Tagged: Ervin Santana

An Angels Season Highlights Review – Don’t Leave 2011 Without It

So, 2011 is drawing to a close and it is my tradition to take a few moments and write up my top Angels Baseball moments for the 2011 season. It should be noted that, as this blog is now just over a year old, tradition means I am doing it for the second time. Hey, traditions have to start somewhere, right? …But I digress. These are not the Angels only highlights for the season or even necessarily the ones that folks who get paid to analyze this kind of stuff would point out. There are enough articles about that floating around out there already. No, these are the highlights, both Angels and personal, that made my baseball season, in no particular order:

Jered Weaver! Both the season he had – which, were it not for Verlander’s even more amazing season would have easily been a Cy Young season – and the fact that he signed a contract with the Angels through 2016. I loved every minute I spent watching this homegrown dynamo on the mound and look forward to many more in the seasons to come.

Being Wrong. Yes, sometimes being wrong is a great thing and I am thrilled that I was wrong to have worried about Mark Trumbo taking over at first base. My concerns were based on his rookie call-up outings and the issues he had getting into position for plays during Spring Training. But the AL Rookie of the Year runner up worked hard to improve quickly at first and was a bright spot in an offense that was otherwise anything but. None of this guarantees that Trumbo will also be good at third base, but he has more than earned my interest in seeing what he can do in yet another new position.

Ervin Santana’s No Hitter. A former on one season then wild as all get out the next pitcher, Santana showed he has gained considerable consistency following up on his excellent 2010 season with another quality season, and how! The no hitter was merely the most obvious indicator of thischange, but what an indicator it was.

Dan Haren’s 1 hit shutout. And we were there!! Having a full season with Haren on the team would have been a highlight in and of itself, but getting to see this game, live and in person, with a great view of every nasty pitch going over the plate was absolute baseball magic.

Young Angels’ feats. I said it many times throughout the regular season, the Angels rookies and practically rookies made my season. Whether it was watching Peter Bourjos’ dramatic plays in center, Tyler Chatwood’s development on the mound or Mark Trumbo slowly make opposing pitchers start to take notice, the Angels “kids” made the game a lot of fun to watch and gave me significant hope for future seasons.

Personal Game Attendance at an All-Time High! So I tallied it up and we went to 22 games this season, two of which were the Angels/A’s double header. Wow! So. Ummmm…Hon, when you read this, remember how that fact of that being absolutely (Wonderfully!) crazy is tempered by my folks and your boss giving us tickets. 😉 Being at the game so often gave us the chance to catch a lot of season highlights. Bourjos’ first home run of the season. Trumbo’s first big league homerun. A couple of flying Bourjos catches. An I can’t believe he caught that Torii Hunter catch…and that was just during the Haren 1-hit shutout game, no kidding. There was even more than that over the course of the other 21 games. I only hope that tickets are not so expensive this season that we have difficulties getting to the game. I don’t have to go to 22 games (Though I will never turn it down!) but if I don’t get to the ballpark every couple of weeks or so, crankiness is likly to ensue. 🙂

Travelling for Baseball. Seth and I have talked about eventually seeing a game in every Major League stadium for years, but it has also been years since we’ve been able to do any real travelling. This season we finally got started on our plans and while we may have started small we started well, travelling up to the Bay Area to visit with friends and watch games at the Coliseum and AT&T Park. So. Much. Fun! This coming season, the way things look, I think we may only be able to make it down to Petco Park in San Diego, which is local but still progress.

And last but not least…I hesitate to include this winter’s signings only because at the moment Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson have not had the opportunity to take a single swing or deliver a single pitch for the Angels. We suspect they will be strong, difference making additions to the team but while it’s all still just on paper, it’s only highly probable, not actual. But I will add this to my list: last year at this time I was writing about Hot Stove Grief (Hey, this is a serious disorder. Wipe that smirk off your face!) and feeling like the front office was just phoning it in. Today I feel like the front office is really working to put the best team on the field they possibly can and I am hopeful and excited for the season to begin. What a difference a few months make!

Let Us Have Angels, Wins and a Happy Ending

 

The show must…you know…

Go on!

It will be alright.

How will it?

I don’t know, it’s a mystery. 

Favorite lines from a favorite movie, having nothing whatsoever to do with baseball. And, yet, these are the lines I find running through my ever tangential brain as I contemplate the last remaining days of the regular season.

Three and a half games behind the Rangers, our intrepid Angel heroes head off to AL East to challenge two teams against whom they have had mixed results this season. Meanwhile, the Rangers enter the extremely soft finish to their overall-harder-than-the-Angels’ September schedule, and face off against two teams they have beaten bloody this season. At this point in our story, things look a bit grim for our heroes, statistically speaking, and the promise of three games against the Rangers to end the regular season doesn’t assuage all concerns quite as quickly as it did a few weeks ago…

But that’s just the numbers talking. Statistics and probabilities. The same statistics and probabilities that throughout the season predicted the Angels would be mathematically eliminated or right on the verge of it At this point. So, in the immortal words of Charlie Brown, tell your statistics to shut up. 😉  Somehow, every time they were on the verge of being too far out of the race to come back this season, the Angels have managed to come back. A crucial pitching performance. A dynamite play. A key walk off hit. The reemergence of the offense. How do things keep working out? I don’t know. It’s a mystery. But they do.

Can the Angels still squeeze their way into the post season, even now, either via an AL West title or the Wild Card? Absolutely! But will they? And, if so, how will they manage it? I don’t know. It’s a mystery. At the moment our probable pitchers list after Jered Weaver’s start on Wednesday is Dan Haren, Ervin Santana and then…a big series of questions marks. And that’s one of the mysteries that is key to the post season mystery ending on a cheerful note. Is it back to Jerome Williams and Joel Pineiro? Well, I like the first part of that thought. Will the Angels adopt a sort of three man/short rest rotation for the time being? If so, I sure hope if works better outside of the Texas heat. Make the right decision Sosh, because this is Double Jeopardy where the scores can really change…especially if Pineiro is on the mound and his sinkerball is still hiding underneath the sofa cushions in the clubhouse.

But there are more mysteries within mysteries. I’ve been saying all season that there are two Angels teams that seem to switch uniforms from time to time, the clutch team and the Keystone Cops. So which Angels team is landing in Baltimore? And in Toronto? For that matter which teams will the as-yet-to-be-determined Angels team be facing? The spoiler Orioles and Jays who easily bested the higher ranking Rays and Red Sox this week or the teams the Angeles were able to beat a few times? I certainly hope it’s the latter but I don’t know, it’s…well…you know.

Starting Friday night in Baltimore, the Angels need to go on a longer winning streak than they have been on all season and Texas needs to lose a few games. They Angels may be able to survive another loss or two, but only if Texas is losing as well and it doesn’t cost them anything in the standings. Is this likely? No. But I live for against the odds story book type endings and so, apparently, do the Angels. So, Let’s Go Halos!

Baseball and the Fanly Art of Heckling: Another Very Special Post from TIAVSG

Love it or hate it, baseball and heckling have always gone hand in hand. In fact, if I may wax William Goldman-ish for a moment, when the very first pitcher climbed up onto the first pitcher’s mound and gave up the very first bases clearing double to the first clutch hitter, the first baseball fans were all present, and they heckled him.

But just because heckling is part of the baseball tradition doesn’t mean you can head on down to the ballpark and just start shouting any old thing you’d like. I mean, there are rules against that sort of thing! Okay, so they’re more like guidelines really. But remember, ‘tis a fine, fine line between entertaining and obnoxious. So, as we head down the final stretch of the season and into the playoffs and fan passions run hotter every day, I think a review of these guidelines is in order. Surely none of the fine folks at MLBlogs need the review themselves, but we all know someone who does…so if you are reading this because someone anonymously sent you a link…or printed it out and left it on your chair, well, you might want to take notes. 😉

1) Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses. Personally, I don’t often participate in heckling. Not because I have anything against heckling when it’s done well, mind you, but because I know that my wit, such as it is, is only quick around friends. Family. Coworkers. Basically in relaxed situations. If, like me, you are the kind of person who will usually come up with the perfect snappy comeback to any confrontation…fifteen to twenty minutes after the fact…then please join me in appreciating the fanly art of heckling as strictly a spectator sport. Your section mates and your baseball buddies will thank you.

2) Brevity. Show of hands. How many of you have suffered through a game painfully within earshot of some fool delivering an oral dissertation to the opposing team? Lame and annoying, right? Even if he or she is on your side. And it’s not like the players they’re attempting to heckle are even going to follow the whole essay when they’re trying to play the game. So what it lacks in entertainment value, it completely makes up for by being pointless. Save the lengthy commentary for blog posts.

3) KISS (Keep it Simple Stupid). Brief taunts can be equally obnoxious and pointless if they are overly complicated or just plain stupid. For example, at the double header in Oakland we sat near an Angels fan who had special things he would shout for each As player. “CoCo likes to start fights in Boston!!” “Jackson? More like all jacked up!” “Suck it Powell, you aren’t catching perfection anymore!” And after each new “gem” he would turn to the all of the fans nearby and explain his taunt to us. “See, this one’s funny because Landon Powell caught Dallas Braden’s perfect game and he’s not catching Dallas Braden today.” Ummm. No dude. It’s still not funny. Nothing will make it funny. It got to the point where the rest of the Angels fans in the section were telling him to shut up. So, a few good rules of thumb here: if your fellow fans are moved to mock you and especially if your brand of heckling requires footnotes? Don’t. Just don’t.

4) Simple does not have to mean uncreative. Ubiquitous “(Player Name of Choice), you suuuuuuuuuck!” guy or gal, I’m looking at you. Yes, you have met the basic requirements of brevity and simplicity but, trust me, if this is all you’re shouting all game long, you’ve sailed right over that fine, fine line and deep into obnoxious on sheer monotony alone. Mix it up a little from time to time, or at least give it rest for a few batters and your section mates, even those rooting for your team, will thank you.

At the double header in Oakland, we had the You Suuuuuuuck guy sitting right across the aisle from us. “Torii Hunter, you suuuuuuuuck!” “Santana, you suuuuuuuuuuuuuuck!” And he never shut up for longer than the space of a breath. For. Five. Innings. Mind you, he didn’t do this during the first game, when the Angels won. Or during the first few innings of the second game when the Angels were ahead. And I was getting so sick of him that I was on the verge of pointing this out, when he made me laugh. You’ve no doubt heard about the huge seagull problem at the Coliseum and AT&T Park? Huge flocks of them descend in the last few innings of games, take over sections of seats and menace fans. Well, the You Suuuuuuuuuck guy suddenly shouted “Would you hurry up and beat these guys already?! The seagulls are hooongry!!” and pretty much the entire section, Angels and As fans alike, burst out laughing and he seemed a lot less obnoxious after that…I also think he toned it down a little after that, but there’s still a good lesson there.

5) Keep it clean, baseball is a family game. Just because it’s 2011 and the large number of kids in the stands might be able to give you a decent four letter word vocabulary lesson, doesn’t mean you need to contribute to their long list of bad examples. A lot of adults don’t want to hear it either. The F-bomb may in fact be the hardest working little multi-tasker in the English language, but even the little black dress is not appropriate for every occasion.

I’m not suggesting that you need to keep it as clean as they apparently do down south. A friend of mine who went to a few college ball games in N’awlins actually witnessed fans heckling the umpire thusly. “Excuse me, Mr. Umpire? Does your wife know you’re screwing us, sir?” But still, you have to admit there is a certain level of awesome there.

And, last but certainly not least: 

6) Kindly remember that no one, not even members of your own party paid to come to the ballpark to listen to you heckle. Hecklers can be a very entertaining part of the game, but a little goes a long way. True masters of the art of heckling should consider themselves to be salt…or perhaps I should use a spicier analogy? Vulcan fire salt perhaps? The point is your purpose is to accent the game, not to take it over. Do not block other fans’ view of the game. Do not keep up such a constant stream of dialog that you keep other fans from enjoying the game…especially if their team is already doing that for you. Otherwise, seriously, you are no better than the jackass in the obviously brand spanking new team shirt…and hat…and jacket jumping up and down and screaming at everyone to do the wave. And no one wants to be that guy, right? 😉

The Angels 11 $1 Standings Trick

A good friend wanted to celebrate her birthday in style this weekend, so she got the lot of us passes to the Magic Castle on Saturday. I know what you’re thinking – cheesy fortune tellers and kid’s birthday party tricks. I thought as much myself before I went the first time, but the reality is quite different. Housed in a gorgeous pre-World War I era mansion tucked into the Hollywood Hills, the Magic Castle is the headquarters for the Academy of Magical Arts and a truly decadent private club. A luxurious setting, an elegant meal, cocktail servers who never let your glass go empty if you let them, and the magicians, wow! My favorite part of all of it is the close-up rooms – card tricks, coin tricks, ring magic, rope tricks and the like all performed to perfection mere feet away. The magician might as well be sitting on the other side of the dining room table from you if you are lucky enough to sit in the front row.

There aren’t very many new tricks in the world really, just infinitely innovative riffs on classic tricks. But the variations and personal stamps each magician puts on these tricks are where I think the true artistry lies. Take the 11 $1 bill trick, as it was first described to me. I have seen it performed many ways by many different names, on Saturday for example, it was performed by a magician from my home town as the 4 card trick. But I have never seen it performed so well as the 11 $1 bill trick so I will use that variation as my example. The magician performing this trick always invites a member of the audience to assist him. When I saw the trick, the assistant was Mike, a good friend of mine, and the rest of us were sitting in the front row, close enough to reach out a touch the dollars ourselves.

The Magician took a simple wallet out of his pocket and counted out the contents, 11 $1 bills, into Mike’s skeptical hand and invited him to look over each bill carefully. He then invited Mike to investigate the wallet to prove that is was empty and Mike did so thoroughly. The magician set the empty wallet on the table in plain view and asked Mike to count the stack of bills back to the magician. 11 $1 bills. Then the magician counted them back into Mike’s hand – 11 $1 bills – and asked Mike to count the stack back into his hand again. Only now, suddenly, Mike could only count 10 $1 bills. Surely Mike was mistaken, the Magician said and counted the stack back into Mike’s hand. 11 $1 bills. Try it again, he asked. So Mike counted the stack back into the Magician’s hand. 9 $1 bills. No, the Magician said there are 11 and counted them back into Mike’s hand. 11 $1 bills. Mike counted them back to the magician again. 8 $1 bills.

Ah, said the magician. I know what happened. And he picked the wallet up off the table, opened it up and removed 3 $1 bills! This trick then continued for some time with several variations. The 11 $1 bills grew in number to 15 and shrank and low as 6 until eventually Mike was asked to investigate the offending wallet again, which he did even more thoroughly, and put the empty wallet into his own pocket himself. In the end, Mike could only count 7 $1 dollars back to the magician again and the remaining three were, you guessed it, inside the wallet he had tucked into his own pocket. I am difficult to impress. I look for the misdirection, glance at places the magician is de-emphasizing, and try to see that which I am not supposed to see. Every now and then I see a bent card, the hidden coin or a few of the torn pieces of whatever disappearing, but not this time. I have the vaguest of ideas what the magician might have done, but damned if I could catch him at it. Magic? Of course not. Not in the Harry Potter/Walt Disney/Gandalf the Grey sense, at least. But definitely a gifted artist giving a brilliant demonstration of his craft, and what could be more magical than that?

Anyway, does the 11 $1 bill trick remind you of anything? Yes, exactly. The Angels standings in the AL West. Twenty days ago, the Angels only had to count a mere 1.5 games out of first back to the Rangers. But then they went to New York and Toronto, and entertained a visit from the Rangers themselves, and when the Rangers counted games back to the Angels, the stack grew to 5 games, then 6 games, then 7. But just when the audience expected them to count back 8 games, Mark Trumbo hit that walk off homerun and showed the Rangers that 2 of those games had magically disappeared from the stack.

After pulling several bats and a rookie outfielder seemingly out of thin air, the Angels took on Baltimore and Chicago and were able to count a mere 2 games back to the Rangers again…Boston may have helped with that a little. And then the counting began in earnest in Texas. The Rangers dazzled the Angels by making baseballs disappear over fences and counted 3 games back into the Angels palm. Then the Angels discovered the secret of the disappearing baseball trick themselves, Ervin Santana turned three days rest and grit into a win and the team counted 2 games back to the Rangers. This feat caused me to respond with a trick of my own and magically pull a Droid out of my small, elegant little evening bag to check the score several times on Saturday. However, Jered Weaver was unable to match Santana’s impressive prestidigitation, the Angels fielding moved out of the magic shop and into the novelty store, and suddenly the Rangers counted 3 games in the stack again.

The Angels have 29 games left, 3 of them against Texas, and I can’t help but feel they have a few more tricks up their sleeves. Provided the bats continue to obligingly reappear or, better yet, no one makes them disappear in the first place, I predict that the number of games in this particular stack is going to go up and down several more times before someone is eventually able to pull a division title out of the wallet on the table. The feat is hardly impossible, but if the Angels are able to cinch the division win, it will be one stylish trick indeed – even more enjoyable than the 11 $1 bill trick and even more impressive than my own little trick of walking and standing around the Magic Castle for seven hours in three inch heels with nary a blister to show for it. 😉

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!

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.