Tagged: Howie Kendrick

Angels Sweep the Nationals, Presidents’ Race and All

The Angels swept the Nationals and, oh yeah, we went to a baseball game on Monday! Work has been plentiful, all consuming, fun and, occasionally, FUn this week – I came home from Monday’s game and moved a project along until 2am, that kind of fun. Between that and the games I suddenly looked up, it’s Thursday already and I haven’t posted my photos. Oh well…

Our seats for Monday night’s game were just to the foul side of the foul pole down the first base line, in the second row. Prime visitor’s section this. And, indeed, we set in front of and behind two families of Nationals fans vacationing in Los Angeles and next to a Phillies fan and his young daughters who were here on one of the middle stops of a larger baseball tour vacation. They had just come from Seattle and were headed out to Arizona then Texas. So jealous! When everyone has the right attitude, visiting fans can be a kick to enjoy the game with and all parties involved in this particular case were really nice and a lot of fun to chat/snark with.

Bobby Abreu leads off of second. Being on the field level, these seats were excellent for catching glimpses of personality on the field, some of which I got on camera. As you can see, Bobby is a talker on the base paths, especially at second base. He always wears a huge smile and gestures broadly with his hands so it is unclear for the most part if he’s goofing around, talking trash, just shooting the breeze or what. Probably a little of columns A, B and C. What little I catch of it on TV is pretty darned funny…and of course he has 13 stolen bases (not bad for one of the few ballplayers left who are older than me :)) so perhaps this is all part of his strategy. Get ‘em laughing, then break for third?

Bobby Abreu takes a lead off as he chats with the second baseman. Trash talk? Shooting the breeze? Who can say, but this is a classic Bobby on the basepaths moment. Angels vs. Nationals, June 27, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Vernon Wells at bat. These seats were not, however, the best for views or photos of the plate. The first base umpire is always in the way. That’s okay. Ssometimes I enjoy having a closer vantage of the outfield and plays at second. Wells is continuing to heat up in June. He hit a single this at bat, which eventually lead to a run and then went four for five on Tuesday with a crucial two-run homerun. And Angels fans are starting to respond. Both developments are very welcome indeed.

Vernon Wells at bat while baserunner Bobby Abreu has lead off far off frame and Nationals First Baseman Michael Morse waits for a possible throw down. Angels vs. Nationals, June 27, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Catcher Bobby Wilson and Pitching Coach Mike Butcher meet with Ervin Santana on the mound. Santana got off to an uneven start, giving up homeruns in the 2nd and 4th, but settled into a good rhythm after that. He lasted eight innings and on the Angels, starters don’t pitch in the 9th inning unless they’re pitching a shutout or something equally spectacular, so that’s pretty darned good.

Pitching Coach Mike Butcher and Catcher Bobby Wilson come out to the mound to give Ervin Santana a pep talk. Angels vs. Nationals, June 27, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Just a random shot of the Angels bullpens. The bullpens at the Big A are terraced, which is a little unusual. The Angels bullpen on the lowest “step” in the front. And if you look at the photo you can see the Nationals in the visitor’s bullpen one step up and behind the home bullpen. Starting another “step” above the visitor’s bullpen you have the Left Field Pavilion seats. In this bullpen shot you can see Angels relievers Michael Kohn (standing up), Fernando Rodney, Hisanori Takashi’s translator, Hisanori Takashi and Jordan Walden kneeling down and…what? Praying? Vomiting? Spitting sunflower seeds? Catching a few ZZZs? Probably the real answer isn’t nearly as funny so I’m going to go with one of mine.

The Angels back to back home and visitors' bullpens. Angels vs. Nationals, June 27, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

The Nationals brought the Racing Presidents with them to Anaheim for the series. So was this a) an incredibly stupid idea, b) a fine example of Interleague sharing of baseball cultures and traditions, or c) I really hate Interleague and fail to see how these two comments are mutually exclusive? You make the call. I initially thought the idea was kind of dumb, only because this is the Nationals’ tradition and it’s the Angels ballpark. But it was kind of fun to see and it provided a between innings icebreaker with the Nationals fans around us. I took the opportunity to ask, so, what’s the deal with Teddy? He’s really never won? I mostly knew the answer, but it was fun hearing all about the goofy, fun tradition from fans. We’d been talking a little between innings before that, but talked a lot more often after: relievers we love/who make us cringe, hitters who are starting to do better than their batting average indicates, overinflated contracts…it turns out Angels fans and Nationals fans have a frightening amount in common.

Teddy Roosevelt prepares to loose again in the Nationals Presidents' Race...of Anaheim? Angels vs. Nationals, June 27, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Abe Lincoln and George Washington are neck and neck...in Anaheim? Angels vs. Nationals, June 27, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Nationals Catcher Wilson Ramos and Pitching Coach Steve McCatty meet with Pitcher John Lannan on the mound. All was going well for Lannan and the game was tied 2 to 2 until the Angels started hitting in the 6th. The Angels scored their third run shortly after this meeting and then Lannan was pulled. I love the photo because of the facial expressions and body language. I can only imagine the conversation that went with it. McCatty: Alright then, how are we going to get out of this? Lannan: Well, gee I don’t know Coach. I thought maybe I’d throw some strikes and get him out.

Pitcher John Lannan looks bemused as he meets with Catcher Wilson Ramos and Pitching Coach Steve McCatty on the mound. Angels vs. Nationals, June 27, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Mark Trumbo grows impatient during the meeting on the mound –  again, with being able to catch glimpses of personality from these seats. Mark Trumbo is usually as professional in demeanor as a veteran so I was amused to see him visibly impatient at another break in this already lengthy at bat, with his cheeks puffed out like an exasperated little kid. Very cute actually. He ground into a double play this at bat, but was pretty solid at the plate this series. His average is creeping back up again and he is the American League’s rookie homerun leader with 13. Coincidentally, the Nationals’ Danny Espinosa is the Rookie Major League homerun leader.

Mark Trumbo stands at the plate and puffs out his checks with impatience during a time out for a meeting on the mound. Alberto Callaspo is in the on deck circle. Angels vs. Nationals, June 27, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

The Nationals outfielders, Roger Bernardina, Laynce Nix and Jayson Werth meet during the subsequent pitching change. ‘Damn Werth, you have lots of friends over here too. You’re a real popular guy in Anaheim.’ Suffice to say, Angels fans were heckling Werth all night, which isn’t surprising. There are a few folks I see regularly in this section and the left most corner of the right field MVP section (Season ticket holders? Maybe, maybe not.) who heckle pretty much everyone, occasionally even our own players. Whether or not that was the topic of the outfielders’ conversation, I’m sure Werth is used to it by now.

The Nationals outfielders, Roger Bernardina, Laynce Nix and Jayson Werth meet during a pitching change. Angels vs. Nationals, June 27, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Peter Bourjos and Vernon Wells joke after Peter snags a fly ball to end the inning. The outfield chemistry is shaping up much better as the months role by. This is very helpful, especially with various assorted centerfielders, corner outfielders turned DH and the occasional second baseman flopping roles in the outfield on a regular basis to accommodate injuries, Interleague and random acts of lineup juggling.

Vernon Wells and Peter Bourjos joke after Bourjos snaggs the catch. Angels vs. Nationals, June 27, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Yes that is Torii Hunter right in front of me in right field. The news report prior to Monday’s game was that Torii took batting and fielding practice Monday and looked good enough to return soon, possibly as soon a Wednesday. Imagine our delight when they brought him in as an unexpected substitution in the top of the 8th inning. The whole crowd erupted and we went especially crazy in the seats around right field with our welcome backs.

Torii Hunter returns to right for the first time since hitting the wall against the Marlins. Angels vs. Nationals, June 27, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Jorda Walden takes the mound in the 9th. Unfortunately this would prove to be another blown save for Walden, his third in a row, when he gave up a two-out homerun to Danny Espinosa. The young Nationals fan in front of us turned around and informed me “Blown Save”. Thanks kid, I kind of figured that one out on my own. No liner notes needed. So, am I worried about Walden? No. Not at all. When I started advocating making the rookie our closer, I knew there would be some growing pains. This is a kid who had every intention of being a starter and never thought about the closer’s role until it turned out he had quite the aptitude for it this season. So far, he has 18 saves (including last night’s) which is respectable. And when he does blow it, instead of crumbling, Walden is right back in the game to get the next batter. Monday night when he gave up the homerun, he threw the next pitch for a called strike and then coaxed the batter into a ground out to end the inning. And he was right back in the game on Wednesday night with a 1-0 lead on the line and got the save. That says something to me. We will probably witness a few more growing pains this season, but I have no doubts that Jordan Walden is our closer.

Jordan Walden takes the mound in the 9th for what would become his third blown save in a row. Angels vs. Nationals, June 27, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Scott Downs pitches in the 10th as Howie Kendrick (who moved to first base in the 8th when Torii came in to the game) moves into position. I mentioned we were chatting about relievers with the Nationals fans? Well, Scott Downs is one of the few I never worry about. When I look over to the bullpen and see Downs warming up, with that distinctive haircut easily identifiable across the field, I breathe a sigh of relief. Yes, he has an off outing here and there, but by and large he comes in and gets it done and he has five wins for the season, as many as some teams’ starters, to prove it. Monday night and the rest of the Nationals series was no exception.

Scott Downs begins a pitch in the 10th as Howie Kendrick moves into position at first. Angels vs. Nationals, June 27, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Brian Bixler stands on second flanked by second baseman Maicer Izturis and third baseman Alberto Callaspo. Bixler reached 2nd on an uncharacteristic fielding error by Maicer. There were an annoying number of Angels fielding errors this series actually, but we recovered from all of them to sweep. I hope the errors are more an indication of tiredness from the epic Four Corners Road Trip than anything more trend setting, shall we say.

Brian Bixler leads off second, as Maicer Izturis and Alberto Callaspo move into position. Angels vs. Nationals, June 27, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Peter Bourjos takes a long lead off third. I think it is safe to say that Bourjos has worked through his slump at the plate. He went four for five on Monday with one RBI and was a crucial component of the 10th inning rally, knocking a ground rules double into the stands mere feet from my seat, that put Callaspo in scoring position for Maicer Izturis’ walk-off single. Yes, when that happened I tapped the young Nationals fan in front of us on the shoulder and informed him “Walk off.” Fair’s fair right? Acutally, everyone was laughing both over the “Blown Save” and the “Walk Off.”

Peter Bourjos takes a deep lead off third. Angels vs. Nationals, June 27, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

The Angels Return to Sunny SoCal for Two More Wins + I Return to Dodger Stadium

The Angels returned home, in order to play three more away games up the 5 freeway against former stadium mates the Los Angeles Dodgers. So far the Angels have taken two of two and will try for the sweep with Jered Weaver on the mound on Sunday. We got tickets to Saturday’s game and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves at Dodger Stadium.

First, a brief re-cap of Friday. Friday’s game was an extremely odd affair with the Angels managing to win 8 to 3 despite six base running errors and a number of odd plays, including a questionable pick-off attempt by Jeff Mathis. Here Bullpen Coach Steve Soliz works with Mathis before Saturday’s game. Perhaps they are working on remedial throws in case Mathis is called in and needs to throw a runner out at second. Second, Jeff, second, not first. He may live that down by next season…or he may not. Though in all fairness the man had two stellar take downs at the plate on Friday too, which more than evens things out in Mathis’ favor for the game in my opinion:

Jeff Mathis warms up with Bullpen Coach Steve Soliz pregame. Angels at Dodgers, June 25, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Dan Haren shown in the Angels Dugout during the Saturday game. There were plenty of heroes to balance out the odd plays on Friday. Dan Haren (or the scruffy looking nerf herder as my husband calls Haren because my reaction the first time he said it was, apparently, priceless), for example, pitched a good game and went one for two at the plate with one RBI and a pretty sacrifice bunt that moved Mathis in position to score off Maicer’s hit:

Dan Haren, last night's winning pitcher, hangs out in the dugout behind catchers Jeff Mathis and Bobby Wilson. Angels at Dodgers, June 25, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...(Seth)

Saturday’s tickets were my hairdresser’s season seats. Her family has had these seats almost as long as the stadium has been in existence and she is gracious enough to share them with friends and clients from time to time…even Angels fan clients. Truly, they were excellent seats and we took advantage of the view to take some photos. Given my Dodger fan-family origins, I can’t help but feel waves and waves of nostalgia just walking into Dodger stadium. Memories of games we attended, places we sat and goofy things my sister and I said or did cling to the darndest nooks and crannies of the stadium. And can I just tell you how wierd it feels to walk through the stadium in opposing team colors. Still?!:

A view of the Dodger's stadium field from our seats. Not much has changed since I was a kid, except for the addition of a few rows of luxury seats that pinch in the old foul territory a little bit. Angels at Dodgers, June 25, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

A view of the Dodgers bullpen. When I was a child, my family frequently bought tickets for the second deck next to the bullpen so my sister and I could watch the pichers warmup. Angels at Dodgers, June 25, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

 

Dodgers Stadium. Angels at Dodgers, June 25, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

 
And, of course, I couldn’t come to Dodger Stadium without meeting Emma of Crzblue’s Dodger Blue World. I’m so glad she came down to see me. Emma is every bit as nice in person as she is on her blog and it was fun to chat with here through an inning, while we watched the game, of course:

Me and Emma of Crzblue's Dodger Blue World. Angels at Dodgers, June 25, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...(Seth)

Tyler Chatwood pitched a great game. He got into a few problems but was able to work his wait out of them, holding the Dodgers to one run over seven innings. Sadly Chatwood walked that one run in after loading up the bases, but that was in the 5th inning and he recovered sufficiently to pitch two additional scoreless innings:

Tyler Chatwood pitches to Dodgers rookie short stop Dee Gordon. Angels at Dodgers, June 25, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

One of the biggest things Chatwood was able to do with his pitches today was to keep the Dodgers dynamic one, two punch of Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp off the bases. Chatwood helped keep Ethier 0 for 4 and Kemp 0 for 2. (Kemp was ejected from the game in the 5th inning):

Andre Ethier grounds out to first baseman Mark Trumbo. Pitcher Trevor Bell moves to backup the play. Angels at Dodgers, June 25, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...Matt Kemp grounds out on a Tyler Chatwood pitch. Hank Conger is behind the plate. Angels at Dodgers, June 25, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Chatwood takes a leadoff at first. But was “Big Bat” Chatwood content to confine his daring deeds to the mound? Of course not, this is interleague where, as our announcers are fond of saying, pitchers prove they are athletes too. With two outs, Chatwood hit a solid single into centerfield, temporarily maintaining his 1.000 batting average from the series against the Mets. Yes, this is somewhat tongue in cheek, but I am very American League and it tickles me to see our pitchers at the plate:

Tyler Chatwood leads off at first while James Loney moves into position. Angels at Dodgers, June 25, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Erick Aybar at bat in the 3rd. Chatwood’s single allowed him to score off of Aybar’s two-out third-inning triple:

Erick Aybar knocks Tyler Chatwood in with a triple in the 3rd. Angels at Dodgers, June 25, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Russel Branyan, Bench Coach Rob Picciolo, Dan Haren, Torii Hunter, Peter Bourjos, Maicer Izturis, Pitching Coach Mike Butcher, Ervin Santana and Joel Pineiro rush to congratulate Tyler Chatwood, who can barely be seen among the throng, for scoring a run and maintaining his 1.000 BA. Angels at Dodgers, June 25, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Mark Trumbo takes a pitch before knocking the next one into the Dodgers’ bullpen. Trumbo had a busy, fruitful day defensively at first and hit a two-out homerun in the 4th inning, his 13th of this, his rookie season:

Pitching Coach Mike Butcher calls a meeting on the mound. Chatwood got himself into a spot of in the 5th, allowing two singles, then walking the bases loaded:

Angels meeting on the mound in the 5th with bases loaded. Angels at Dodgers, June 25, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Casey Blake takes a pitch. Immediately following the meeting on the mound, Chatwood walked in a run before facing pinch hitter Casey Blake. With brilliant catch from Howie Kendrick at second, Blake lined to  double pay:

Casey Blake takes a pitch in the 5th. Hank Conger catching. Angels at Dodgers, June 25, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Bobby Abreu at bat. Bobby and Howie walked in the 8th to set the table for Vernon Wells. Bobby was in right field today, which I prefer to left for him. He did a decent job, with one good catch and one missed catch that Torii would have made. I can’t wait for Torii to be back in the lineup!

Bobby Abreu at bat. Angels at Dodgers, June 25, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Vernon Wells crosses the plate after hitting a two-out, three-run homerun. Wells bat continues to heat up and I could not be more pleased to see it. This was his 8th homerun of the season:

Vernon Wells crosses the plate after hitting a three-run homerun in the 8th. Angels at Dodgers, June 25, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Tyler Chatwood, Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, Torii Hunter, Hank Conger and Ervin Santana congratulate Vernon Wells on his homerun. Angels at Dodgers, June 25, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Don Mattingly calls a Dodgers meeting on the mound. Following Wells’ homerun, Guerrier is pulled and the Dodgers move deeper into their bullpen.

Don Mattingly makes a pitching change in the 8th. Matt Guerrier is out and Hong-Chi Kuo is in. Angels at Dodgers, June 25, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Overall the Angels Bullpen was fantastic! Scott Downs locked them down in the 8th and Trevor Bell held them in the 9th:

Scott Downs takes the mound in the 8th. Angels at Dodgers, June 25, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Trevor Bell takes the mound in the 9th. Angels at Dodgers, June 25, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Jordan Walden warms up in the Dodgers visitor’s bullpen. After getting Ethier to ground out, Trevor Bell allowed a single and walked a batter. Even though it all turned out just fine – he got the next two out for and Angels victory – it was comforting to look across the diamond into the Dodger’s wonderfully old school visitor’s bullpen and see Jordan Walden warming up…you know, just in case. Right?

Jordan Walden warms up in the Dodger's visitor's bullpen in the 9th, just in case. Angels at Dodgers, June 25, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

 
It was a great stadium experience and an even better day. Everyone was so nice to us and we had a couple of great converations with the other fans in our section – Dodgers and Angels both. Leaving the game, it even smelled like victory…provided victory smells like sun block and overheated synthetic jersey material. 🙂

New York, New York, a Helluva Town, the Angels Were Up, Then the Angels Were Down

The Angels’ Crazy Four Corners Interleague-ean Baseball Odyssey, Stop #2: New York. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Friday, the Angels reached stop number two on the Four Corners Road Trip and returned to Interleague play with a bang. Joel Pinero notched his 100th career win as the Angels bested the Mets in a tight four to three victory. Both teams played well and the outcome was a question mark right up to the last pitch. The Angels bats were out in full force and clutch with men in scoring position. Torii Hunter, Maicer Izturis and Howie Kendrick all had a multiple hit game. Mark Trumbo, Peter Bourjos and Vernon Wells also contributed to the hit parade. Most importantly, every time the Mets scored, the Angels were able to score in response. That hasn’t exactly been a given this season, a big part of the reason we’re still below .500.

The defense was pretty good as well. Another highlight reel Bourjos catch up against the wall in center. A couple of great plays at first. We have got to work on keeping the other guys from stealing though, even though players like Jose Reyes are smart, fast and dangerous on the base paths. Fortunately, Pinero had a good start and kept the sinker ball down and the Bullpen did their thing with only minimal hiccoughs. Jordan Walden had us all on pins and needles when he walked the first two batters, but then he let the ice water back into his veins and struck out the next three in a row to earn the 16th save of his rookie season.

So what happened Saturday? Well, let’s just say there are a lot of very satisfied goats walking around the Bronx right now. (Note to self, “if my husband laughs” is probably not the best barometer there is for appropriate. 😉 ) Without the benefit of the DH option, in order to get Bobby Abreu back into the lineup (good idea), we put our weakest outfield configuration on the field (bad idea). Abreu, Wells and Hunter all alone in that giant Citi Field outfield without Bourjos’ speed? Very bad idea.

Then, Russell Branyan replaced Mark Trumbo at first in the starting lineup for reasons unbeknownst to me – can’t we declare Branyan a cheap, failed experiment already? – and Erick Aybar proceeded to have one of those, fortunately rare, games when you wonder where his head is at and what joker oiled his glove with Vaseline. The official record shows only one error, but I watched every play and the Mets scorekeepers were extremely generous in this regard. Dan Haren had a bad night and the umpire’s strike zone was doing him no favors. And with few exceptions, the team could not hit – Mark Trumbo, a late innings replacement going two for two with one deep homerun to right center, was our only highlight.

“Which is more important, a strong offense or a strong defense?” is one of those questions whose answer varies with every team and every season. For the Angels this season, the offense doesn’t seem to be in a position to weigh in on that argument no matter what tweaks Scioscia might make to the lineup. In this situation, every single run is a big deal. Ours and theirs. If we aren’t going to give the pitchers run support then we absolutely have to put the best possible defense out on the field every day. No more Branyan  at first and leaving speed out of the outfield…oh, and when Aybar is having one of those games? Pull him. So, on to the rubber match, where I hope to see a lineup that reflects our best defense, and then on to Miami: 

The Angels "Four Corners Road Trip" takes the team on an 8,000 mile trek across the United States and back again both vertically and horizontally, as helpfully illustrated by our oh-so-creative kitchen table and Ticket to Ride visual aid...Yes, you would be correct. This trip will take the Angels nowhere near Berlin. 😉 Photo by This is a very simple game...

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Happy Father’s Day to all of the wonderful dads out there, and especially to mine! 

Daddy, softball coach, friend, confidant, giver of hugs, encourager of dreams and occasional shoulder to cry on, like most fathers, mine has worn many, many hats, and all of them much better than he will ever know. My father gave me my head for trivia, my irreverent sense of humor, my stubborn streak, my love of music, John Steinbeck and Mark Twain, my blue eyes and freckles and so much more. He taught me the value of working hard, the power of a good laugh and if the ball falls into your glove, never look surprised. And my love for the game? Well, as with so many things that are wonderful, I owe that to both my father and my mother. Thank you does not even begin to cover it, but it will have to do.

The Angels’ Crazy Four Corners Interleague-ean Baseball Odyssey Begins

While the Angels grounds crew plows up the entire diamond for a series of U2 concerts and then puts everything back the way it was again, the Angels will spend two weeks circling the country in pursuit of truth, justice and the baseball way…Okay, really just in pursuit of a whole lot of Ws, but didn’t it sound more poetic the other way? Anyway back to the travel part. Affectionately – by which I mean sarcastically and with no small amount of annoyance – dubbed the Four Corners Trip by Mike Scioscia and crew, this road trip will take the Angels to the four corners of the continental United States, more or less. Once they conclude their current series in Seattle, the Angels will fly to New York to play the Mets, after which they will fly to Florida to play the Marlins and then right back home again to play the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. That’s a journey of just over 8,000 miles.

The Angels "Four Corners Road Trip" takes the team on an 8,000 mile trek across the United States and back again both vertically and horizontally, as helpfully illustrated by our oh-so-creative kitchen table and Ticket to Ride visual aid...Yes, you would be correct. This trip will take the Angels nowhere near Berlin. 😉 Photo by This is a very simple game...

Now the length of the road trip does come courtesy of the U2 concert. But the craziness of the broad spectrum of destinations comes courtesy of Major League baseball. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to just fly out the East Coast and play more Eastern Division teams while the Angels were already out there than flying all over hell and gone? Perhaps they could have played the Yankees and the Rays on either side of the Interleague match-ups? Or maybe this would have been a better time to head for Boston or Baltimore. Heck, even stopping in Kansas City on the way out to the east coast, rather than having the Royals fly to California would have made more sense.

And this isn’t even the only crazy road trip the Angels have scheduled in 2011. In Oakland right after the All-Star break for three days, Monday off, just three days at home to play the Rangers and then out to Baltimore with no day off to play the Orioles before heading back home by way of Detroit to play the Twins in Anaheim, anyone? The Four Corners Trip is merely the craziest of the bunch.

I realize that every team has crazy schedule situations this season and if by some miracle a team escapes such oddities, don’t worry, MLB will get to you next year. I also realize that there is a certain amount of scheduling craziness inherent in being a Western Division team, where no two in-league opponents exist within the same 100 mile radius. Florida teams have a similar problem.  And no amount of proper prior planning is going to completely fix that.

Angels Manager Mike Scioscia is one of the proponents of expanding the post season to include two wild card teams in each league. I myself am not a fan of the idea. However, Scioscia keeps talking about making the post season extension feasible without pushing play back out into November by scheduling the regular season more efficiently. Avoiding having so many bizarre road trip situations, like the one described above, which Scioscia said looked like Kindergarteners designed it, would allow MLB to shave off a few rest days here and there, shortening the regular season in a sane fashion without actually cutting out any games. If MLB makes an effort to take some of the stupid end of the crazy spectrum out of the away schedules, I would like that _so_ much that I might find it in my heart to tolerate additional wild card teams…eventually. Just no more of this 15 teams in both leagues realignment talk, okay. Now _that’s_crazy…not to mention contrary to having moved the Brewers to the National League in the first place. 

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The Angels’ Crazy Four Corners Interleague-ean Baseball Odyssey, Stop #1: Seattle. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Two Ws in Seattle

However, as much as I am griping about the travel involved in the Four Corners trip, I have no complaints about the trip itself. So far the Angels are wearing it very well. They took two against Seattle including Jered Weavers’ complete game shutout this evening. Wins for Weaver and Dan Haren in the same spin through the rotation. Angels bats striking early and often, including multiple hits for Bobby Abreu and Howie Kendrick whose bats are on fire and two homeruns by Vernon Wells in Monday’s game. Spot on fielding. Heads up base running. A clutch bullpen. Oh yeah! Sure there are still a few things to work on, but keep it up boys. You’re playing like Angels!

And with those two wins, the Angels gain two games on Seattle, of course, but also one on Texas to whom those nice, helpful Yankee boys administered a beating this evening. Well, nice and helpful this evening anyway. What’s not to like?!

The Continuing Saga of Kaz

Scott Kazmir had yet another rough start in Salt Lake City this evening. He lasted 1.2 innings and is on the hook for six earned runs on five hits, three walks and one hit batsman. I don’t report this gleefully. I am sorry he hasn’t made any improvements at all and seems to be backsliding even further after such a solid career with the Rays. However this evening current Angels GM Tony Reagins and former Angels GM Bill Stoneman were in attendance at the Bees game, taking stock of Kaz’ performance. I expect we will hear a final decision soon. It’s more than time to stop prolonging the agony.

Scott Kazmir one year ago this week, warming up in the visitors’ bullpen at Dodgers Stadium. I am sorry to say that this is one of the last games where I remember him pitching well. Photo by This is a very simple game…(Seth)

Angels vs. Royals: More Blah, but Then Victory!

Friday’s Angels looked much like Monday through Thursday’s Angels, only with much better fielding than on several of the previous days. While this was an improvement, it was not enough to yield a different result and they lost four to two. The Angels aren’t exactly getting killed on the field this season. Most of the losses have been close. But it does go to show that if you aren’t scoring many runs, then your pitching and fielding have to be absolute perfection game in and game out in order to compensate for it, and that just isn’t feasible for any team.

So, cut to last night’s seven to five victory over the Royals. What changed? Several very important things as it turns out:

The veteran bats came alive. I admit it. I was less than pleased when I saw Vernon Wells batting cleanup last night. But he waled on the ball, going three for four with nice solid base hits that moved runners around the bases and lead to Wells scoring a run each time he made it on base. Howie Kendrick also went three for four, with two RBIs. Bobby Abreu had a key hit and he and Torii Hunter worked counts into walks for needed bodies on base. I cannot tell you how nice it was to see all of them on in one game!

We put runners on base and scored runs in multiple innings. If you look at the typical 2011 Angels box score, the one to three runs scored by our heroes usually occur all in one inning, often early in the game and then they don’t score again. This has not been an effective strategy. Last night, the Angels scored four runs in the second – more than their game average already – added a fifth run in the third and then game back to put two runs on the board and regain the lead in the 8th.

Our fielding was stellar. The Angels fielding has been good for most of 2011, but last night it was just on fire and it was equally on fire all around the diamond. Double plays. Two beautiful plays at the plate, including one highlight reel play on a perfect throw from Torii in right. Great catches all over the field and heads up back up. 

We stole four bases! Stolen bases is one of many areas where sabermetrics and I have to agree to disagree. A team doesn’t have to be loaded with power hitters to win as long as they know how to consistently manufacture runs. The Angels know how to manufacture runs. This is one of Mike Sciocia’s specialties as a manager. They just haven’t been doing it consistently. Last night, the final two runs were the result of situational hitting, stolen bases and smartly taking advantage of a few Royals mistakes. This is a great sign and hopefully the beginning of a re-emerging trend. Now let’s just hope Alberto Callaspo, who pulled a hamstring during a successful double steal, is able to move from being day to day back to an everday player soon. This injuries trend is one that can stop any day now.

Looking at the season strictly from a numbers standpoint, one win by no means offsets six straight losses, even when the rest of the division helpfully loses again. But I never think numbers tell the whole story, especially in early June. They’re more like a guideline, actually. 😉 This was a good solid win, a pretty win if you will, the end result of several missing pieces coming together for the Angels all at once while other team strengths continued. If the Angels can capitalize on the momentum from this game heading into interleague, I think they can start putting together enough wins for significance from any standpoint!

Friday (and Saturday!) Gourmet, Wine & Angels 

This week’s Friday Night Ritual (wine, “gourmet” dinner and the Angels game) spread? Well, the chefs – read, Seth and I – were tired after a long week and indulged in a bit of lazy cooking: grilled turkey and cheese sandwiches with bacon and TJ’s guacamole (hence the lazy). Quick and dirty, but tasty. And the wine was amazing – Mitchella’s 2007 Cabernet which tastes of black currants and dark chocolate. Yum!

We were better rested on Saturday and grilled up a feast for the evening game. Tri-tip, rubbed with olive oil, crushed garlic, cracked black pepper and kosher salt, which my husband grilled to that perfect state where the meat has an amazing crust, but is a gorgeous medium to medium rare throughout when you slice into it. Tri-tip is an absolutely glorious cut of beef that I am sorry to say we Californians have not shared much with the rest of the country. Trust me, you are very sad. You just don’t know it. 😉 We served it with black beans, fresh tortillas and queso fresco and squash lightly sautéed with garlic and black pepper. Paired with Dead Nuts, Chronic Cellars luscious Zinfandel, Petite Sirah blend, it was a fantastic meal…and the Angels won, so if I were inclined to superstitions on that front I would say they prefer us to make more of an effort for the game, LOL.

What Did Cinderella Do When She Got to the Ball? …Angels Swept by the Rays

Which is the most heartbreaking, the win you were never going to get from inning one, the win you almost had all game long, or the near comeback you give right back to the opposing team? Okay, so they’re all pretty bad. And I don’t know what a player might say. But, for my money, Wednesday’s choked comeback felt pretty terrible. Leaving the game with a throat sore from cheering, yet choked up with loss and disappointment? Granted, any night at the ballpark is a good night but…well…it took me until this evening to post about it. Enough said.

B.J. Upton caught stealing. Howie Kendrick looks pleased in the aftermath and Upton prepares to dust himself off and head for the dugout. Fielding was hit and miss this evening, but there were a few serious highlights. For example, Jered Weaver picking off B.J. Upton at 2nd. Weaver is a 6′ 7″ cross body pitcher. His pickoff move is, understandably, okay but not phenomenal. But every now and then, You’re out!

Howie Kendrick looks pleased after B.J. Upton got caught stealing. Angels vs. Rays, June 8, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...(Seth)

Vernon Wells dives back to first. Wells was 0-3 with this one walk to get on base. My until now infinite patience is wearing pretty thin at this point and continues only because he just got back from the DL. I won’t boo the man, because I don’t boo my own team. Can’t do it. But come on Vernon. Have you ever hit this badly in your life? Figure it out and get it done.

Vernon Wells dives back to first, avoiding Casey Kotchman's tag. Angels vs. Rays, June 8, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Peter Bourjos bunts his way on. Bourjos, on the other hand, had a great game. Fleet Pete was 2 for 4 at the plate, including this sacrifice bunt turned hit and had two highlight reel catches in center.

Peter Bourjos bunts his way on base. Kelly Shoppach is shown catching. Angels vs. Rays, June 8, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

The Angels bullpen. Hisanori Takahashi, Fernando Rodney and Jordan Walden hang out with the bullpen catcher and other staff early in the game.

Hisanori Takahashi, Fernando Rodney and Jordan Walden inthe Angels bullpen. Angels vs. Rays, June 8, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

The Rays Bullpen. Hey, equal time and all that. Besides, I was hoping to catch them at some of their famously funny shenanigans but, apparently, they are on their best, or at least, their least prank-ish behavior in visitor’s dugouts.

The Rays bullpen pitchers relax during the game. Angels vs. Rays, June 8, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Angels meeting on the mound. Jered Weaver asks, So, if I hold them for another inning or two do you think you guys can actually score me some runs? I’m totally kidding, of course. From everything I’ve heard, I can’t imagine him copping an attitude like that, but it’s certainly what I, as a fan, was wondering. This was not Weaver’s best outing. Three of the four earned runs were his. But, given a present offense, he did pitch well enough to win.

Jered Weaver and the Angels infield have a meeting on the mound. Angels vs. Rays, June 8, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Scott Downs warms up in the bullpen. Scott Downs had another solid outing, coming in to strike out Matt Joyce in the 8th and end the inning. In fact, I wish we’d brought him back in the 9th as I shall explain in a moment.

Scott Downs warms up in the bullpen. Angels vs. Rays, June 8, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Howie Kendrick and Mark Trumbo chat during the pitching change. As usual, I can’t help putting my own spin on what they might be saying. Hey, Trumbo. See that second base there behind me? We’ve got to figure out a way to get our guys past that.

Howie Kendrick and Mark Trumbo chat during a pitching changes in the 8th. Angels vs. Rays, June 8, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Alberto Callaspo and Maicer Izturis also chat during the pitching change. “Now you see Alberto, when the ball is coming at you, you’re supposed to try and keep it from going into the outfield.” “Keep talking Izzy. What exactly was that you did at short in the 2nd?” As previously mentioned, our fielding left something to be desired this game. Though both are Izturis and Callaspo are usually more than dependable, neither had a very good game defensively.

Alberto Callaspo and Maicer Izturis chat during a pitching change. Angels vs. Rays, June 8, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Joe Maddon says good game and takes the ball from James Shields. Seriously, I can say it. Hats off to Shields. He pitched a hell of a game and was certainly a factor in our offensive woes.

Joe Maddon comes out the mound and James Shields is done for the evening, having pitched a very good game. Angels vs. Rays, June 8, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Bobby Abreu hits a bases clearing double. Maicer started the 8th inning rally. Torii Hunter, batting in the 2 spot for the first time this season, continued it. Callaspo walked to load the bases. And then, Bobby Abreu, batting clean-up, became the Angels sole offensive highlight of game. With one ringing double, he cleared the bases and tied the game 3 to 3.

Bobby Abreu hits a bases clearing double in the 8th to tie the game. Angels vs. Rays, June 8, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Closer Jordan Walden takes the mound. Hey, I finally managed to catch him mid-pitch without his arm blurred – no mean feat, really. Walden also pitched well. But, once Bobby tied up the game, I wish we’d brought Downs back out in the 9th and saved Walden for the 10th or brought Walden back out in the 10th because the minute I saw Fernando Rodney striding out to the mound in the 10th, I has a Star Wars worthy bad feeling about this…

Closer Jordn Walden takes the mound in the 9th. Angels vs. Rays, June 8, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

…Why, why, why did we turn the game over to Rodney in the 10th? Because he’s been really clutch for us in crucial situations this season? Because he rarely walks batters and if he does start walking them he never, ever gets rattled by it? Because he’s still our #1 closer? Because he’s so…no…can’t type…any…more…must stop…laughing…hysterical laughter… Okay. I’m better now. You all saw the “highlight” reels, I’m sure. You know what happened in the 10th. Did Rodney lose the game all by himself? Of course not. Our offense bears at least half of the blame. We hit the ball but failed to score until the 8th inning. Even with runners at 2nd and 3rd with no outs in the 2nd. Even with runners on 1st and 2nd with no outs in the 5th.

Besides, I blame the guy who decided to put Rodney in more than Rodney. Rodney just did what he’s been doing more often than not all year. The guy who decided to put him in on the other hand…anyway. Suffice to say, by the time it was over I sympathized with the over-tired toddlers who were sobbing on their way out of the stadium. I’m pretty far from giving up still but, seriously, tantrums are wasted on the young.

The Day(s) the Angels Bats Stood Still (with runners in scoring position)

Okay, so that title could accurately describe most Angels games this season, including games we win. But, after scoring only 10 runs in the last 6 games (or the month of June so far, if you prefer), I felt it was particularly appropriate today. Mercifully, and quite improbably, the entire AL West lost on both Monday and Tuesday so this hasn’t hurt the Angels as badly as it could have, though it means we missed to stellar opportunities to gain ground on Texas and Seattle. I’m not seriously pushing the panic button yet, but Klaatu barada nikto already! Angels stop the team’s self-destruction now, while we still can without an extremely difficult slog uphill!

I spent the majority of Monday’s game against the Rays alternately begging, pleading and threatening in the direction of the TV for the Angels to just score some runs in the plural. No dice. Last night was sadly much of the same, but it was bittersweet. The loss was a blow, but any night at the ballpark, especially an unexpected one, can only be a good one. Yes, an unexpected night at the ballpark. My husband called me just before four yesterday, obviously very busy at work, and barely had time to listen to my excited “Hell, yeah!” response to his “If I told you we had the company seats tonight could you run into Pasadena and pick up the tickets?” before rushing me off the phone with an OkayThanksCallYouLater. Tease.

Except he wasn’t teasing. (Also, he wasn’t rude. We give each other leave to outright hang up on one another at work if necessary. Business is important and when it has to come first, well then, it does with no whining or hurt feelings.) Long story short – sales contest, Angels tickets reward, amazing company seats and your intrepid blogger’s mission, which she ecstatically chose to accept, was driving from Whittier to Pasadena for the tickets, to Azusa for the Angels gear and camera, to Brea to pick up the husband and then to Anaheim for the game. A journey of 75 miles, in less than 3 hours, in L.A. rush hour traffic…and we just made it inside the stadium by first pitch, whoo hoo!
The view from the seats – yes, that is home plate you see. We were ten rows back from the sign in front. Just, wow! I only wish we could have seen an amazing comeback from these seats. If I were ever so lucky as to be outrageously wealthy, I wouldn’t have a box, I would buy season tickets someplace like this – on the field, home team side, close to plate but still on the dangerous side of the net and as close to the front row as I could get.

The view from the company seats. I hope my husband is lucky enough to earn these again. 🙂 Angels vs. Rays, June 7, 2001. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Dan Haren on the mound, executing the brief pause in his delivery. I call it the antici…..pation delivery. This was Haren’s first time back on the mound after the back pain that delayed his originally scheduled Saturday start – because he was able to pitch in the same spin through the rotation, it counts as a delayed start, not a missed start, so his personal record remains intact. He was really working for each pitch in the first four innings and my initial thought was that he started back too soon. But he worked back into a strong rhythm after that and looked as good as ever by the 5th. I guess the guy really did just need to get out there and pitch. My hat’s off to you Dan. Even with the rough patch, you pitched well enough to win.

Dan Haren on the mound, executing the famous - and wickedly effective! - pause in his delivery. Angels vs. Rays, June 7, 2001. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Bobby Abreu in left field. Because he is Mike Scioscia and this is what he does, but more so lately because of the team’s miniscule RISP, there have been quite a few lineup shakeups the last few weeks. Sorry Bobby, but last night’s lineup resulted in one of my least favorite outfield configurations – Bobby in left, Vernon Wells in center and Torii Hunter in right. We have absolutely zero speed on the left side of the outfield with this configuration and less speed than ideal in the center and on the right. Also, Wells is much better these days in the smaller area of left field and he just plain doesn’t play our center field wall well. The end result was a triple to left that should have been a double and a double to center that should have been an out, among other issues.

Bobby Abreu in left field, preparing to break with the pitch. Angels vs. Rays, June 7, 2001. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Mark Trumbo and runner Casey Kotchman (At least, I’m 90% certain it’s Kotchman based on the order of the photos. Let me know if I am wrong) move with the pitch. This was partially just me playing with the camera from our close to the field vantage, but I like the photo. Mark Trumbo has been a bright spot in terms of hitting for power and continuing to produce during the team’s at the plate slump. It was a shame that his leadoff double turned triple by an error in the 7th was wasted.

First baseman Mark Trumbo moves positions with the pitch as Casey Kotchman takes a lead off the bag. Angels vs. Rays, June 7, 2001. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Hank Conger maneuvers behind the plate. This is partially another Kristen was playing with camera again (see the ball), and partially a Kristen really loves catchers photo. I can’t help it, most of my favorite players are catchers (or centerfielders…or short stops…or more or less anyone in an Angels uniform 😉 ). What can I say? I admire the guy who calls the shots on the play, holds the pitcher together when things are getting rough, and faces down major league freight trains bearing down on him several times a game, while he blocks the plate like a badass. Catchers rock! And I think Conger is shaping up to be a very, very good one.

Catcher Hank Conger moves into position with the pitch as Reid Brignac decides to take this one. Home plate umpire Laz Diaz is one of many MLB officials who helps guage the direction the play is going with one hand on the catcher's back. Angels vs. Rays, June 7, 2001. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Joe Maddon says, oh and one other thing during an argument with the umpires. I still haven’t watched the replay myself, wherein it sounds like Johnny Damon was in fact out at the plate, as it appeared from my vantage pretty much right there, but it was a really close play. Great throw from Torii to the plate and great execution by catcher Hank Conger either way. And wow, Damon really is playing like his younger self again on the Rays.

"And another thing..." Rays manager Joe Maddon argues a close call at the plate. Angels vs. Rays, June 7, 2001. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Howie Kendrick at the plate with Bobby Abreu on deck. Howie, less than a week off the DL, had a strong ground rules double hit this evening and Bobby continued his streak at the plate, going 2 for 4, both of which were bright spots.

Howie Kendrick at bat with Bobby Abreu taking practice swings on deck. The Rays' John Jaso is catching. Angels vs. Rays, June 7, 2001. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Torii warms up before his final at bat. I really hate it when Torii strikes out and especially in the last inning, because you can see in his face how much not coming through bothers him. But he went 2 for 4 this game so maybe things are falling back into place for him.

Torii Hunter warms up before his final at bat as Alberto Callaspo warms up behind him. Angels vs. Rays, June 7, 2001. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Erick Aybar looking sheepish – as well he should after those plays at short. This photo montage wasn’t meant to be a litany of the Angels ills last night, but it’s hard to be a complete Pollyanna. Aybar is one of my favorite short stops most of the time. But every few games he starts making errors and missing plays such that it boggles the mind to think it’s still the same guy at short. This was one of those games, though he did help out with a hit to open the first inning and his outs at the plate came early enough in each inning that he was not one of the game’s rally killers.

Shortstop Erick Aybar does not look happy in the later innings of the game. Vernon Wells is seen behind him in centerfield. Angels vs. Rays, June 7, 2001. Photo by This is a very simple game...(Seth)

Kevin Jepsen takes the mound. Jepsen had a refreshing outing for the last one and one/third innings – one hit, one intentional walk (I hate this play, and question it almost every time even though I know it is well accepted strategy.) and one very well timed and important strike out. When Jep pitches like this, I love to see him on the mound. Even though he is no longer number 65, he’s started walking out to Rob Zombie’s Thunderkiss ’65 again which is always a fun one to hear, especially if it helps Jep bring back the swagger of some of his better outings in years past.

Reliever Kevin Jepsen begins his pitch as second baseman Howie Kendrick moves into position behind him. Angels vs. Rays, June 7, 2001. Photo by This is a very simple game...

And that was my impromptu evening at the ballpark. Yay for the ballpark. Sob for the loss. Hopefully the Angels bring their clutch bats to the final game because I am about to leave for the game…with more planned tickets this time.