Tagged: Bullpen

Happy Holidays to the MLBlogosphere

Last year on Christmas Eve, I posted a parody of The Night Before Christmas, an idea which proved to be anything but original…as I probably should have expected in community of writers, LOL. This year I had every intention of regaling you with my own special version of Santa Baby, alternating between pleas to Jerry Baby and Arte Baby for presents under the Angels tree. Funny thing that. It seems it’s only December 24th and I really don’t need to ask for the Angels to trade or sign free agents at all, let alone beg for them to do it in song form. Not a bad problem to have, let me tell you.

Oh, okay. I would still like another reliable reliever, preferably someone who could share closing duties if needed. I mean, if it’s not too greedy. Hey in my family it’s not uncommon to get stocking stuffer gifts even if your main present is really large, so this doesn’t seem too out of line but, according to all reports, Jerry Dipoto is on top of this already too. Yay! So that one is also not particularly song worthy, again a good problem to have.

So, instead, I’m just going to keep it simple and stick to the most important part of the message:

To all of you out there in the blogosphere, readers and writers alike, I wish you a very Merry Christmas, the happiest of holidays and best wishes for the New Year!!

Do You Believe in Magic? …and Not So Much: Reflections on Last Week and a Season of Growth for the Angels

Baseball last week was bittersweet for me. We enjoyed a night at the ballpark Monday! But it was our last night at the ballpark of the season and the Angels lost, sounding the absolute final death knell in their post season hopes. But a little more sweet was added to temper the bitter Wednesday night when we all witnessed pure magic! An evening of baseball so amazing it can only be described with a Yogi Berra quote – it ain’t over, ‘til it’s over. My condolences to Red Sox and Braves fans, it’s not about rooting against your teams, it’s about loving the magic of a come from behind upset to begin with and then witnessing two within breaths of one another. Wow!

Maicer Izturis and Peter Bourjos warm up before the bottom of the 1st inning. Angels vs. Rangers, September 26, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

So, as for Monday night’s game? Well, it was a heartbreaker of game, an at that point expected heartbreak I quickly recovered from, but still. So many miscues and missed opportunities!

After sending one sailing into right field, Alberto Callaspo takes a moment to remind himself that Howie Kendrick is several inches shorter than Mark Trumbo. Angels vs. Rangers, September 26, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

I loved Mike Napoli as an Angel. I'm thrilled he's having a great season but when he faces the Angels, this is how I prefer to see him - slinking back to the dugout after striking out. I only wish we'd seen this more often. Angels vs. Rangers, September 26, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

I absolutely miss Darren Oliver from the Angels bullpen. Not going to arbitration with him at the end of 2009 was a dumb decision in my opinion. He's a class act and I wish him well, but darned if I don't prefer seeing him walk off the mound defeated when he gos up against us. Angels vs. Rangers, September 26, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

And that is not how I prefer to remember my season, especially when I had so much fun with the Angels for most of it…frequently frustrating fun as I have fully documented on these virtual pages, LOL, but fun even so. So imagine my delight when I reviewed the photos I took that evening and discovered a lot of smiling, fun shots of my favorite ballplayers that I think show off the great personality of the team as a whole. Instantly my goofy brain imagined strange scenarios and back stories for each of the photos because, really, I prefer to remember the season as fun:   

Mike Trout appears to be jawing at Mike Napoli on 1st. "Seriously. You call _that_ a pick off attempt." Angels vs. Rangers, September 26, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Dino Ebel talks with Mike Trout at 3rd. "You're kidding!!" "'Fraid not Mike. The whole dugout dared you to touch Beltre's head. Better do it. You don't want Weave to post your phone number again." Angels vs. Rangers, September 26, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Torii Hunter and Michael Young laugh over something at 2nd during a pitching change. "They really dared him to touch Beltre's head?! Oh, this is going to be funny Torii!" Angels vs. Rangers, September 26, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Adrian Beltre and Mike Trout at 3rd. "I know all about the bet, Kid. Don't even think about it!!" ...and yet, Trout's still thinking about it. Angels vs. Rangers, September 26, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Adrian Beltre keeps Alberto Callaspo at 3rd. "Not you too 'Berto! Look, I already told the kid don't even think about it..." Angels vs. Rangers, September 26, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Elvis Andrus and Erick Aybar during a pitching change. Could the two short stops be talkin' shop? "He he, yeah. The old empty glove tag at second. I'm tellin' ya. Coco falls for it and slides every time." Angels vs. Rangers, September 26, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

All silliness aside, walking back to our car after the game Monday night, Seth and I rehashed the misses and mistakes. What if the Angels had played the first inning smoothly? What if they hadn’t stranded so many runners? What if, what if, what if. Seth declared that ‘what if’ was a metaphor for the whole season, though he said it wistfully and with some affection, not in anger. I agreed with him at the time, but the more I think about, the more I decided that Howie Kendrick’s last at bat was a better metaphor for the season.

Last minute fill in Howie Kendrick needs a little work on his first baseman's small talk skills, apparently. "Aw man! Elvis, you kicked up dirt all over my pants." Angels vs. Rangers, September 26, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Bottom of the 9th, two outs, one on base and the Angels are down by one. Were this the scenario back in 2009, I would have been 75 to 80% certain that whoever was at bat would get a double and the runner would score from first or on the very next at bat and my comeback kid Angels would have pulled it off again. Were this scenario last season, I would have been 75 to 80% certain that whoever was at bat would pop up or strike out, ending the game. Watching it all play out this season, I realized that I had absolutely no idea if Howie would be able to pull it off or not. With the 2011 Angels, you just never knew. And if that was sometimes frustrating, it was also sometimes amazing – a definite improvement over the previous season and an indication of growth in the right direction, giving me hope for 2012.

Michael Young and Elvis Andrus react as Mike Trout reaches second on an Erick Aybar wallk in the 6th. The Angels have bases loaded for the first time this game. Angels vs. Rangers, September 26, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Look, 2011 was a season where there were darned few easy wins for the Angels. There were numerous contributing factors. Season long questions, first about the five spot in the starting rotation, then the four spot, then the five and back to the four and eventually both. Veteran bats failing at the same time rookie bats were learning. Not getting Kendrys back at first as expected – though in hindsight, they should have planned on that from the start – threw everyone for a loop and although Mark Trumbo became the first baseman for the team and how, there were the to-be-expected growing pains all season especially in April and May. Injuries, several of them to Torii Hunter which contributed in part to the bats situation. Cleanup spot by committee on a team with no natural cleanup spot hitter…which lead to a bunch of guys who are really excellent gap hitters, swinging for the fences and whiffing or popping out. (Trumbo is the cleanup hitter of the future in my opinion, but it was too early this season.) Then there was the bullpen. There was noticeable improvement over 2010 but, still, pick a day. They could be absolutely fantastic or the arson squad part deux. And, of course, the closer situation. From veteran closer gone bad to baby closer with flashes of brilliance amidst growing pains, that was another constant struggle this season.

It was already a tense enough interlude to be the climax of a musical's act 1 and then, during a pitching change, Bobby Abreu, Erick Aybar and Alfredo Griffen apparently decided to strike the appropriate poses to seal the deal. Angels vs. Rangers, September 26, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

All in all, the Angels won a lot of games but, for all of the reasons above and more, it was a grind to win almost every single one and I think that, quite simply, by the time we got to September the Angels were tired. Oh, in spirit they were willing and eager enough to get to the post season, witness the string of near comebacks. But I think that physically they were just too tired to take that next leap and carry themselves into the post season. And if they had made to the post season, I don’t think they would have made it past the first round, especially with the news that Mark Trumbo had been playing with a stress fracture in his foot for the last several games and was out. This isn’t a complaint at all, it’s an observation. I think they played their hearts out but, well, teams that are still capable of contending at the end, like the 2011 Rays, dig in harder to win even more when they find out that other teams in the race have lost. Teams that are just too tired to get there, like the 2011 Angels, collapse in relief to catch their breaths when they find out that other teams in the race have lost.

I wish it were different but I have a hard time being anything more than a little disappointed by it. I have watched a lot of So Cal baseball in my life, brilliant seasons, terrible seasons and everything in between, and I have to say that this was not a season that folks should get depressed over. This was a growing season that gives next season some promise. And, now, as we continue enjoying what so far has been a pretty fun post season – as fun as it can be without an Angels presence! – I will conclude this post with a few heartwarming thoughts for next season:

Mike Trout takes another mighty swing at the plate. This at bat lead to an RBI single. I have a feeling that I will have many photos of Trout making good things happen for the Angels with his bat in the seasons to come and that is a definite silver lining to the 2011 season. Angels vs. Rangers, September 26, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Dan Haren pitches from the stretch. Poor Danny, if only that first inning hadn't happened. Hopefully with more seasoned rookie bats and an uninjured Torii Hunter in 2012, Haren and his rotation mates will have a lot more run support and such things won't matter as much. Angels vs. Rangers, September 26, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Fernando Rodney chats with the Rangers bullpen. Well, they do say that when you're about to lose your job, networking is key. Angels vs. Rangers, September 26, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

This last photo really struck a chord with me. Taken during the warm-up just before the top of the 9th, immediately after Mike Trout struck out looking, it appears to me that Peter Bourjos is consoling Trout a little bit. Who knows what they were actually saying to one another. For all I know, Trout was making sure his cleats are tied and Bourjos is laughing him or they weren’t even talking at all. But my photo, my interpretation – so consoling it is. And I think, as such, it’s a good message for everyone. Take heart Angels fans, they’ll get ‘em next season!

Peter Bourjos and Mike Trout move into position at the beginning of the inning. "Cheer up Rookie. Next season is going to be awesome!" And indeed it will be. I just know it! Angels vs. Rangers, September 26, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Weaver Pitches 7 Shutout Innings to lead the Angels to their 6th Victory While the Ink Dries on His Brand, Spanking New Contract

We were not going to go to a game this week. Yes, we had originally planned on going to Tuesday night’s game, but then the unexpected trip to Yosemite came up and it just seemed like too many things…Until Jered Weaver’s press conference. I think Weaver got a great deal from the Angels. But at the same time, I am as touched as everyone else that he didn’t wait to shop around as a free agent, potentially leaving significant dollars on the table to stay with the organization he grew up with.

Jered Weaver readies for his windup. Weaver took the mound to darn near a standing ovation in this, his first game post contract announcement. Angels vs. White Sox, August 24, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Listening to the press conference on the radio at lunch on Tuesday and hearing Weaver say, with warmth and tears in his voice, ‘I just couldn’t see myself anywhere else but here,’ ‘How much more money do you really need?’ and ‘Watching all of the Angels alumni return to throw out first pitches for the 50th, I want to be part of that brotherhood.’ I was thrilled. I was proud. I was moved. Heck, I even shed a few tears myself. There’s just something about tough guys being moved to tears that causes a few of my own to roll down my face in sympathy. And suddenly, I really wanted to go the game on Wednesday and be part of the crowd cheering our admiration and thank yous when Weaver took the mound for his next start. I can’t imagine sharing that with my non baseball fan friends. It’s not like I know the guy, or much of anything about him outside of baseball. So I know they wouldn’t understand needing to go to the game at that point in the slightest. But at the same time, I’m certain you all get it. 🙂

Jeff Mathis helps Jered Weaver calm down early in the game. Weaver said later he had a hard time finding his arm slot initially, but obviously worked through it just fine. Angels vs. White Sox, August 24, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Reason #3,987,542 (give or take, it’s a really long list!) my husband is the best ever? When I texted that I after listening to the press conference I wanted to go Wednesday’s game after all. Could we go if I could find cheap tickets? He responded almost instantly with a ‘Yes, please.’ He was listening to the press conference too. So, many, many thanks to the Angels fans who decided to part with club level seats for $10 each. Were it not for the generosity and/or last minute changes in plans of fans such as yourself, I would sit at home a lot more often than I do. 😉

So, long story somewhat truncated, we got to see the Angels mini-sweep the White Sox (I just can’t think of a two game series as a full series, sorry!), winning their sixth game in a row. The whole evening was perfect. We even got to the game in time to check out some of the warm ups which with our jobs and So Cal traffic, never happens:

Jered Weaver warms up before the game. Angels vs. White Sox, August 24, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Jeff Mathis warms up with Jered Weaver before the game. Mathis had a pretty good game with a bases clearing double, a rare treat for him, and some timely pitcher whispering. Angels vs. White Sox, August 24, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

White Sox rookie pitcher Zach Stewart warms up before the game. Angels vs. White Sox, August 24, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

The Angels bats went on a terror and guys found ways to get and base and score in a welcome trend I hope to see continue into the fall:

Mark Trumbo goes briefly airborne diving back for the bag as Adam Dunn waits for the pickoff throw. Angels vs. White Sox, August 24, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Erick Aybar is safe after an RBI single and Adam Dunn is...blowing a bubble? That'll do, Dohn-kay. That'll do. Angels vs. White Sox, August 24, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

We saw seven Jered Weaver shutout innings followed by shutout innings from Bobby Cassevash and Fernando Rodney – note, he isn’t coming in when it counts. Smart. Very smart:

And, ste-ri-ike three! Bobby Cassevah has struck out Brent Lillibridge. Angels vs. White Sox, August 24, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...(Seth)

Ozzie Guillen is not amused. An 8th inning dugout shot. Angels vs. White Sox, August 24, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

And  I got to see one iteration of my dream Peter Bourjos/Mike Trout outfield live and in person for an entire inning once Trout pinch hit for Vernon Wells in the 8th. Trout promptly knocked the ball into left field for his first big league pinch hit. So many firsts! *sniffles* Our baby’s growing up so fast! ;):

The man, the myth, the socks! My no doubter favorite centerfielder this season, Peter Bourjos...apparently being attacked by gnats yet again. Angels vs. White Sox, August 24, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Mike Trout already looks very much at home in left field. My dream outfield is slowly coming to fruition! Angels vs. White Sox, August 24, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

From our vantage, we even caught random goofiness in the bullpens…or, invoking the Roger Rabbit Only When it’s Funny Clause, chose to infer random goofiness:

The White Sox Bullpen travels in style, setting up buffet table of reliever needs. I see snacks, towels, gatorade and coffee. No mere backpacking it for these guys. Angels vs. White Sox, August 24, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

The Angels Bullpen was feeling especially relaxed this evening and no reliever more than Fernando Rodney, apparently. Angels vs. White Sox, August 24, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Awww, the poor kid's all tuckered out. Actually Hank Conger was alternately stretching and sitting in the bullpen, but this photo definitely makes it look like I caught him napping. Angels vs. White Sox, August 24, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

"Mike Rotch? I don't know. It's August. Lota rookies. Let me check." Angels vs. White Sox, August 24, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

And then, there was this. I hate the kiss cam. In fact, I think it’s so stupid and pointless that until you all set me straight, I assumed it was a uniquely So Cal thing. We So Cal folk seem to need our beach balls and other lame distractions at perfectly good baseball games *rolls eyes* so it made a disturbing sort of sense. However, this season cheeky humor has arrived at the Big A. Finally, the sound guys have caught up with the times and play sarcastic music and sound effects when the visiting team strikes out, has a meeting on the mound…you know, like other teams do. In keeping with this sense of fun, the camera folks have continued their goofiness with the Kiss Cam’s last victims each evening from where they left off with the Indians Bullpen back in April. The visitor’s bullpen is a common target, as is the visitor’s dugout – an injured Evan Longoria blowing kisses at the camera from his perch on the rail was a high point. But announcers, programmers and sound crew from visiting and home team alike aren’t guaranteed a pass either. By now, this is a sufficiently well known prank that the victims usually play along, increasing the humor value considerably. The White Sox bullpen was no exception:

The dreaded Kiss Cam settles on its prey - White Sox relievers Matt Thornton and Josh Kinney. Angels vs. White Sox, August 24, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Matt Thornton and Josh Kinney realize they have been captured in the Kiss Cam's wiley gaze. Kinney is willing to ham it up but Thornton initially tries the old "if I pretend i'm stretching and don't see them, maybe this will all just go away" trick. The Kiss Cam refuses to move on. Angels vs. White Sox, August 24, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Realizing that the Kiss Cam is not going away, Kinny gets increasing insistant, to the point of miming poutiness, that Thornton join him in hamming it up for the crowd. Finally Thornton walks over and gives Kinney a hug and this is the bashful result.Hilarious! Excellent sports both!

And, of course, all’s well that ends well. Light that baby up! Hey, Shakespeare wrote it…except, you know, for that Angels-centric part there…and now you can read it on the Internets, so it absolutely has to be true:

Fireworks from the rockpile say the Angels win. Light that baby up. Angels vs. White Sox, August 24, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...(Seth)

Now, let’s do it again, but in Texas shall we? I am so excited for this series! Ervin Santana and Jered Weaver are both even pitching on short rest to help get it done. Clearly the Angels are feeling extra competitive and I love it!

Angels Win Two Against the O’s, Gaining One on Texas + A Scary Stat Proposal

As I said in my last post, I think they can do it, but the Angels have a tall order ahead of them if they would like to have an October. However, with three wins in a row since then, two of which succeeded in eating up a little needed distance in the standings, the Angels are tackling that tall order head on!

…And I have been desperately trying to follow their progress each evening after the family goes to bed early on a sketchy WI-fi connection from the cabin where we are staying for the weekend in Yosemite National Park. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Stunning natural beauty. Freedom from electronic leashes. Relaxation in the great outdoors far away from the encumbrances of modern technology. Trust me, during the day I am all about that. But come 8:30 p.m. or so, I want to know the score and I want to follow the last few innings f at all possible.

Peter Bourjos and Mark Trumbo are on absolute hitting terrors. Torii Hunter’s hit streak continues. Bats, gloves and arms are growing steadily more clutch. We have Hank Conger and, best of all, Mike Trout back up from the minors, which means I am seeing various incarnations of my dream, Bourjos in Center, Trout in one of the corners, 2012 outfield right now in 2011…or, at least I will be seeing it Tuesday once I’m back in town. I couldn’t be happier!!

Okay, that isn’t entirely true. I could be happier if a few of our pitching woes were solved, namely the number 4 and 5 starting rotation spots and some unnecessarily exciting fellows in the bullpen – why did we go to Fernando Rodney again? Why? I don’t know what to make of Pineiro’s outing, exactly. Nine hits and four runs in six innings but he didn’t walk anyone and the runs were clustered in one bad inning plus a solo homerun. Is he a little better and likely to get better still? Were the Angels just damn lucky to score enough runs this time and might not be so next time? It’s tough to tell not having actually seen it. And then we have Jerome Williams making his first major league pitching start since 2007 for us on Sunday. I wish him all the best, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have concerns. Trust me when I say I really don’t want to have to start referring to this rotation as Santana, Weaver and Haren, then two days of swearin’.  I think that’s a little too nostalgic, even for the 50th anniversary.

*     *     *     *     *

More often than not, the rules determining which pitchers are credited with wins, losses, no decisions, saves, holds, blown saves and the like work well enough. But occasionally they can lead to some serious injustices. Take Saturday’s game against the Orioles for example, two outs, bases loaded, Rodney is inexplicably called to the mound and proceeds to do what Rodney does best – okay, second best, he didn’t walk anyone – he gives up a single after two pitches and a run scores, two with Torii’s throwing error. But the Angels rallied in the bottom of the inning, winning in walk off fashion. So, Pineiro gets a no decision, Jordan Walden, who did allow the game to become tied in the first place but then came back for a spotless second inning gets a blown save and Rodney gets the win? Does that seem fair to you?

I think we need a new stat, indicating which relief outings are truly quality and which are…shall we say…unnecessarily exciting. Why not? We have a stat for everything else, right? Thinking of the most egregious crimes a reliever can commit, I propose something to the effect of Win/Save – (Walks + Earned Runs + Extra Base Hits)/# of batters seen. Basically, this would create fractional wins and saves for relievers. A quality win or save would be a 1 or only slightly lower, a .9 for example. But a barely deserved win might be a .25 or even a -.25. We could call this new stat something as mundane as a Weighted Relief Record, but what fun would that be? I propose instead that we call this new stat the Specific Criteria Adjusted Relief Index, or SCARI, as in Rodney may have gotten the win, but his SCARI was, well, pretty darned scary…

…because, of course, I’m completely joking around here…okay, make that mostly.

Stomped by Texas for Three Games Straight, Is There Any Hope For Our Boys in Halos?

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.

Alberto Callaspo prepares to pop out while Bobby Abreu, in the on deck circle, takes practice swings before he grounds out. Callaspo's mini-slump is new. He has the second highest batting average on the team just behind Howie Kendrick. But Bobby's absentee bat has been one of several veteran disappointments on the team this season. Angels vs. Rangers, August 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Jeff Mathis prepares to strike out for the second time this evening as Peter Bourjos takes practice swings on deck. We're used to Mathis' sub Mendoza average by now, but it sure hurts when isn't the only automatic out in the lineup any more. Bourjos, on the other hand, went 2 for 4 with an RBI, one of the rookies tryign very hard to pick up the slack in the lineup. Angels vs. Rangers, August 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

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.

Pitching Coach Mike Butcher joins Tyler Chatwood and Jeff Mathis on the mound. It was clear from the first pitch that Chatty wasn't himself this evening. Angels vs. Rangers, August 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

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.”

Erick Aybar looks embarrassed, as well he should after his half assed fielding earlier, as he and former teammate Mike Napoli chat during a pitching change. What could they be saying to one another? Naps: It's okay Erick, _we_ appreciate your fielding today *snerk*. Aybar: D'oh. Angels vs. Rangers, August 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Russell Branyan and Peter Bourjos in the dugout during the Angels at bat. I know just how you feel, Russell. I know just how you feel. Angels vs. Rangers, August 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

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.

Erick Aybar and Howie Kendrick chat as they take the field and Howie confirms that Aybar's fielding was indeed half-assed this game. 'Hey, look at my uniform, I might have missed, but I at least dove for the ball'...or, you know, something like that. Angels vs. Rangers, August 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

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 -:

Mike Napoli begins a swing as Jeff Mathis positions himself for the ball. Angels vs. Rangers, August 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Yorvit Torrealba at bat with Jeff Mathis catching. Angels vs. Rangers, August 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Ian Kinsler takes a swing and fouls it off. Angels vs. Rangers, August 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

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?:

Howie Kendrick leads off third as Michael Young moves with the pitch. Angels vs. Rangers, August 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Torii Hunter on first after knocking in a run with a single in the 9th. Mitch Moreland is playing first for Texas. Angels vs. Rangers, August 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

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:

Derek Holland begins his wind up. Angels vs. Rangers, August 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

No more injuries please!!! Everyone stay healthy:

Torii Hunter tells Mike Scioscia and a trainer 'Hell, no, you aren't taking me out of this game.' or words to that effect after fouling a pitch off of his own foot in the 7th. Angels vs. Rangers, August 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

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?:

Trevor Bell, up from Salt Lake City just for this game, takes the mound in the 3rd. Angels vs. Rangers, August 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

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:

Jeff Mathis tells reliever Fernando Rodney, would you stop walking batters and pitch a GD strike every once in a while...oh...maybe that's just what I want to tell him. Angels vs. Rangers, August 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

And the fielding needs to be error free and full of hustle:

Mark Trumbo and runner Mike Napoli move with the pitch. Angels vs. Rangers, August 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Mark Trumbo fields the ball cleanly and Ian Kinsler is out at first. Angels vs. Rangers, August 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

 
Thursday Night Addendum: Holy Trumbo Walk Off, Bat Man! That was awesome! This doesn’t change anything I said in my initial post – this division is still winnable for the Angels, but it’s going to take a lot of work and I will be rooting for them the whole way…but it sure makes me a lot happier about all things Angels and I think the team needed that even more than the fans did. Light that baby up! Shall we return the favor in Texas in a few weeks? Yes please!
 

Angels Started Out Hot But in the End Just Burned. New Series, Move Down.

 Do you ever have one of those days where odd things seem to parallel your mood or activities? You think of a song and change the station on the radio only to find that song? Or a coworker randomly starts the same conversation you just had that morning with your mom? Does this ever seem to happen with the baseball team you follow? Saturday, was my husband’s birthday “observed” – as opposed to Tuesday, his actual birthday, when we have tickets for the company seats at the Big A, whoo hoo! We hosted a pizza party/game night in his honor, so I knew that, between the prep, the party and the clean-up, I wasn’t going be able to pay as much attention to the Angels play as I would like to. Little did I know the Angels themselves wouldn’t be paying much attention to their play this weekend. Yikes!

The baseball/life parallel was a beautiful thing on Friday night. We cleaned the house and I baked a dark chocolate cake. Making this cake is as much about technique as it is about the recipe. If you cream the butter and sugar long enough and take a sufficiently light, careful hand with the folding, you have an almost ethereally light, fluffy cake. Fold too quickly or too long, or outright mix the batter, and you develop the glutens to the point where you basically have bread. A nice calm no doubter of a game was just what the doctor ordered.

Melt the chocolate, blend, combine. Vernon Wells hits a homerun. Dry ingredients, buttermilk, whipped egg whites, gently fold. Ervin Santana going strong. Back until the cake is springy to the touch. Double play to finish the game. Howie to Aybar to Tumbo. Light that baby up. And now let’s finish mopping the floor. Excellent. Great Friday! And can I just say that between their humorous sign campaign response to the sign stealing accusations and their classy welcome for Vernon Wells, I love Blue Jays fans!

Saturday, however, the whole baseball/life parallel thing started to suck. Big time. Yes, I needed to chop and prep all of the pizza toppings. Yes, I needed to make the double vanilla, cream cheese icing for the cake and that involves whipping thick ingredients. Yes, Seth had to work so I was on my own and frustrations from the game lead me to chop and whip with greater…hmmm…shall we say efficiency. But come on Angels, I didn’t need that kind of help! I’m strong lady. I can chop onions, mushrooms, garlic and the like in a good mood, would have preferred to in fact.

I was concerned about this particular Jered Weaver start heading into the game anyway. He doesn’t pitch as well when circumstances muck up the rotation. Just like in May, when illness delayed his start, Weaver seemed to come back throwing too hard and with less control after his extra rest. And for a guy who lives by pinpoint precision against a hot hitting Blue Jays team on yet another day where the Angels own bats stood still? My recipes were on the right track. This recipe, however, was one for disaster. And Pineiro’s two innings on top of it all? Ouch. Clearly he’s not working anything out in the bullpen. Is he injured? Is it psychological? Would Dave Duncan consent to maybe call and whisper to him over the phone? I got nothin’. But then I had the birthday party and a house full of people, wine to pour, pizzas on the grill and a really great time, all perfect distractions from any thoughts of Angels.

So, Sunday this would have to end right? We capped off a thoroughly decadent late night with a thoroughly decadent morning – sleeping in until first pitch and then lounging on the sofa to watch a good match up with a breakfast of leftover prosciutto pizza with blue cheese, apples and caramelized onions. And the beginning was great. Torii Hunter’s homerun. Dan Haren was dealing. Peter Bourjos smokin’ down the base paths. But it was not to be. After the game I could see one more parallel. I had a really happy Saturday night, and I was feeling it Sunday morning to a certain extent, hence the lounging. But some of the Angels and Mike Scioscia, love him though I do, must have had an even happier Saturday night. How else do you explain Bobby and Trumbo’s base running in the 9th?  Or Scioscia’s decision to go to Fernando Rodney in the 10th?

The parallels, however, have to end now. See, Seth and I are going to be enjoying pizza, cake and other party leftovers easily until Thursday, but the Angels better not be keeping too many leftovers from their weekend. Torii’s hitting streak. Bobby’s reemerging bat. The fielding perhaps. The fact that Jered Weaver is such a stud, that even after giving up eight runs in less than five innings on Saturday, he still has the lowest E.R.A. and the third lowest WHIP in the majors. These are good leftovers to keep. But the lack of clutch, the inconsistent bats and the scary bullpen moments? Leave them on the road. The Rangers are coming to town for a four game series and with this disastrous road trip the Angels are four games behind them. This isn’t the last stand of the season right here, right now but it sure is time to get serious about winning again.

Angels and A’s say it’s a Beautiful Day for a Ballgame. Let’s Play Two!

Of course, I would have dearly loved to amend Ernie Banks’ famous quote to let’s win two for this post but, alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Not in the double header and not even in the series. Ouch. Seriously, did you see Sunday’s score?! Ouch!

With the Angels entering the All Star Break on such a roll, we didn’t really want to break just then. And then coming back from the break to Peter Bourjos moving from day to day status to the DL until the 23rd and Vernon Wells too ill to start? Suffice to say, it was not a recipe for success. However, it was not a guaranteed disaster either, despite the eventual outcome. No, the Angels old “friends”, lack of RISP and difficulty getting the third out, played a large roll here too. Whatever is going on, the Angels need to get it together by Tuesday, because Texas is coming to town and we can’t lose any more series in our division right now or things just went from hard to really darned difficult in a hurry.

But back to that double header part. Single admission. Double header. On Saturday in Oakland. Who could resist the old fashioned allure of a draw like that? Not this girl. Saturday I was at the Coliseum bright and early with my husband and a good friend from college, ready to continue the Bay Area Baseball Extravaganza with 18 innings of baseball…which turned into 19 by the end. It was a great day at the ballpark indeed. The weather was mild, our seats were excellent and we were seated in good company with just enough red nearby to not feel like we were cheering alone.

First, a note about the A’s ballpark. I heard horror stories before I headed up here and I have to say that’s really not fair. No one is ever going to put the Coliseum on their list of top 10 ballparks. It’s a no frills, mixed use facility, but those are the only problems with it. The park was clean, the seats were comfortable, most seats appear to have a good view of the field and we bought black and tans for only $8.25. Suffice to say no frills was far from uncomfortable. The no frills part does mean there weren’t a lot of unique regional specialities in the food court but we enjoyed polish sausage rolls, corn dogs and nachos – hey, it was a doule header. Nine hours at the ballpark. Don’t judge me. 😉 And even though the drawbacks of a mixed use facility are odd shaped seating and fields and still being able to see the lines from the previous week’s soccer match on the field, it’s still a baseball field, the most gorgeous shade of green in the world:

Mike Trout and Alexi Amariste. Angels at A's Double Header, July 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...(Seth)

Besides, in Oakland, instances of the wave were blessedly few and far between and no one, seriously no one, bounced stupid beach balls around the stadium. Angels fans, take note. Please! Also, I don’t know what the players think of them, but as a fan I really liked seeing the old fashioned, on the field, open bullpens and dugouts for a change:

The A's oldfashioned, wide-open on the field bullpen. Angels at A's Double Header, July 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

The A's oldfashioned, wide opened dugout. Angels at A's Double Header, July 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

I took advantage of those on the field bullpens when I bought our tickets – on the field, 12 rows behind the mound in the Angels’ bullpen. It was a lot of fun to see the bullpen warmups up close:

Jered Weaver warms up in the bulpen before game 1. Angels at A's Double Header, July 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

 

Scott Downs prepares to take the mound. Angels at A's Double Header, July 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Jordan Walden warms up in the bullpen. Angels at A's Double Header, July 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

It was also a lot of fun to have a good vantage for so many of the serious warm-ups, hanging out and general goofing around that goes on before a game. I’ve included more photos of that than game photos this time because, well, they’re fun and I don’t often have the opportunity:

Torii Hunter "helps" Jered Weaver warm up by providing a target before game 1. You can't see it here, but he was smiling and looking super confused over each pitch as if Jered had impossible to hit stuff. Very cute. And oh so very Torii. Angels at A's Double Header, July 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Vernon Wells, Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo share a joke before the games begin. Angels at A's Double Header, July 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Torii Hunter chats with Coco Crisp and Jemile Weeks before the games. Angels at A's Double Header, July 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Dan Haren and Joel Pineiro prepare for long toss before the games begin. Angels at A's Double Header, July 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...(Seth)

The bullpen says "Go get 'em Weave!" as the first game is ready to begin. Angels at A's Double Header, July 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Mark Trumbo and Mike Trout stretch before game 1. Angels at A's Double Header, July 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Ervin Satana and and Hank Conger warm up for game 2. Angels at A's Double Header, July 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...(Seth)

And, of course, the games weren’t without their fair share of derring do. Jered Weaver was, well, Jered Weaver. Ervin Santana was shakey but kept it together. The bullpen was great. We had great hits, notably from Erick Aybar, Mark Trumbo, Vernon Wells and – yay! -from Mike Trout. We made some great plays too. With a few less stranded runners in the second game, who knows?:

Jered Weaver prepares to pitch...or will it be a throw down? Mark Trumbo prepares for the latter as Jemile Weeks leads off first. Angels at A's Double Header, July 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...(Seth)

Mark Trumbo takes it himself as Jered Weaver nods in approval. Angels at A's Double Header, July 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Mike Trout makes a catch in center. Angels at A's Double Header, July 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Jeff Mathis move to catch a wilder change-up as Jemile Weeks takes a swing. Coco Crisp is on deck behind them. Weeks, Rickie Weeks' younger brother, looks like a fantastic A's call up from where I sit. He hits, he's clutch, he has a great glove and a good arm. Angels at A's Double Header, July 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Trevr Cahill pitches as Erick Aybar takes a league off third in the background. Angels at A's Double Header, July 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Trevor Cahill, Kurt Suzuki and the pitching coach have a meeting on the mound while Howie Kendrick and Alfredo Griffin look on from first base. Angels at A's Double Header, July 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

If only the Angels had won the second game, it would have been a perfect day…and I’m sorry to say that as good a time as I had, I am not a good enough sport to have left the ballpark in perfectly high spirits after losing the second game. One great win, a near win and an amazing time at a double header should have been enough…but they weren’t quite, not for a perfectly gleeful mood. I still had a lot of fun, mind you. But it’s hard not to feel just a little but deflated even so. The A’s, or better yet the Angels, have to, have to, have to do this again next season. Have to! 🙂

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Outside of baseball, coming up to the Bay Area and hanging out with friends from college has a lovely feel of both fun in the here and now and nostalgia to it. I was definitely ready to start the rest of my life and move on from college once it was over, but those were four very fun years. Getting the band back together, as it were, for a few nights of fun however does remind me of a few things I miss, like the ability to spend long periods of time just hanging out…and that wonderful sense of possibility you feel when you know you’re smart and willing to work your butt off and life has yet to hand you any real beat downs…well, that, and the ability to be fully functional after three hours of sleep and 1/3 or so of a 1/5 of something tasty. 😉

Next Post: the Bay Area Baseball Extravaganza concludes with a trip to AT&T Park for a Giants vs. Dodgers game.