Good morning, Angels fans! It’s hard to believe that just a few days ago we were shaking our heads and wondering how the Angels’ storybook season had turned into one hot mess. After losing two to the Yankees, followed by two losses to the A’s (including Saturday night’s monumental meltdown as the Angels blew a 9-2 lead to lose 15-10), it was a relief to see the Angels bounce back on Sunday with a respectable win. But even that win couldn’t prepared me for what I witnessed Monday night at the Big A.
Not only did the Angels clinch the top spot in the AL West, they did it with an exclamation point as they snuffed out the Rangers, 11-0. Ervin Santana decided to make it a one man job, as he completed all 9 innings, giving up only 7 hits. He had 2 strikeouts but they came at a crucial time, in the 6th when the Rangers had 2 in scoring position with only one out. He had oodles of defense, including 3 double-plays. Considering how dominant the Rangers have been in the west throughout the entire season, it just felt plain good to see the Angels play such a superior game.
The ensuing celebration was especially poignant as the team emerged from the locker room, sans cleats and soaked in champagne, to pay tribute to Nick Adenhart at the huge picture of Nick on the outfield wall.
I’m well aware that the road to the World Series is, once again, paved with Red Sox, but I’ve decided not to think about that right now. I’d rather just enjoy the moment, celebrate in spirit with my Angels and consider what lies ahead later this week. It’s been a long, trying season and everyone needs to let a little steam off right now…fans included!
When the last out was made Monday night, many of the players pointed toward the heavens in recognition of their missing Angel, Nick Adenhart. I did the same thing only my missing Angel is my dad. Dad and I would purchase our tickets in March and somehow, we almost always managed to pick the play-off deciding games. For the first time in 9 years, I did not purchase a single ticket to any game this season. I either was invited or given tickets to every game I attended. I was invited to this momentous game about three weeks ago, well before anyone could have known this would be the night the Angels would become the AL West champs. But once the magic number was reduced to 2 on Sunday, I knew I would be there to see the Angels clinch it on Monday night. Thanks, Dad. Oh, and just to be sure…I pulled out the World Series lucky red underwear. I’m a firm believer in fate but I’m still really superstitious!
Baseball…winning is everything.
The Angels arrived in Arlington, Texas ready to switch places with the Rangers in the standings in the AL West. So, what the heck happened? I can’t imagine it could’ve been any worse.
Oh. No. Joe. The 8-10 final score Friday night would indicate a much closer match than it actually was. Joe Saunders started the game with his 2.66 ERA but left after 5 1/3 innings, having given up 3 homers, including 2 to Ian Kinsler. Josh Hamilton’s HR came of off Shane Loux in the 8th. When the Angels came up in the 9th, they were down 3-10. Somehow, they managed a two-out rally. By the time the final out of the game came, the Angels had scored 5 runs, which unfortunately, proved to be too little, too late. They had a respectable 16 hits in the game, but the Rangers’ long-ball was the difference in getting those runs up on the board. But, given this burst of 9th inning heroics, I was expected the Angels to come roaring back on Saturday to even up the series, especially with star-starter, John Lackey, on the mound.
I knew there was no way to predict how my long, tall Texan would do in his first outing since coming off the DL. But Lackey has been the Angels’ most consistent starter since winning Game 7 of the World Series back in 2002 as a rookie. Would he be a little shaky or would he go the distance and deliver a solid 7 or 8 innings? In the most shocking surprise of an already surprising season, the unimaginable happened:
Lackey was ejected by the home plate umpire after only 2 pitches!! Pitch #1 – Lackey seemed to “lack” control as he threw behind Kinsler. Perhaps he mistook Kinsler for a left-handed hitter? Pitch #2 – Lackey nailed Kinsler in the rib cage and his first start of the season was over. Everyone’s asked me what I think happened. I’m a HUGE John Lackey fan so my response has basically been, “No comment.” I prefer not to speculate on Lackey’s intent or lack of, for that matter. I’m certainly not qualified to analyze what may or may not have been going on in Lackey’s head at that very moment.
I immediately thought back to the 2006 season. Bad-blood boiled between the two teams after Juan Rivera was hit by a pitch at a game in Anaheim. The next time the Angels went to Texas, Rangers starter, Vicente Padilla, nailed two more Angels and nearly hit a third before finally being ejected. But Padilla wasn’t disciplined as the Angels had expected and the next day, 2 Rangers were hit by Angels pitchers. Then, the Rangers hit Adam Kennedy, which sparked a bench-clearing melee after Kennedy charged the mound. Players and managers were ejected and order was restored…for the moment. In came reliever, Brendan Donnelly who promptly hit Ranger Freddy Guzman, resulting in more ejections. But when it was all over, multi-game suspensions were handed out all around, including one for Vicente Padilla, finally, for his bad behavior the previous day which had been ignored by the MLB.
Do I think this bit of ancient history played a part in Lackey’s actions? Probably not. But did it play a part in his ejection? Possibly. Umpires, like players, have long memories and Bob Davidson could’ve jumped to a quick conclusion. And Vicente Padilla WAS on the mound for Texas. Coincidence? You decide. Like Lackey said later, few of the same players who were involved in the on-going feud back in 2006 are currently on the teams’ rosters. It’s anyone’s guess as to what really happened or if the outcome of the game was in any way affected by Lackey’s ouster. Shane Loux had to step in with little notice and barely a warm-up. All of the runs in the game were scored in the first 4 innings, which spoke volumes for the Angels relievers. But when it was over, although once again they led in hits, the Angels came up short in runs, losing 3-5.
Sunday’s game rolled around and do you think the Angels could stop the speeding train that is the Rangers? Nope. Despite a fine effort by Jered Weaver, the Rangers were finally able to string a handful of hits together and score 3 runs. The Angels were shut-out, managing only 5 hits and widening the gap between themselves and the first place Rangers to 4.5 games. They lead the Mariners by only one game, making this next 4 game series in Seattle all the more critical. The Ranger take their now seven game win-streak to Detroit where, my usual logic tells me, odds are they won’t be able to continue it.
Between the Rangers’ not-so-great road record and the Tigers playing well, winning in Seattle could really help us gain some ground back. Personally, I’m glad the Angels are finished with the Rangers (for now). Their new red uniforms were particularly annoying. Why the change? What was wrong with blue? What are they trying to do? Change their luck? Sheesh. Like THAT could make a difference.
Angels Uniforms 2001
Angels Uniforms 2002
Baseball…the fabric of our lives.
I love rain. Usually. Except when it causes an Angels game to be postponed. They’re always on the road when it happens because it hardly ever rains in Anaheim. When my family relocated from Chicago to Orange County in 1976, I missed two things: my wonderfully crazy relatives and weather. Real weather…thunder, lightning, white Christmases, we have nothing like that here. We’re even ripped off in the seasons department having only two: warm and hot. So, as I have no Sunday game to comment about, I thought I’d discuss what I’ve learned as a blogger as the first month of the season comes to a close.
To be perfectly honest, I had never even read a blog here at MLB Blogs until the day after I’d posted my first blog back on opening day. I regularly read the sports page in the OC Register and would keep current on Angels news on their website. I had my Dad and a handful of friends who were faithful followers to rehash a game with or debate the latest moves made by Angels management. Reading other blogs has been a fascinating journey out of my safe, little “bubble” here in Angel land. Here are some of my observations:
1. My sweet little boys in red have Yankees fans shaking in their boots when they come to the Big Apple.
I don’t know why this came as such a shock to me! I know that non-Yankees baseball fans collectively dislike the Yankees. The general consensus is that Steinbrenner “buys” championships and every other team has to break open their piggy banks to try to scrape together a little bit of talent for their own rosters. Yada, yada, yada. We’ve all heard it before. With that in mind, yes, it’s been a not-so-secret pleasure of Angels fans that we’ve had the success we’ve had against the Yankees. Some Angels fans might admit (after 3 glasses of merlot) that even they didn’t expect the Angels to make it past the Yankees in 2002! But not knowing any Yankees fans personally, I just didn’t realize what a thorn my Angels have been in the Yankees’ side these past few years. I sure know now. And since I’m being completely honest, I kinda LIKE it!
2. My family and friends are wrong and I do NOT have a “problem”.
My husband and I have had a number of “discussions” because, while I am at an Angels game, I expect him to be sure the DVR is freed up to record said game because when I get home from mentioned game I will be watching, in its entirety, a recorded broadcast of the game I just attended. I can now tell him with total certainty that, contrary to what he tells me…I AM NOT THE ONLY ONE WHO DOES THIS! I would like to personally thank every blogger who mentions, and therefore validates, this practice. Sure, some games are rebroadcast at 1:00 AM, but they are usually edited down to two hours. The same episode of “American Chopper” or “The Deadliest Catch” is shown 63 times in a week. My husband is also ultra-sensitive when I exclaim, “I’m sorry I ever married you…”, because he conveniently leaves off the remainder of my sentence which is, “…in October!” You see, I have a serious conflict with my wedding anniversary and the post-season. October 29th seemed like a perfectly good day for a wedding…in 1999! Since 2002 however, it’s been a real problem. My husband and I were married on a cruise ship and thought it would be a lovely idea to mark each anniversary at sea. If the headquarters of a cruise line tells you they will be broadcasting Game 6 of the World Series on the ship, don’t believe them unless you are speaking with the Captain himself. (Bunch of “royal” liars!) And just FYI, the MLB Scorecast, a nifty little gadget with the best of intentions, does NOT work on a 14 day Alaskan cruise. Trust me. I speak from painful experience.
And for the record, Angels memorabilia is NOT clutter! Bobbleheads, autographed balls, MLB 3-day Blinds, commemorative wall clocks and 4 foot by 5 foot Bud Light sponsored season schedules are perfectly stylish decorating accents both in my office and my family room. I don’t tell anyone else how to decorate their homes and I’m not asking you to dust so give it a rest. At least I went with navy walls and red accents…not the other way around.
3. Women are some of the smartest and most articulate baseball fans around!
Pro sports has long been a testosterone-dripping good ol’ boys club with no real place for women unless they’re waving pom-poms or fetching a beer from the fridge. Sure, we’ve come a long way, baby. But I’m often in settings where, if I’m given the opportunity to voice an opinion, I’m not taken seriously merely because I lack the “franks and beans” needed to fill out a jock strap. I think male fans seem to have a more black and white view of their team while women see the subtle variations in every shade of gray. Some of the best blogs here are written by women…intelligent, witty, observant, sensitive women! Jane (Confessions of a She-Fan) and Julia (Julia’s Rants) offer daily doses of humor and thoughtful insights into their beloved teams (Yankees and Red Sox, respectively) and baseball in general. I’ll never be in the same league (although our teams are) but they inspire me to write from my heart and crusade for my Angels. The Bronte sisters wish they had a magic pen or a pink ball cap!
4. If we, here at MLB Blogs, banded together and focused the passion we have for our respective teams and the game of baseball on other issues, we could bring about world peace, end world hunger and stop global warming.
Well, we could. But then baseball would be boring. Who says all the best action happens on the field? If we weren’t here to observe, digest, dissect and blog about baseball it wouldn’t be nearly as much fun. We’re the ones who buy the tickets, watch the broadcasts, wear our team colors, fly our team flags from our cars, sport team logo tattoos (NO, Mom…I didn’t), and live for the game. I can’t imagine life without baseball. And I don’t want to.