to help his team!  I don’t know many men who would do that.  Vanity is not exclusively a woman’s vice.

                                manny-1.jpg picture by lafmyers

As much as I adore Big Daddy Vlady, I can’t help but notice the Angels have now lost two games since his return.  I’m sure it could be mere coincidence.  The Angels had been red-hot coming into this series and it was just a matter of time before they’d have to cool off a little, right?  (Did it have to be against the White Sox?!?)  Is that what’s happening?  Or, could there be more to this than coincidence?

                  

Could something else be going on?  Could other forces be at work here?  It would NOT have been a far stretch at the beginning of the season to have imagined that someone, somewhere had placed a curse on my team.  It’s not like these things don’t happen in baseball.

          babe.jpg picture by lafmyers

I know after two losses in a row, it might be a bit premature to speculate about black magic, spells or curses, but there’s no harm in being a little proactive, right?  If it turns out there IS something to this mysterious change in fortune, why not identify the usual suspects and examine their possible motives?  This could be especially helpful for the Anaheim PD, FBI, CIA or local Boy Scout Troop 312, should they be pressed into service on the matter.  (I always knew reading every Nancy Drew book twice would come in handy some day.)

Suspect #1

It doesn’t get any more obvious.  They hate us.  Someone start interrogating
the players, I’ll start on the fans.  Jane, you may want to consult with your attorney.  I believe there may be some circumstantial evidence in your blog regarding a “magic” pen?!?  Double, double toil and trouble; fire burn and cauldron bubble…does that line have any special meaning for you?

 

Suspect #2

Umpire Doug Eddings made the infamous call that lost the 2005 ALCS for the Angels.  Four years later, he is stilled booed at the Big A every single time he is announced.  Oh, and there may be a conspiracy angle involving AJ Pierzynski.  Bring plenty of back up.  That guy’s nuts.

 

Suspect #3

Jose Guillen makes no secret of his contempt for the Angels, specifically Manager Mike Scioscia, after the skipper benched him during the 2004 play-offs because of his hot temper and bad behavior.  Another loose cannon.  Have the psych ward on speed dial.

 

Suspect #4

Was a finalist in the Angels’ mascot auditions and is reportedly still bitter about losing out to a monkey.  Says he’s sick of singing to kids and was looking forward to picking up chicks at the Budweiser Pavilion during early innings.  He was recently taken into custody on a loitering charge at Coors Field in Denver where he was heard screaming, “Come on…I’m &%$#-ing purple already!”  We may need to involve Animal Control on this one.

 

Suspect #5

It was very easy to eliminate the Rangers from my list of suspects due to the fact that they also lost their last two games…to Oakland.  Clearly, they have nothing to do with this.

 

Okay, so it’s a start.  I truly hope I’m wrong about all of this.  I guess we’ll have to see what happens Thursday.  Until then, I’ll keep working on my list in my “Harriet, The Spy” notebook.  You can never be too prepared.  (Yep, I was a Girl Scout too.)  

 

Between love and madness lies…baseball. 

 

 

The Shame Game

So far this season it seems as if the Angels’ most effective motivator has been shame.  They don’t just regroup or bounce back from a narrow loss to play well.  No, they have to be absolutely smeared and humiliated by an opposing team to get their heads back on straight and then, miraculously, they embark on a really good run.  I sure hope this is the pattern.  If so, we can expect great things from the Angels in the upcoming series with the Yankees, because I don’t know what else you could call these last two games against Texas other than shameful. 

     shame.jpg picture by lafmyers

Tuesday night’s game started out innocently enough.  John Lackey was pitching great into the 5th inning.  He had 2 outs, no one on base and the Angels were winning, 2-0.  Then it completely fell apart.  (You can’t tell me the “wave” had nothing to do with it.  Stupid wave.)  The 3 run home run Lackey gave up to Andruw Jones wasn’t as disturbing as the effect it seemed to have on him.  It really messed with his head and he wasn’t able to recover.

              head.jpg picture by lafmyers

The Rangers scored 6 runs before Jason Bulger could get the last out of the inning.  The Angels combined for 11 hits, but were down 4 runs in the 9th.  Juan Rivera made a valiant effort, hitting his second HR of the night in the 9th, but it was a solo shot.  The worst moment of the game had to be when Vladimir Guerrero left the field, limping from a strained muscle behind his knee…his good knee! 

                

Why???  With my ALL-STAR Torii Hunter already out of the line-up with a thigh injury, the Angels will be lacking some serious power at the plate.  The pressure will be on Juan Rivera, Kendry Morales and Bobby Abreu to provide some long balls, although as Jeff Mathis proved Monday night, with the Angels you never know where the key hits will come from.  I think Gary Matthews, Jr. will contribute as well, but he’ll need some more at bats to get going again.  In the meantime, maybe he can just keep stealing home.

          

Wednesday night, in the final game of the series with the Rangers, Santana was anything but smooth.  Like I said, I still have my doubts as to whether he’s 100% or not.  He seemed to have the velocity, but the Rangers took total advantage of his lack of command.  Leading the charge was Andruw Jones, who enjoyed a 3 HR night.  Yes, the same Mr. Jones who warmed the Dodgers’ bench for half of last season and posted a .158 batting average for the year.  He matched his total HR number from last season in this one game…3.  Hmmm.  I don’t know what he’s eating these days, but I’ll have what he’s having.

            

Joining in the Home Run Derby preview were Marlon Byrd and Taylor Teagarden who hit his first HR of the season.  I will not be joining in the cries to send Ervin Santana back down to triple A.  Provided he is indeed completely healthy, he will need a few more starts to get his rhythm back.  I’d rather see that happen now than in September.  We’ve seen him work out of a funk and turn back into the ace starter he’s capable of being.  The same goes for Lackey.  Do the Angels have to maintain an 8-10 game lead in the west to be considered successful?  Is it fair to expect that?  Have we forgotten that the Angels were the wild card when they won the World Series in 2002? 

                          

We’ve seen what happens when they have a comfortable lead in September and start “phoning it in” until the end of the regular season.  They were not rested and ready for the play-offs last year at all.  They were disjointed and lackadaisical.  Clutching and clawing for first place may work much better for the Angels in the long run.  Taking a look at the standings, it appears there will be a whole lot of clutching and clawing going on everywhere.  And that’s what makes a great season.   

 

Baseball…something special in the air.

 

 

Back In The Saddle Again

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?

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Baseball…it just tastes better.

 

 

Pinch Me!

When I saw Tim Lincecum take the mound for the Giants in Wednesday’s 3rd and final game with the Angels, I must admit I was a bit intrigued.  I’d heard his name and knew he was the National League’s Cy Young Award winner last season.  But my first thought was, he looked less like John Lackey or CC Sabathia and more like a 4th Jonas Brother (with a haircut and the right pair of skinny jeans). 

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I grabbed my laptop and did a quick ESPN player search.  It took me all of 6.5 seconds to read over his stats, not that they’re not interesting, he just hasn’t exactly been around for very long.  He breaks into the majors in 2007 and wins the Cy Young the next year??  By the way, he just turned 25 on Monday.  I sat there and watched him pitch the 1st inning and was very impressed with his powerful delivery.  This game would not be a walk in the AT&T Park for the Angels. 

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Sure enough, Lincecum was able to keep the newly explosive Angels’ bats awkwardly quiet.  But Matt Palmer was able to do the same with the Giants and at the end of 6 innings, each pitcher had given up only 4 hits.  The difference was, the Giants had managed to put together 2 runs, the Angels, only 1.  When Palmer gave up a lead-off home run in the 7th, it was time for the relievers to give the Angels a chance to make a comeback.   

                             

At the top of the 8th, my ALL-STAR Torii Hunter stepped into the batter’s box.  What?  My Torii was supposed to be recovering from Monday night’s collision with the center field wall.  He wasn’t expected to play again until Friday night and here he was pinch hitting.  I just knew he’s get a hit, and he did.  Next at bat?  Another pinch hitter, another hit!  This time it was Big Daddy Vlady Guerrero who has had to sit out much of the recent slugfests during interleague play.  Chone Figgins, Erick Aybar and Juan Rivera all came through and when the 8th was over, the Angels were up 4-3 and Lincecum was on the hook for his first loss since April 12th.  We just had to get through the 9th.  Piece of cake, right?  I don’t know.  Why don’t we ask Brian Fuentes?

                               

When Fuentes had the first batter in a 3-0 count, I had no choice but to hit “pause”.  In each of their 5 previous wins, the Angels had scored first.  That wasn’t the case in this game so they were poised for a great come-from-behind win and I just couldn’t bear to see it blown.  After 5 minutes, I hit “play” and then quickly hit “fast forward”.  If it was going to be bad, seeing it (and hearing it) in real-time would only make it more excruciating.  But this is what I saw:

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Suddenly “hump” day turned into “jump (for joy)” day and I was in Halo Heaven. Once again, I grabbed the laptop and clicked on the standings.  There it was…1.5 games behind Texas.  Sure, it was only a matter of hours before it said 2 again, but those few hours were the best of my week so far.  The Angels can enjoy a well-deserved day off tomorrow before they face the Dodgers again.  I am particularly looking forward to Saturday’s match-up between the Weaver Brothers.  Seriously, how do you make an interleague freeway series just a little more interesting?

                        

                          

 

Baseball…where family comes first.

 

 

Rookie-rama!

Don’t you just love irony?  I sure do.  Tuesday night was “Irish Night” at the Giants’ AT&T Park.  And was it ever.  Rookie Sean O’Sullivan made his major league debut as the Angels’ starter and turned out to be their pot of gold. 

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O’Sullivan had a shut-out working into the 7th inning when he finally gave up the only run the Giants would see.  Luck had nothing to do with it as he struck out 5 and walked just one batter.  The Giants could not figure him out and took advantage of a wild pitch to get a runner in scoring position.  O’Sullivan is only 21 years old and I certainly wouldn’t have blamed him if he’d had some debut jitters, but he was too cool for school as he made pitch after pitch.  Then, just to make it a little more interesting, he got his first major league hit when he slammed a bullet right at Giant’s 3rd baseman, Rich Aurilia, who couldn’t get his glove on it.  He also had a chance to round the bases and score a run, just like John Lackey on Monday night, when Maicer Izturis followed up with his first home run of the season.  Another night full of firsts!

                                

Someone found Mike Napoli’s “ON” switch.  Napoli’s recent struggles at the plate were erased from our memories with one swing of the bat as he unleashed a 3 run homer deep into the stands, just one of his 4 for 5 hits.  It looks like Mike’s got his mojo back and his timing couldn’t be better with my ALL-STAR Torii Hunter missing from the line-up.  My Torii body-slammed the centerfield wall Monday night, going after a line drive hit by Bengie Molina.  Remember my motto, “Once an Angel, always an Angel…except for Jose Guillen”?  I forgive you, Bengie.  I know you didn’t mean to hurt my Torii.  Thankfully, my Torii’s only injury was a couple of bruised ribs. 

           Hunter

I say thankfully, because the sound of my Torii’s body impacting the wall could be heard all the way in the broadcast booth.  I cringed every time they replayed it and I’m so glad he wasn’t hurt more seriously.  He’s expected to be back on the field Friday as the Angels start another freeway series with the Dodgers.  I’ll say it again…if my Torii Hunter isn’t the starting centerfielder in the All-Star Game it will only prove there is NO justice in this world!  Count ’em, folks.

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So, things are good in Halo-land right now.  The Angels are riding their longest win streak of the season (again, do your own math…I’m not gonna jinx it), yet another rookie on the mound gave us much to cheer about and Matt Palmer will have another start Wednesday afternoon backed up by a bunch of guys who have rediscovered their long-ball swings.  What could I possibly have to b*tch about???

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I do read (some) message boards so I know the debate rages on: Rex Hudler & Steve Physioc vs. Rory & Mark.  My vote rests squarely with Rex and Steve.  I’ve heard Rex called a “shameless cheerleader”.  I’ve been called the same thing and I hardly consider it an insult.  He’s also been accused of “dumbing down” the game.  Then call me stupid because I actually learn a thing or two from him and Steve.  Not all fans who watch Angels games can spout stats or have any experience actually playing the game themselves.  Heck, I’m happy when I get an AFLAC Trivia Question right!   And let’s not forget the many young fans who enjoy watching the games.  Few former pro athletes are as self-deprecating as Rex and I find it refreshing.  He and Steve have genuine enthusiasm that comes from being true-red Angels fans and I like it.  I don’t have much of a beef with Mark.  I respect his experience and his resume in the majors and it certainly doesn’t hurt that he’s easy on the eyes.  But Mark needs to understand that I will never find myself in the position to throw a slider, split-finger, sinker or curveball and to be completely honest, I can’t distinguish between the zillions of pitches he describes.  I know only two: ball and strike.  I sometimes find my eyes glassing over as he offers TMI for each pitch.  Now, Rory?  That guy knows how to push my buttons and he’s been doing it a lot lately.  Did anyone else notice how he seemed to be getting excited Monday night as the Giants chipped away at an Angels’ 8 run lead?  He says the wrong thing at the wrong time.  Tonight it was, “The Giants haven’t had a base runner in scoring position yet.”  The words were not even completely out of his mouth as a Giant hit second base.  Talk about a jinx?  With Rory, it’s not “if you build it, they will come”, it’s “if he says it, it will happen”.  So, Rory, do me a favor, before you speak, ask yourself, “WWFD?”  (What would fans do?)  Please.  Don’t make me pull out the duct tape.  

                          

 

Baseball…can you hear me now?  

 

 

There’s No Place Like Home

Sometimes all it takes is a good talking to.  After Thursday night’s miserable 11-1 loss to the Rays, Mike Scioscia had a locker room “discussion” with his team.  What I would’ve given to have been a fly on that wall because whatever he said, obviously worked.  I almost didn’t recognize the team that took the field Friday night, back home at the Big A. 

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Who were these super-studs and what had they done with my loveable but bumbling band of baseball boys?  These new and improved Angels were hitting, scoring runs and not making base running or any other kind of errors.  I cannot tell you how refreshing it was to see them playing like the superior team I know they are.  And I don’t think I need to tell you how happy I was to see Matt Palmer take the mound for his first start since May 30th. 

                                  

Woohoo!  But I’m not at all happy to hear that Kelvim Escobar is experiencing pain in his shoulder that will prevent him from starting.  At least it looks like he’ll be available for relief pitching and he may be just what the bullpen needs.  He definitely came in handy in the same capacity back in the ’05 season.  Skeptics who think Matt Palmer’s success has been a fluke, will get to see their theory tested.  Palmer was indeed tested Friday night, and although he gave up 4 runs on 10 hits, his teammates did their share for a change and came through with plenty of runs, upping his record to 6-0.  Sweeeeeeet. 

                         

The Angels combined for 11 runs on 18…yes, 18…hits!  Everyone pitched in but notably, Bobby Abreu went 3 for 4 and Maicer Izturis, filling in for Howie Kendrick at 2nd base, went 4 for 4!  It did not come as a real shock when it was announced immediately after the game that Kendrick was being sent down to Salt Lake City.  Howie has not been himself lately.  Not only is he in the midst of the worst hitting slump of his career, we’ve seen him make some very uncharacteristic flubs, such as miscounting outs and sloppy base running.  I hope he can work these things out and rejoin the team, ready to make a run for the play-offs.  In the meantime, in light of his fantastic hitting Friday night, Izturis should be a great boost to the team’s offense. 

                                     

So, were the Angels able to keep it together and take two in a row?  And how.  One stat that has been “sluggishly” low for the Angels has been home runs, but Saturday night there were lots of fireworks in Anaheim as Kendry Morales had his second home run in two days, Jeff Mathis had a two-run shot, his first of the season and…dum, dum, dee, dum…

                                Torii Hunter

My ALL-STAR Torii Hunter not only went 3 for 4, all 3 were HOME RUNS!!!  It was incredible and the first time he’s ever had 3 in a game.  Not only does he knock them out of the park, he climbs the wall and steals them from the other guys.   Can someone please explain to me why this man is in 5th place in All-Star Game voting???  I don’t know of any outfielder who has been talked about as much on Sunday recap shows as my Torii.  If he doesn’t start the All-Star Game in center field it will be a crime, I tell you, a crime!

                               

Another star in Saturday’s game was Joe Saunders who pocketed win #7 after allowing only 1 run to the Padres in 8 and 1/3.  If not for a dropped 3rd strike and missed catch, he would’ve had his complete game.  But he sure looked good, striking out 5 and walking 1.  And the Angels defense had his back, turning 4 double-plays. 

                      

It’s been a great weekend thus far, just watching the Angels play the kind of ball we all know they’re capable of playing.  Coach Scioscia’s “lecture” should be on every players’ ipod so it’s handy should someone need a little refresher.  Practice only takes you so far.  Sometimes you need a different kind of “motivation”. 

                                            

 

Baseball…your potential, our passion.