- From a baseball standpoint, Saturday and Sunday were as heartening as Friday was disappointing. Outside of baseball, the whole weekend rocked. I didn’t bring a single project home from work this weekend. Go team, me! Okay, I work from home for half the week so, technically, I didn’t bring a single project out of my computer bag for the weekend, but you get the general idea.
- Jered Weaver, fresh off the plane from his grandfather’s funeral in Oregon (My sincere condolences on your loss. Losing a grandparent is extremely difficult and the bruise on your heart may fade, but never leaves.) worked his heart out on the mound for five innings on Saturday but his control was, understandably, far from his usual precision. It was a thing of beauty to see the rest of the team, offense, defense and bullpen alike, pick him up and get Jered the win. It was an ugly win to be sure, but the guy’s had so many pretty losses that he more than deserved this.
- Food Truck Wars alumni Nom Nom Truck, Grill ‘Em All and the Grilled Cheese Truck too? Believe the hype, they really are worth spending 45 minutes in line. They fact that in doing so we also contributed to a fundraiser for the local high school band? Pretty cool way to kill a Saturday afternoon.
- Joel Pineiro looked amazingly like…well…Joel Pineiro on Sunday and I cannot tell you how gratifying it was to see that. My hat’s off to him for working his way through his troubles with such a good attitude and I hope this is a sign that his rough times are over.
- Holy Angels offense, Batman! Torii and Aybar and Trumbombs. Oh. My! Not to mention hard, clutch knocks from Bourjos, Callaspo, Conger and Wells! Keep it up, gentlemen. This is how we win ballgames.
- With 25 homeruns to his name, Mark Trumbo is getting closer to matching and perhaps surpassing Tim Salmon’s franchise rookie homerun record of 31 from 1993. Whether or not he gets there, that’s pretty darned slick. Go Trumbo!
- As distasteful as it was, I actually rooted for the Red Sox this weekend…which is probably why they lost. Stinky Red Sox. Hmmm. Do you think they know that my love was merely a matter of temporary convenience? *nods* It’s the only rational explanation. 😉
- While my husband tends to see the Aybar as half Gilligan (serious props to True Grich for the all too often spot-on nickname), I tend to see the Aybar as half highlight reel. But there’s no denying he could go either way in a given game. Flip a coin.
- Midnight Vineyards Malbec is an excellent tater tots wine…yeah, I cracked up typing that too, hear me out. Inspired by our food truck adventures, we made gourmet burgers on Sunday, topped with blue cheese, mounds of sautéed mushrooms and a veritable tossed salad of baby greens, red onions and balsamic vinaigrette. We paired it with tater tots accompanied by curry ketchup and siricha ketchup dipping sauces. So this was a wine worthy meal…that also happened to prove the truth of the initial statement.
- I’m going to the game on Monday! It’s the perfect way to cap off the last weekend of summer. And I wound up getting field box seats so cheaply, I’m almost embarrassed. Thanks guys, but this better just be just a holiday weekend vacation thing, because although my last post is still true and this will take work and luck, we’re still in this!
The 2011 Angels can’t score to save their lives and they can’t hit when it counts. Veteran bats have only come alive in alternating streaks all season – much like Torii Hunter’s slumbering bat waking with a vengeance into his current 15-game hitting streak – and the rookies and the gap hitters are pretty much carrying the line-up. The problem with that is that we can get guys on base, but we can’t bring them home, facts I haven’t shied away from mentioning all season.
And yet, the Angels have been in the thick of the division race, winning series and beating top teams all season long pretty much on the strength of their pitching and fielding alone. Two weeks ago, we were a mere game out of first place! So what happens when the pitching inevitably falters for a few games? Last week happens, with the disastrous road trip to Toronto and the Bronx. And if the fielding gets lax too? Well, then you have what could have been a season making series against the Texas Rangers turn into what we’ve seen on the field instead the last few days – something that could very well be season breaking if the Angels don’t pull it together and play their hearts out from tonight on through the rest of the season.
Another end result is that I, consummate baseball optimist, constant cheerleader and the self-proclaimed Pollyanna of Angels baseball actually started to despair for a few minutes Tuesday night. Tuesday was my husband’s birthday and his boss gave him the company seats, the OMG! company seats, on the field, in the first section on the dangerous side of the home plate screens, 10 rows back from the action. Awesome boss, yes? But sitting there, seemingly inches from the field, watching Erick Aybar lazily glance at the second playable line drive in as many innings shoot uncontested into the outfield for extra bases, in a game where our young starter was clearly struggling and needed all the backup he could get, I thought, “Well, that’s it then. If the Angels have just given up, the season is over.”
In fact, I think I waited this long to post our photos from the game, indeed anything about the Rangers series, in the hopes that Wednesday would give me something more cheerful to talk about. No dice. At least the lollygagging fielding was over by Wednesday, but not the gaffs. Balls were being thrown all kinds of places that weren’t anywhere near a glove. Erick Aybar decided to make an effort again for us Wednesday, but alternated between not being able to keep balls in his glove and not being able to get them out in time to actually throw them – which given the throwing situation might, in hindsight, have been a blessing in disguise, I don’t know – all night. Santana pitched a great game, but with the usual insufficient run support, and now with insufficient defense, it’s no surprise we lost.
So, are we done? The commentators all seem to think so. This was an important series, no doubt about it. We could be. If we can pull tonight off, we’re still six games out of first place in mid-August and that’s a tall order. But I did say my moment of despair was brief and, like it’s underlying message, I’m not giving up unless the Angels have given up…and even then I probably won’t give up unless winning becomes a mathematical impossibility, not a mere improbability, an impossibility. I’m stubborn like that. Monday and Tuesday notwithstanding, I don’t think the Angels have given up. Wednesday they still played badly but there were improvements – our pitching was back on track and the defense was at least hustling. And, here’s the thing. We were only one game out of first two weeks ago with only a handful of head to head games against the Rangers under our belt. We have seven more coming up including tonight. So, come on Angels, this division just got a whole lot tougher, but it’s still winnable.
So, tonight and going forward through August and September, we need to see a lot less of this – big bats taking knocking our pitching for extra bases -:
And a lot more of this, namely Angels in scoring position who then actually score and Angels on the base paths who just earned RBIs. And, I know I’m being extra, extra demanding here, but how about in several of the innings leading up to the 9th inning too?:
We need to start hitting pitchers who are hittable, and not right into double plays either. Derek Holland pitched a good game, but he was hittable:
No more injuries please!!! Everyone stay healthy:
It’s unfair to but so much pressure on our starting pitching, but that’s just the way things are this season, especially with the #4 spot in the rotation in such a state of flux, the rest of the rotation needs to be lights out as often as possible. With Garrett Richards unfortunately timed injury, they’re reinstating Joel Pineiro as a starter…oooooh boy. I just don’t know about that one. Prove me wrong, okay Joel? And the bullpen needs to be equally spot on. So why did we send this guy back to AAA?:
And why do we keep putting this guy in, in crucial situations? Tuesday was fine. Fernando Rodney pitches best when we’re already behind and don’t want to fall further behind, but I still don’t like seeing him take the mound:
And the fielding needs to be error free and full of hustle:
Forgive me comissioner, for I have sinned. It’s been three weeks since my last Angels’ Stadium session…Hey, church of baseball and all that. 😉
Yes, Seth and I had our fair share of baseball on vacation, but it had been three weeks since we last visited the Big A. For this reason, and just plain not wanting to waste tickets, we arrived at the game on Tuesday night. Even though he had a loan customer right at closing, I was writing on deadline and the copy wasn’t flowing, and we both left work about 15 minutes before first pitch. Even though I was worried I would spend the whole game with attempts to describe open enrollment and systems migrations creatively percolating ineffectively in my brain. Even though the game was flying so quickly we arrived in the bottom of the 4th inning…ouch! Even though, I was still going to have to get on the computer and write some more when we got home.
Here’s the funny thing about all of those worries and even thoughs, they tend to vanish once I walk inside a ballpark. For me it starts with the excitement of the fans as you walk through the gates, especially the younger children who are literally bouncing and wiggling with excitement. But the best part of that initial “I’m at the ballpark!” sensation is the first glimpse of the field from the concourse. The perfect green of the grass, the deep red of the clay and the bustle of the players, moving with the crack of the bat, all lit so brightly that it almost seems unreal, like a movie set. Gorgeous! Yes, I did have to write until after midnight when I got home, but getting to take in even the last five innings of the game was completely worth it, and I knew that the minute I saw the diamond peeking at us over the rows of field seats.
Mark Trumbo takes a swing (no, not that swing, but a good looking swing even so). Immediately after seeing that gorgeous green, Mark Trumbo blasted a Trumbomb an estimated 457 feet into centerfield. You know, just in case we had any lingering doubts about our decision to head for the ballpark. We cheered and whooped with packs of Angels fans along the concourse as we headed for our seats. And can I just say how much fun it is to hear the folks at MLBN picking up the term Trumbomb from Angels fans and giving this young man some well deserved recognition.
Mark Trumbo, in the hole for his next at bat, grins, possibly over something Peter Bourjos (to the left) said. Grin away, Mark! That was homerun number 20. He has a serious shot at beating Tim Salmon’s club rookie homerun record of 31.
Sunset over the Angels scoreboard. Of course, it didn’t hurt that it was also a beautiful night and just the right temperature for an evening out at the ballpark.
Ervin Santana had another dominant outing on the mound. It wasn’t a no-hitter. He started out a little wild, walking the first batter, Denard Span, on four pitches. And I was getting antsy listening on the radio on my way down to Anaheim. But Santana quickly got everything under control, eventually delivering a complete game, five to one win.
“Well, I figured I would throw strikes and you guys would provide error-less defensive backup.” Of course, I have no idea what Bobby Wilson, Ervin Santana and Erick Aybar really said out there, and I’m sure that whatever it was it was it was much more strategic, but my inner imp of the perverse must speculate. Bobby Wilson had a strong game on both sides of the plate. I was sorry to see Hank Conger go back to AAA, though I think it’s probably for the best in terms of playing time and Hank getting his swing back. But getting to see Bobby play more and have the chance to shine is a nice consolation. Bobby and Jeff Mathis are supposed to split the catching duties at least until September call-ups.
Brian Duensing takes the mound for the Twins. I always enjoy watching Duensing pitch – especially when we’re hitting him! His delivery, with that high pointed toe kick, is like a ballet dancer – all grace, control and strength. I don’t think he pitched badly so much as the Angels just had his number this time out…which was refreshing after last season, let me tell you.
Torii Hunter takes a strong swing. Not to be outdone, Mr. Hunter took one deep for a solo homerun in the very next inning. I like this kind of competition. Come on guys, everyone try to keep up with Trumbo!
The team congratulates Torii Hunter after his homerun! Can I just tell you how weird it was to see Bench Coach Rob Picciolo setting at Mike Scioscia’s desk? Or rather at the desk where Mike Scioscia sometimes hovers briefly while he wanders from the rail to the bench and back again? Scioscia is not protesting the one-game suspension meted out in response to Sunday’s Tigers game firewoks, and served his sentence inmmediately, missing this game. On the way to the game I teased Seth that of course we knew the Angels would win this one. Scioscia’s bench coaches always have a perfect record.
Dan Haren and Jered Weaver have a long chat in the dugout. They were laughing earlier in the inning, though they look serious here. I wish Haren had talked Weave out of appealing the suspension, if they even discussed it. I think appealing the decision is just more posturing. He isn’t going to get to duck missing one start and it would be a lot better for the team if Weave missed this weekend’s start against the Mariners instead of a later start against the much tougher Blue Jays or our pesky division rivals the Rangers, just one game ahead of us at the moment.
Joe Mauer at bat and out at first. I’m not going to lie, I have a soft spot for the Twins. Playing the Twins is like playing old friends…old friends that you really want to beat handily, of course. I like a lot of the players on the team. I usually wind up rooting for them in the post season when they outlast the Angels, etc. It was nice to see Mauer playing again, and as catcher too at that. He even got a hit, though I was only pleased for that after the game and only then because it didn’t lead to any runs. 😉
Such a first baseman! By which I mean both of them, of course. Mark Trumbo and Michael Cuddyer chat after Cuddyer reaches first, offering strong anecdotal evidence in support of the Chatty Cathy/First Baseman stereotype. The friendly conversation to total game face in a split second conversion always amuses me.
Cuddyer chats with Erick Aybar when he reaches second too. Yes, this is the same inning. Okay, so Cuddyer is clearly the chattier Cathy, but he’s been a first baseman longer. He knows more people. Give Trumbo time.
Jeff Mathis, Alberto Callaspo and Erick Aybar hang out in the dugout during an Angels at bat. This photo amuses me for two reasons. First, this particular perch seems to be a coveted spot that almost always goes to the pitchers, but for whatever reason the position players got it this game. And two, Jeff Mathis appears to be either giving or receiving hitting advice…no offense Jeff, but I really hope it was the latter.
Vernon Wells is out at first in the 8th inning. Wells had a fine game. He went two for three, walked and scored a run. But I liked the way this photo turned out the best, so there it is.
And as for this evening’s debacle? After four bad starts, I am officially worried that Joel Pineiro has lost hissinker ball to an extant that may be hard to recover from this season…and don’t think my Kaz scars have healed sufficiently that I’m not jumping to dark thoughts about his abilities next season as well. However, as the title of this post suggests, I don’t want to talk about that right now.
Sweeping the Mariners in a four game series was a most fitting way for the Angels to head into the All Star Break. After all, it was series win over the Mariners at the beginning of the epic Four Corners Road Trip that helped June’s struggling Angels turn it around and embark on a 19 and 6 streak. During the Angels reign of terror through the National League and back again, bats were discovered, starting pitchers delivered gems, bullpen pitchers delivered holds and saves a plenty and a talented nineteen-year old number one prospect made his Angels debut. I attended Saturday’s nine to three victory and hd a blast watching our guys do their thing and the kid fitting right in…you know, with all of the other Angels kids.
Yes, with Peter Bourjos’ unfortunate hamstring strain late in Thursday’s game, Trout-mas came early to Anaheim this year. No, Mike Trout did not knock two grandslam homeruns in his first game or singlehandedly field every single ball that made it to the grass as the increasingly outrageous hype surrounding this talented young man might have lead one to believe. But what he did do was get a hit and an RBI in his second game in the show. Show off his speed on the base paths and in the outfield. He did display a rookie’s hesitancy on several plays, which is to be expected, but more than made up for it with one highlight reel, game saving catch and several other catches of varying difficulty and generally charm the heck out of Angels fans everywhere with the joy he takes in the game and his pleasure at just being called up.
So what is my assessment of the lad? I am really pleased. I think he’s extremely talented and a stellar future corner outfielder. Corner outfielder? What’s that you say? Yep. You read that right. Trout can fly and dive and catch but no more so than our current future Gold Glove centerfielder (if not this season then soon) Peter Bourjos. And Bourjos has a strong, sure arm while Trout…well he doesn’t have Johnny Damon’s arm or anything, but baring some serious improvement, it isn’t strong enough for centerfield. Still, the thought of an outfield in 2012 or 2013 with Bourjos in center and Trout in left gives me goosebumps thinking of all the extra base hits they will rob. And although he didn’t really get piece of one this series, Trout has more of an extra base hits bat than Bourjos so they will complement one another nicely in that regard as well…as they blaze around the basepaths forcing errors left and right. To wax Christopher Lloyd as Judge Doom-ish for a moment: My God, it will be beautiful!
But for this season, once Bourjos is back in shape, I like our existing outfield with players who have already ironed out their communications issues and work as a unit. I also think Trout’s bat is going to take the same amount of time to warm up as our other rookies’ did, and would rather the team deal with that at the beginning of next season rather than the middle of this one…and hopefully for Trout, the vets won’t make him walk up to Miley Cyrus’ Party in the USA next time. Too funny!
But back to Saturday’s game. Now that’s a homerun swing! I lucked out and happened to snap the photo right as Torii hit his first of what would be two homeruns for the evening.
Michael Pineda was every bit as formidable as his reputation states. He sat down six Angels in a row to complete the first two innings.
And I think that might have been the story of the game, were it not for our secret weapon: Rookies who had faced Pineda in the minor leagues just last season! Mark Trumbo said hey, I know how to hit this guy and got the Angels off to a nice start in the 3rd with a single. He would also homer in the 8th.
Hank Conger also knew Pineda and stood his ground against Pineda unafraid and worked the count into a walk. Then Mike Trout got his first base hit, a sacrifice he beat out with his speed, and his first RBI and Trumbo scored.
…Setting the stage for Torii’s first homerun of the evening.
Joel Pineiro pitched a pretty good game. He had a strong start and overcame a shaky 5th inning to deliver seven innings with seven strike outs and only one walk…he did allow ten hits, but the infield and outfield had his back. The Angels took off scoring runs again in the bottom of the 5th and the tide never came close to turning again.
Here are a few other snapshots from the game. Erick Aybar tries to sell an attempted pick off of Greg Halman to the umpire. Don’t worry, the ump didn’t blow this one. Chalk it up to Erick’s poor acting chops…or, you know, the ball sitting there on the grass two feet behind him.
Peter Bourjos, Erick Aybar and Alberto Callaspo chat in the dugout during an Angels at bat. Bourjos is still day to day but it sounds like he should be well enough to play after the All Star Break.
Batting coach Chris Chamblis, Adam Kennedy, Brendan Ryan and Jack Cust chat in the dugout. “Coach, if I see fireworks come out of the rockpile one more time…”
Former Angel Adam Kennedy steps up to the plate. This was a good photo of Hank Conger maneuvering behind the plate.
Trumbo decides to make the play himself. Yoooou’re out!
The Angels bullpen heads for the clubhouse after the game. Hmmm…looks like it was Jordan Walden’s turn for the Cookie Monster backpack.
And now? Well, it’s good to be busy at work and headed up to the Bay Area because otherwise I’d be awfully mopey for baseball this week. I love seeing the right players named to the All Star Teams because it is an honor and it tickles them, but I seldom get really pumped for the All Star Game itself.
The Angels swept the Nationals and, oh yeah, we went to a baseball game on Monday! Work has been plentiful, all consuming, fun and, occasionally, FUn this week – I came home from Monday’s game and moved a project along until 2am, that kind of fun. Between that and the games I suddenly looked up, it’s Thursday already and I haven’t posted my photos. Oh well…
Our seats for Monday night’s game were just to the foul side of the foul pole down the first base line, in the second row. Prime visitor’s section this. And, indeed, we set in front of and behind two families of Nationals fans vacationing in Los Angeles and next to a Phillies fan and his young daughters who were here on one of the middle stops of a larger baseball tour vacation. They had just come from Seattle and were headed out to Arizona then Texas. So jealous! When everyone has the right attitude, visiting fans can be a kick to enjoy the game with and all parties involved in this particular case were really nice and a lot of fun to chat/snark with.
Bobby Abreu leads off of second. Being on the field level, these seats were excellent for catching glimpses of personality on the field, some of which I got on camera. As you can see, Bobby is a talker on the base paths, especially at second base. He always wears a huge smile and gestures broadly with his hands so it is unclear for the most part if he’s goofing around, talking trash, just shooting the breeze or what. Probably a little of columns A, B and C. What little I catch of it on TV is pretty darned funny…and of course he has 13 stolen bases (not bad for one of the few ballplayers left who are older than me :)) so perhaps this is all part of his strategy. Get ‘em laughing, then break for third?
Vernon Wells at bat. These seats were not, however, the best for views or photos of the plate. The first base umpire is always in the way. That’s okay. Ssometimes I enjoy having a closer vantage of the outfield and plays at second. Wells is continuing to heat up in June. He hit a single this at bat, which eventually lead to a run and then went four for five on Tuesday with a crucial two-run homerun. And Angels fans are starting to respond. Both developments are very welcome indeed.
Catcher Bobby Wilson and Pitching Coach Mike Butcher meet with Ervin Santana on the mound. Santana got off to an uneven start, giving up homeruns in the 2nd and 4th, but settled into a good rhythm after that. He lasted eight innings and on the Angels, starters don’t pitch in the 9th inning unless they’re pitching a shutout or something equally spectacular, so that’s pretty darned good.
Just a random shot of the Angels bullpens. The bullpens at the Big A are terraced, which is a little unusual. The Angels bullpen on the lowest “step” in the front. And if you look at the photo you can see the Nationals in the visitor’s bullpen one step up and behind the home bullpen. Starting another “step” above the visitor’s bullpen you have the Left Field Pavilion seats. In this bullpen shot you can see Angels relievers Michael Kohn (standing up), Fernando Rodney, Hisanori Takashi’s translator, Hisanori Takashi and Jordan Walden kneeling down and…what? Praying? Vomiting? Spitting sunflower seeds? Catching a few ZZZs? Probably the real answer isn’t nearly as funny so I’m going to go with one of mine.
The Nationals brought the Racing Presidents with them to Anaheim for the series. So was this a) an incredibly stupid idea, b) a fine example of Interleague sharing of baseball cultures and traditions, or c) I really hate Interleague and fail to see how these two comments are mutually exclusive? You make the call. I initially thought the idea was kind of dumb, only because this is the Nationals’ tradition and it’s the Angels ballpark. But it was kind of fun to see and it provided a between innings icebreaker with the Nationals fans around us. I took the opportunity to ask, so, what’s the deal with Teddy? He’s really never won? I mostly knew the answer, but it was fun hearing all about the goofy, fun tradition from fans. We’d been talking a little between innings before that, but talked a lot more often after: relievers we love/who make us cringe, hitters who are starting to do better than their batting average indicates, overinflated contracts…it turns out Angels fans and Nationals fans have a frightening amount in common.
Nationals Catcher Wilson Ramos and Pitching Coach Steve McCatty meet with Pitcher John Lannan on the mound. All was going well for Lannan and the game was tied 2 to 2 until the Angels started hitting in the 6th. The Angels scored their third run shortly after this meeting and then Lannan was pulled. I love the photo because of the facial expressions and body language. I can only imagine the conversation that went with it. McCatty: Alright then, how are we going to get out of this? Lannan: Well, gee I don’t know Coach. I thought maybe I’d throw some strikes and get him out.
Mark Trumbo grows impatient during the meeting on the mound – again, with being able to catch glimpses of personality from these seats. Mark Trumbo is usually as professional in demeanor as a veteran so I was amused to see him visibly impatient at another break in this already lengthy at bat, with his cheeks puffed out like an exasperated little kid. Very cute actually. He ground into a double play this at bat, but was pretty solid at the plate this series. His average is creeping back up again and he is the American League’s rookie homerun leader with 13. Coincidentally, the Nationals’ Danny Espinosa is the Rookie Major League homerun leader.
The Nationals outfielders, Roger Bernardina, Laynce Nix and Jayson Werth meet during the subsequent pitching change. ‘Damn Werth, you have lots of friends over here too. You’re a real popular guy in Anaheim.’ Suffice to say, Angels fans were heckling Werth all night, which isn’t surprising. There are a few folks I see regularly in this section and the left most corner of the right field MVP section (Season ticket holders? Maybe, maybe not.) who heckle pretty much everyone, occasionally even our own players. Whether or not that was the topic of the outfielders’ conversation, I’m sure Werth is used to it by now.
Peter Bourjos and Vernon Wells joke after Peter snags a fly ball to end the inning. The outfield chemistry is shaping up much better as the months role by. This is very helpful, especially with various assorted centerfielders, corner outfielders turned DH and the occasional second baseman flopping roles in the outfield on a regular basis to accommodate injuries, Interleague and random acts of lineup juggling.
Yes that is Torii Hunter right in front of me in right field. The news report prior to Monday’s game was that Torii took batting and fielding practice Monday and looked good enough to return soon, possibly as soon a Wednesday. Imagine our delight when they brought him in as an unexpected substitution in the top of the 8th inning. The whole crowd erupted and we went especially crazy in the seats around right field with our welcome backs.
Jorda Walden takes the mound in the 9th. Unfortunately this would prove to be another blown save for Walden, his third in a row, when he gave up a two-out homerun to Danny Espinosa. The young Nationals fan in front of us turned around and informed me “Blown Save”. Thanks kid, I kind of figured that one out on my own. No liner notes needed. So, am I worried about Walden? No. Not at all. When I started advocating making the rookie our closer, I knew there would be some growing pains. This is a kid who had every intention of being a starter and never thought about the closer’s role until it turned out he had quite the aptitude for it this season. So far, he has 18 saves (including last night’s) which is respectable. And when he does blow it, instead of crumbling, Walden is right back in the game to get the next batter. Monday night when he gave up the homerun, he threw the next pitch for a called strike and then coaxed the batter into a ground out to end the inning. And he was right back in the game on Wednesday night with a 1-0 lead on the line and got the save. That says something to me. We will probably witness a few more growing pains this season, but I have no doubts that Jordan Walden is our closer.
Scott Downs pitches in the 10th as Howie Kendrick (who moved to first base in the 8th when Torii came in to the game) moves into position. I mentioned we were chatting about relievers with the Nationals fans? Well, Scott Downs is one of the few I never worry about. When I look over to the bullpen and see Downs warming up, with that distinctive haircut easily identifiable across the field, I breathe a sigh of relief. Yes, he has an off outing here and there, but by and large he comes in and gets it done and he has five wins for the season, as many as some teams’ starters, to prove it. Monday night and the rest of the Nationals series was no exception.
Brian Bixler stands on second flanked by second baseman Maicer Izturis and third baseman Alberto Callaspo. Bixler reached 2nd on an uncharacteristic fielding error by Maicer. There were an annoying number of Angels fielding errors this series actually, but we recovered from all of them to sweep. I hope the errors are more an indication of tiredness from the epic Four Corners Road Trip than anything more trend setting, shall we say.
Peter Bourjos takes a long lead off third. I think it is safe to say that Bourjos has worked through his slump at the plate. He went four for five on Monday with one RBI and was a crucial component of the 10th inning rally, knocking a ground rules double into the stands mere feet from my seat, that put Callaspo in scoring position for Maicer Izturis’ walk-off single. Yes, when that happened I tapped the young Nationals fan in front of us on the shoulder and informed him “Walk off.” Fair’s fair right? Acutally, everyone was laughing both over the “Blown Save” and the “Walk Off.”
Friday’s Angels looked much like Monday through Thursday’s Angels, only with much better fielding than on several of the previous days. While this was an improvement, it was not enough to yield a different result and they lost four to two. The Angels aren’t exactly getting killed on the field this season. Most of the losses have been close. But it does go to show that if you aren’t scoring many runs, then your pitching and fielding have to be absolute perfection game in and game out in order to compensate for it, and that just isn’t feasible for any team.
So, cut to last night’s seven to five victory over the Royals. What changed? Several very important things as it turns out:
The veteran bats came alive. I admit it. I was less than pleased when I saw Vernon Wells batting cleanup last night. But he waled on the ball, going three for four with nice solid base hits that moved runners around the bases and lead to Wells scoring a run each time he made it on base. Howie Kendrick also went three for four, with two RBIs. Bobby Abreu had a key hit and he and Torii Hunter worked counts into walks for needed bodies on base. I cannot tell you how nice it was to see all of them on in one game!
We put runners on base and scored runs in multiple innings. If you look at the typical 2011 Angels box score, the one to three runs scored by our heroes usually occur all in one inning, often early in the game and then they don’t score again. This has not been an effective strategy. Last night, the Angels scored four runs in the second – more than their game average already – added a fifth run in the third and then game back to put two runs on the board and regain the lead in the 8th.
Our fielding was stellar. The Angels fielding has been good for most of 2011, but last night it was just on fire and it was equally on fire all around the diamond. Double plays. Two beautiful plays at the plate, including one highlight reel play on a perfect throw from Torii in right. Great catches all over the field and heads up back up.
We stole four bases! Stolen bases is one of many areas where sabermetrics and I have to agree to disagree. A team doesn’t have to be loaded with power hitters to win as long as they know how to consistently manufacture runs. The Angels know how to manufacture runs. This is one of Mike Sciocia’s specialties as a manager. They just haven’t been doing it consistently. Last night, the final two runs were the result of situational hitting, stolen bases and smartly taking advantage of a few Royals mistakes. This is a great sign and hopefully the beginning of a re-emerging trend. Now let’s just hope Alberto Callaspo, who pulled a hamstring during a successful double steal, is able to move from being day to day back to an everday player soon. This injuries trend is one that can stop any day now.
Looking at the season strictly from a numbers standpoint, one win by no means offsets six straight losses, even when the rest of the division helpfully loses again. But I never think numbers tell the whole story, especially in early June. They’re more like a guideline, actually. 😉 This was a good solid win, a pretty win if you will, the end result of several missing pieces coming together for the Angels all at once while other team strengths continued. If the Angels can capitalize on the momentum from this game heading into interleague, I think they can start putting together enough wins for significance from any standpoint!
Friday (and Saturday!) Gourmet, Wine & Angels
This week’s Friday Night Ritual (wine, “gourmet” dinner and the Angels game) spread? Well, the chefs – read, Seth and I – were tired after a long week and indulged in a bit of lazy cooking: grilled turkey and cheese sandwiches with bacon and TJ’s guacamole (hence the lazy). Quick and dirty, but tasty. And the wine was amazing – Mitchella’s 2007 Cabernet which tastes of black currants and dark chocolate. Yum!
We were better rested on Saturday and grilled up a feast for the evening game. Tri-tip, rubbed with olive oil, crushed garlic, cracked black pepper and kosher salt, which my husband grilled to that perfect state where the meat has an amazing crust, but is a gorgeous medium to medium rare throughout when you slice into it. Tri-tip is an absolutely glorious cut of beef that I am sorry to say we Californians have not shared much with the rest of the country. Trust me, you are very sad. You just don’t know it. 😉 We served it with black beans, fresh tortillas and queso fresco and squash lightly sautéed with garlic and black pepper. Paired with Dead Nuts, Chronic Cellars luscious Zinfandel, Petite Sirah blend, it was a fantastic meal…and the Angels won, so if I were inclined to superstitions on that front I would say they prefer us to make more of an effort for the game, LOL.
Which is the most heartbreaking, the win you were never going to get from inning one, the win you almost had all game long, or the near comeback you give right back to the opposing team? Okay, so they’re all pretty bad. And I don’t know what a player might say. But, for my money, Wednesday’s choked comeback felt pretty terrible. Leaving the game with a throat sore from cheering, yet choked up with loss and disappointment? Granted, any night at the ballpark is a good night but…well…it took me until this evening to post about it. Enough said.
B.J. Upton caught stealing. Howie Kendrick looks pleased in the aftermath and Upton prepares to dust himself off and head for the dugout. Fielding was hit and miss this evening, but there were a few serious highlights. For example, Jered Weaver picking off B.J. Upton at 2nd. Weaver is a 6′ 7″ cross body pitcher. His pickoff move is, understandably, okay but not phenomenal. But every now and then, You’re out!
Vernon Wells dives back to first. Wells was 0-3 with this one walk to get on base. My until now infinite patience is wearing pretty thin at this point and continues only because he just got back from the DL. I won’t boo the man, because I don’t boo my own team. Can’t do it. But come on Vernon. Have you ever hit this badly in your life? Figure it out and get it done.
Peter Bourjos bunts his way on. Bourjos, on the other hand, had a great game. Fleet Pete was 2 for 4 at the plate, including this sacrifice bunt turned hit and had two highlight reel catches in center.
The Angels bullpen. Hisanori Takahashi, Fernando Rodney and Jordan Walden hang out with the bullpen catcher and other staff early in the game.
The Rays Bullpen. Hey, equal time and all that. Besides, I was hoping to catch them at some of their famously funny shenanigans but, apparently, they are on their best, or at least, their least prank-ish behavior in visitor’s dugouts.
Angels meeting on the mound. Jered Weaver asks, So, if I hold them for another inning or two do you think you guys can actually score me some runs? I’m totally kidding, of course. From everything I’ve heard, I can’t imagine him copping an attitude like that, but it’s certainly what I, as a fan, was wondering. This was not Weaver’s best outing. Three of the four earned runs were his. But, given a present offense, he did pitch well enough to win.
Scott Downs warms up in the bullpen. Scott Downs had another solid outing, coming in to strike out Matt Joyce in the 8th and end the inning. In fact, I wish we’d brought him back in the 9th as I shall explain in a moment.
Howie Kendrick and Mark Trumbo chat during the pitching change. As usual, I can’t help putting my own spin on what they might be saying. Hey, Trumbo. See that second base there behind me? We’ve got to figure out a way to get our guys past that.
Alberto Callaspo and Maicer Izturis also chat during the pitching change. “Now you see Alberto, when the ball is coming at you, you’re supposed to try and keep it from going into the outfield.” “Keep talking Izzy. What exactly was that you did at short in the 2nd?” As previously mentioned, our fielding left something to be desired this game. Though both are Izturis and Callaspo are usually more than dependable, neither had a very good game defensively.
Joe Maddon says good game and takes the ball from James Shields. Seriously, I can say it. Hats off to Shields. He pitched a hell of a game and was certainly a factor in our offensive woes.
Bobby Abreu hits a bases clearing double. Maicer started the 8th inning rally. Torii Hunter, batting in the 2 spot for the first time this season, continued it. Callaspo walked to load the bases. And then, Bobby Abreu, batting clean-up, became the Angels sole offensive highlight of game. With one ringing double, he cleared the bases and tied the game 3 to 3.
Closer Jordan Walden takes the mound. Hey, I finally managed to catch him mid-pitch without his arm blurred – no mean feat, really. Walden also pitched well. But, once Bobby tied up the game, I wish we’d brought Downs back out in the 9th and saved Walden for the 10th or brought Walden back out in the 10th because the minute I saw Fernando Rodney striding out to the mound in the 10th, I has a Star Wars worthy bad feeling about this…
…Why, why, why did we turn the game over to Rodney in the 10th? Because he’s been really clutch for us in crucial situations this season? Because he rarely walks batters and if he does start walking them he never, ever gets rattled by it? Because he’s still our #1 closer? Because he’s so…no…can’t type…any…more…must stop…laughing…hysterical laughter… Okay. I’m better now. You all saw the “highlight” reels, I’m sure. You know what happened in the 10th. Did Rodney lose the game all by himself? Of course not. Our offense bears at least half of the blame. We hit the ball but failed to score until the 8th inning. Even with runners at 2nd and 3rd with no outs in the 2nd. Even with runners on 1st and 2nd with no outs in the 5th.
Besides, I blame the guy who decided to put Rodney in more than Rodney. Rodney just did what he’s been doing more often than not all year. The guy who decided to put him in on the other hand…anyway. Suffice to say, by the time it was over I sympathized with the over-tired toddlers who were sobbing on their way out of the stadium. I’m pretty far from giving up still but, seriously, tantrums are wasted on the young.