When you absolutely, positively, have to halt a baseball team’s downward momentum with a win, forget the AK-47, call in a Dirtbag. And when you have the option to call in two back-to-back in consecutive starts, one of whom is your freshly back from the DL ace? Well, your decision is clear. Seriously, accept no substitutes. So, yeah, between the two of them and with timely backing from the Angels offense, Jered Weaver and Jason Vargas halted the Angels brief post-8 game winning streak slide…
…aaaand then the Angels sadly passed out of the Dirtbag part of the starting rotation and promptly gave it up to the Astros. Yes, pitching was far from the only problem in that game. The Keystone Cops defense was equally to blame and, really, the offense could have cowboy’d up. But the pitching really, really, didn’t help. So what are we left with then? Weaver, then Vargas, then a whole lot of fans crying and swearing? Yes, I’m aware that my comment lacks the traditional cute little rhyme to sum up the fans feelings on the rest of the starting rotation, but my feelings towards them today are decidedly less than cute, so there you go. Anyway, rather than dwelling on that any further heading into the next Angels game. I’d prefer to concentrate on happy thoughts, in the hopes of a victory over the mighty, mighty Astros. *facepalm* Specifically, I’d prefer to talk about going to the Big A last Wednesday…
With rivalry series throughout MLB shortened from three games at one venue and three at the other to two and two under the new realigned schedule, I knew I had to buy tickets for my annual Freeway Series fix early. In fact, knowing how popular the annual Angels vs. Dodgers, battle for I-5 supremacy usually is, I bought our tickets to the Wednesday night game in the series the day individual tickets went on sale. And I made sure to nab us pretty good seats as well, just because.
As it turned out, this was such a brilliant decision that I wish I could actually take credit for thinking it through any further than that. May was a terribly busy month for Seth and I. Between work, family and one really nice weekend away, we had every weekend and most nights booked for the month. Wednesday was our one and only trip to the ballpark in May, a nearly unprecedented dry spell in the history of our household. And can I just tell you how glorious it was to see all of that beautiful green and take in the sights and sounds of the ballpark again? Never mind. You’re all fans. You understand.
But, even more importantly, Wednesday was also Jered Weaver’s first game back off the DL and it turned out to be one heck of a great game on top of that. As I said before, when you absolutely, positively, have to halt a baseball team’s downward momentum with a win…well, sadly, accepting substitutes is exactly what the Angels have been forced to do since Weaver broke his elbow in Arlington way back in early April. And, while those substitutes have gamely tried to fill the Weave’s perfectly odd sized and incredibly hard to fill cleats, it just simply could not be done and the Angels have really, really missed his tough, winning presence on the mound. Heading to the game I was so excited to be there for Weaver’s return, but mildly concerned that he would overthrow, an issue he’s experienced on some occasions after enduring a long time in between starts. Fortunately, overthrowing was not an issue. Weave was just Weaver. Throwing deceptive stuff. Striking guys out and coaxing fly outs with an admirable regularity. Getting even tougher and dialing in harder after each of the few hits he gave up. Setting the Angels up for a victory. Welcome. Back. Jered!! We have all missed you so much!
And Weaver’s performance was not the only highlight of the evening. In the stands, the mixed blue and red crowd absolutely rocked. I understand there were altercations in other sections but the Dodgers and Angels fans in our section? Well, we just enjoyed giving each other friendly grief and commiserating over a season that hasn’t been anything like either team had hoped so far. On the field, the offense had Weaver’s back with one patented, honest-to-goodness TrumBomb, doubles from Iannetta, Trout, Aybar and Iannetta again, and hits from almost the entire lineup. The outfield impressed, per their usual really. And although we all prefer a healthy Albert Pujols in the position, it was awfully nice to see Mark Trumbo enjoying being in his proper element at first base. Oh, and we mustn’t forget the bullpen. They were pretty good, actually. Downright awesome, in fact. Right up until Ernesto Frieri gave up two homeruns in the 9th that is, just for extra spice I’m sure. You know, making sure all of the fans felt they’d gotten their money’s worth of excitement. Considerate lad, that one. Fortunately, the Angels had enough of a lead to absorb those blows with only minimal antacid ingestion on the part of the fans – because you know they’d long since stopped selling alcohol – and the good guys were victorious. No blood. No actual falling behind. No extra innings. No foul. All’s well that ends in a lit halo!!
So, the moral of this story is quite simple and carries an important message for the rest of the season. Angels, I don’t care if you win pretty or win ugly. I don’t care if you win by a landslide, one run or anything in between. I don’t care if you have to scare me half to death and drive me to the liquor cabinet swearing all the way on your way to doing so. Just win. Please win. Win a lot. Oh, and how often can we reasonably ask Weaver and Vargas to take the mound? I only ask because, well, in the team’s current situation, it could prove to be useful information. Maybe.
Pitchers and Catchers report today!! Okay, granted with a few exceptions. But, still, pitchers and catchers report today. *happy dance* I know, I know. To the baseball fan, it’s ‘Play ball!’ that’s the truly wonderful phrase, the phrase we all rank highly on any list of the most beautiful phrases in the English language. ‘Pitchers and catchers report!’ just doesn’t have the same impact…most of the time. Today, however, ‘pitchers and catchers report’ means that the long, looooooong winter without baseball is over. It means that players will begin throwing baseballs, conducting drills and preparing for the main event, Opening Day, any moment now. It means that spring training ‘play ball’s will soon ring out loud and clear across Florida and Arizona and that official, regular season ‘play ball’s are not far behind. So why don’t you just take a moment, let that phrase roll off your tongue again and really savor it this time. Pitchers and catchers report! Today is sounds absolutely gorgeous, doesn’t it?
In honor of this beautiful day — my personal first day of Spring regardless of what the calendar says — I have decided to finally share my “resolutions” for the 2013 Angels, resolutions that I think the team should keep in order to help make their high potential for a fantastic 2013 season a reality. Hey, I know these sorts of things are traditionally done in January but what the heck. I missed that with my little blogging break and I might argue that today is the start of the baseball year anyway:
- Health is a common resolution, right? So let’s start there. Obviously no one ever wants to get injured or sick and Angels players are a tough bunch, often playing while injured. But when you look at the issues the team has had the last several seasons — with the offense, the bullpen, the starting rotation — the need to work around injuries and illnesses has played a significant role in each of those issues. So, as much as injuries are absolutely just a part of the game, play hard and with joy and passion but, while you’re doing that don’t forget to do all of your stretches/take up yoga or Pilates/ lift from the correct position/don’t hit the wall unless you have a shot at making the play/avoid walking into toe breaking brick patios/take your vitamins/whatever it takes to stay healthy. (And, hey, as I write this I am recovering sloooowly from the ick that’s going around my office and wishing desperately that I’d taken my own advice, so there you go. Healthy >>>>>>>>>>>>>not healthy.)
- Along the same theme as health, I would really love to see all aspects of the Angels’ game working at the same time. Last season, it seemed like the offense found their stride only to have the starting rotation hit a rough patch. Then the starting rotation would right themselves for a few games only to have the bullpen fall apart. Mind you, despite these issues, the team still won 89 games. So it stands to reason that if the Angels can really get on a role in 2013 with all of their strengths working at the same time, this could be really special season!
- Free Peter Bourjos! Picture it, an outfield with Bourjos in center flanked by Mike Trout and Josh Hamilton. Mike Trout truly is one amazing centerfielder, but Bourjos is even faster, runs even better routes and has a similarly golden glove (and, seriously, if both of these kids don’t get actual, for real Gold Glove awards in the plural sooner rather than later in their careers, that will be a crime). So, putting the two of them in the outfield together?!! Plus Hamilton?! I get goose bumps just thinking about it. And let’s just quit it with all of that Bourjos can’t hit talk, shall we. Yes, last year, coming into the game sporadically, often in the middle or at the end of the game, sometimes with weeks in between at bats, his batting average was terrible. But when given a full season to play the year before that, he may have started out slow but he finished with a more than respectable .271. Is a .271 average really higher than we should expect from Bourjos in a normal season like some say? Perhaps. But instead of continuing to speculate, why don’t we find out, really find out…you know, by leaving him in for more than a handful of games at a stretch. Look, even if Bourjos’ normal batting average turns out to be like .250, that’s a lot better than 2012’s alternative of Vernon Wells.
- Accomplish the above ^^ without losing Mark Trumbo’s bat. Barring any scary slumps — which means, Mark, stay out of the Home Run Derby unless you can do it without f-ing up your swing, ‘kay? — Trumbo should be a lineup constant, primarily in the role of DH but also as an occasional substitute outfielder, as needed.
- Hey, Sosh, fewer lineups, please. Now I understand that having multiple starting lineups for specific occasions can serve a useful purpose, as can shaking things up from time to time. And I do realize that giving up having 100+ lineups for 162 games is probably harder for you than quitting cigarettes is for most people. So I’m not asking you to go cold turkey and pick just one lineup to stick with for the rest of the season. But how about choosing one basic lineup with a small handful of situation specific variations — for example the ideal infield and outfield for Angels fly ball pitchers, the ideal infield and outfield for Angels groundball pitchers, and whatever? And, hey, maybe you could stick with each situation’s lineup for a while to really see if it works instead of switching them up at the drop of a hat? Hmmmm…What’s that you say? Probably not? Yeah, I thought as much. But hey, you can’t blame a girl for trying.
- Stay healthy.
- Players who tend to swing between off years and on years, I really hope to be cheering for the best version of you, so to speak, in 2013. For example, I really want to see the 2012 Kevin Jepsen again, or even a continuing, positive evolution of him. Because 2012 Jepsen was a revelation, pulling all of the occasional glimpses of skilled reliever we’d seen in previous seasons into a solid, reliable reliever who saved the Angels bacon a lot. Among my other biggest wishes in the category? I want to see the .300 + hitting Albert Pujols, the bone-spur free, kick ass version of C.J. Wilson, and I want to see “amazing feats of baseball awesomeness” Josh Hamilton, not the “caffeine ailments and special eye issues uniquely related to blue eyed folks” Josh Hamilton…because I’ve got a pair of baby blues of my own, Josh, and I call shenanigans on you there. 😉
- Another common resolution is to try new places/styles/foods/fill in the blank with a sense of adventure instead of fear. For the Angels, I think this specifically refers to new opposing pitchers. Facing a new pitcher should a be a light hearted adventure filled with all kinds of fun games, like home run derby and “how many bases can I steal?” not the sort of fear and over thinking that makes rookie pitchers look like Cy Young candidates.
- Fans and players alike: prepare for a full year of Mike Trout magic!!! But at the same time, let’s keep the same attitude of wonder and amazement we had in 2012 instead of heaping all of the expectations of last year’s stellar season on his young, albeit strong and capable, shoulders. I have not a doubt in my mind but what every year with Trout is going to be something special, but keeping some sort of running game by game comparison of last season’s home run totals and on base percentages with this season’s creates a stupid kind of pressure and is just going to drive everyone crazy…especially if you tend to do this out loud and while sitting next to me at the Big A. I’m just sayin’. 😉
- Oh, and last but certainly not least, the best resolution of all, again for fans and players alike: let’s have fun with the 2013 season! That, and did I mention stay healthy?
And, with that, I’m going to cease my giddy Pitchers and Catchers Report Day bouncing around the house and go back to getting some serious work done. *boingy, boingy, boingy* *sigh* Okay, apparently I’m going to continue my giddy Pitchers and Catchers Report Day bouncing around the house while getting some serious work done. 2013 is going to be amazing, I can just feel it!
Two posts in one day? I know! September really does do crazy things to us baseball fans. In the last post I discussed the latest game and with this post I ask you to take a step into the Not-Really-So-Way Back Machine all the way back – not really that far back – to Wednesday night’s game. Yes, an Angels walk off win against the Mariners. And can I just tell you how much more fun it is to write about that game after Friday night’s win than it was when I started writing it after Thursday’s ick? Because Thursday’s game was a maddening, error filled, flaccid offense, overly generous bullpen kind of a loss that actually had me singing the chorus of Build Me Up Buttercup while writing this post and I shouldn’t have to tell you how wrong that is. (Buttercup is pure evil, a 7th inning stretch crime against Angels fans and players alike.) Friday’s win, on the other hand, was all sunshine, lollipops, single admission double headers, lit halos, kisses from my husband, good bourbon, flourless chocolate cake, three day weekends, glasses of petite verdot and everything else that is awesomely wonderful I can possibly think of, much like Wednesday’s game…
Barring the so remote as to be nonexistent chance of playoff tickets falling into my lap, Wednesday night was my last game for 2012 and what a game it was!! Everyone did whatever was needed to win. Of course, it was not C.J. Wilson’s best outing – I know, now there’s a second half shocker! But, in this case, not his best outing was much better than C.J.’s last two and you could see him really reaching deep and trying to help the team but willing a quality start into existence. A for effort and, when it comes to both baseball and life, that means a lot in my book. So, when I say everyone did whatever was needed to win, I’m including C.J. in that, though I think that all of us, including C.J., hope that his marks for execution are higher next season.
But I digress… Back to everyone did whatever was necessary to win. The bullpen. Was. Awesome!! Repeat. The bullpen. Was. Awesome!! And the Angels sure were grateful for their oh-so-necessary help. In a season where the bullpen has been alternately an asset and a detriment, and I’ve been whining as loudly as anyone when they resemble to Arson Squad of old, I feel it is absolutely imperative to shout it out to the interwebs whenever the bullpen rocks it, and oh boy did they rock it!
Yes, there are holes in the Angels lineup, have been all season – though mostly not the same holes all season it should be noted. But this game even the guys who are struggling busted their asses to do as many little things as possible to keep the game alive and their efforts were effective – which, in this often unkind game we all love, we all know is not always the case. Their efforts combined with those from players on a hot streak made all the difference.
Part of the reason that starting to write this after Thursday’s completely avoidable loss is that my throat was still raw and scratchy from cheering the Angels to victory just the night before. (And I actually had a slight bruise on my palm from smacking the concrete ledge in front of me in celebration of a few great plays, because my clumsiness literally knows no bounds. Doh!) One of the biggest reasons my throat was sore was all of the cheering and “Keep Torii!” shouting I was doing as Mr. Torii Clutch Hunter got it done again and again. And, let me just tell you, soothing hot tea has never tasted so good. It was the tea and honey of victory! 😉
…And then Torii Hunter’s walk off single. The crowd went wild. The players erupted from the dugout to celebrate. It was the perfect cap to the perfect game to end my season at the ballpark on. And if the celebration was a little overly playoff like, I say so what. Hey, if a team has to play playoff intensity and quality baseball from here on out with playoff berth stakes both in and out of their control occurring every moment, then I say playoff like celebrations are only fitting. For every win even if they feel like it. And no, I don’t think this is too many photos to post from my last game of the season. Why do you ask? 😉
Suffice to say, if Thursday’s team shows up in Texas and Seattle, we’re hosed. End of season. But if the team of Wednesday’s and Friday’s games continues to show up, then anything and every wonderful thing is possible. You know what? I think they can do it! Go Angels!
And with that, I leave you with *sniff, sniff* the last of my silly moments photos from the 2012 season:
It was the best of games, it was the worst of games. (Well, okay, not really even close to the worst of games, but go with it. She’s rolling.) A large offense ably supported a fair haired pitcher’s strong milestone outing on the mound for Monday’s game. That same large offense plainly failed to support a dark haired pitcher’s equally strong start for Tuesday’s game… and the comparisons to 2010 and ’11 could only be meet with invective.
It was a game where, despite a few defensive gaffes there at the end, a plucky bullpen came through in style. It was a game where a nightmare bullpen self-destructed becoming, once again, a bogeyman fit for frightening children into good behavior. “Eat all of your peas and go to bed on time, dear, or we’ll have to call in the Angel’s bullpen!” “No, Mommy. No, Daddy! Not the Angels bullpen!”…
Okay, now we’re starting to veer into Fraser Crane’s rousing ATOTC/It/Rambo mash up territory and, quite frankly, I can’t hope to compete with that level of awesome, so we’ll just stop right here. But you get the general idea. There are two Angels teams here and that’s nothing new. I seem to find myself writing this same thought every April about this time on this blog or in other forums, in good Angels years and bad. Both teams have good starting pitching most of the time. The difference lies in how they support that pitching. And any time the bullpen, the offense or the fielding from that other Angels team appears, victory becomes a lot trickier. Any time more than one of these components appear together, look out.
All indications are that we should see far more of Monday’s Angels team – you know, the good one – than Tuesday’s “other” Angels team this season, especially as our starting pitchers stretch deeper into the game and tack on their usual high number of complete games. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t greet last night’s 2011 homage of a bullpen meltdown on top of a measly 2-1 lead with some invective of my own. I mean, come on, Kevin Jepsen has always been reliable for about two out of three outings – which did lead me to conclude loudly that Kevin Jepsen is How I Met Your Mother’s naked man. And even I can tell you which Jepsen it’s going be by the second batter. Butcher and Scioscia certainly should have been able to tell this was time one out of three and relieved him with that day’s more effective arm.
And, no worries, I’m still not panicking. In fact, I’m busily scooping up the crazy ticket deals being offered by those who are panicking. Second row, Club level seats to C.J. Wilson’s Angels stadium debut for a mere $10 a piece? *snatches tickets quickly* Oh. Yes. Please. I’ll take two. But I am asking if the powers that be can start keeping each member of the bullpen on a very short leash when the game is close, especially on those evenings when it seems like it’s that other Angels team’s offense who showed up, not our good one. Seriously, even if it means paying face value for my tickets. Pretty please with bittersweet chocolate and salted caramel drizzle on top? (Sugar is for amateurs. 😉 )
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Mark Trumbo hit a homerun into the top tier of the K’s waterfall. Following almost immediately on his heels, Peter Bourjos hit a homerun. Torii Hunter smacked two homeruns into the stands and went three for five! Bobby Abreu hit two doubles (he went four for five!) and Hank Conger hit one. Alberto Callaspo was a clutch singles machine and Russel Branyan contributed as well for a total of 15 Angels hits. Hel-lo offense! Of course, after Ervin Santana gave up two homeruns in the first inning and six runs in the first two innings, the Angels needed every single ounce of that offensive effort to pull off today’s 10 to 8 victory over the Kansas City Royals.
Even though Santana had a bad start, I can’t say enough good things about today’s come from behind victory. The team really pulled together with today’s areas of strength working overtime to pick up the slack from today’s areas of weakness. Santana was able to focus and pull himself together after the initial beating from the Royals offense and give the team four good, scoreless innings after that. Rich Thompson had an uncharacteristically shaky outing but Kevin Jepsen was able to come in strong and set the Royals down with more heat than we’ve seen from him in a while. Fernando Rodney gave us a few heart palpitations with his pitch counts but still went one, two, three to finish the game, Jordan Walden having thrown too many pitches Sunday to close. And behind it all was the fielding and offense picking everyone up where they needed it.
I’m sure some folks are going to focus on the things the Angels did wrong today, and there is a fair bit to focus on there. But I would rather focus on everything they did right and the fact that together, as a team, they did not give up for one second. Every time the Royals added more runs to the scoreboard – and they were hot, hot, hot, playing excellent baseball for most of the day – the Angels rallied and pressed even harder to catch up. Well done and light that baby up!
Tales from the DL
Is it just me or does nearly every team have way too many DL woes this season? I know we do. But from all reports Howie Kendrick should return from the DL for this weekend’s homestand against the Yankees, which can only mean good things for the offense, not to mention our current Franken-arrangements in the infield and outfield. Vernon Wells is tentatively scheduled to return the following homestand. I am glad because the Franken-arrangements can only last for so long before we have tired ballplayers and no good options to spell them, that and I think he was starting to turn the page at the plate.
Scott Kazmir, on the other hand, continues getting beaten to a bloody pulp by the opposing teams’ offense in his AAA rehab assignment. His AAA E.R.A. is 36.00 and that’s with lasting roughly only three innings per outing. I was rooting for him to get better. But I thought that ship might have sailed after his first two starts back in April. Now, sadly, I am sure of it.
Yay, the lit Halo enveloped in a haze of fireworks returns to my blog, meaning the Angels won last night and I was there to see it! I was a little concerned after Monday. To re-cap: these May White Sox? They are not the April White Sox. They are actually the White Sox which means that if you make mistakes, they will make you pay. Unfortunately, Monday’s Angels were not the 2011 Angels, I swear they were some AA team that swiped our uniforms – which is bound to happen now and then over the course of a season…or, like, again tonight in the 8th inning. Wily AA teams. So, anyway, Monday poor Ervin Santana was dealing for an inning and then he just fell apart. Was he “inspired” by Alberto Callaspo’s poor running decision? By our complete inability to cash in on an amazing scoring opportunity in the second inning…or the fourth…or the…well, you get the general idea? The pitchers couldn’t keep the ball in the park, the batters couldn’t hit when it counted, there were a few questionable plays in the field, Jeff Mathis became a pinch hitter (?!?) and Vernon Wells left for the 15 Day DL with a pulled groin muscle. I think he may actually be on the DL longer than that. Watching the replay of the swing where he injured himself will make you cringe, especially if you yourself have ever known the “joy” of a pulled groin. In short, it was Not A Good Game.
But back to last night. It was still the May White Sox taking the field but, fortunately, I think the Angels went to bed angry last night because they showed up on a mission to redeem themselves. They started smacking the ball right away, took the lead in the first inning and never gave it up, though the White Sox threatened at times. It was A Great Game! And here are my photos to help take you all there with me.
For this game, Seth and I entered foul ball territory. This is my view of the field without any zoom, sitting immediately behind the blue sleeved lady in the front row. (Yes, the Angels’ Dodger fan siblings often come to visit when the Dodgers are out of town and we gladly return the favor. It’s a lot of fun living in a two team town – for large, dual county definitions of town.) And these seats were a better price than even our last seats. The moral of my story? Angels fans are a panicky lot, especially after last season. When the Red Sox sweep the Angels at home, go to a resale site and buy cheap tickets. It will ease your pain:
Howie Kendrick runs to second for an eventual double in the 3rd as Gordon Beckham waits for the throw from Juan Pierre. I have to say, of all the outfield permutations I thought of for the evening with Wells on the DL, Howie in Left was not one of them. But watching him move out there and knowing how much I like his glove and his arm, I think it could work – he looks good tonight! Left field was really quiet for most of the game however, so rather than a fascinating Howie just standing there shot, I give you this photo (taken by Seth) instead:
Joel Pineiro stares down a runner at 2nd base as Callaspo (3rd base) switches into position. Pineiro had another excellent start, going 7 2/3 innings with five strike outs and one walk. And what he was throwing for strikes? Nice. He did give up one homerun, so the White Sox smacked some of the pretty off of his E.R.A. But it all worked out in the end and I am just glad to see Pineiro back on the mound and in the same great form he showed us last season…though I wish I could find the Angels Luchador Mask video ad he filmed with Santana somewhere online to share with you all. Pretty funny stuff:
Angels fans say, ‘Oh no, it’s just that they’re terribly comfortable. I think everyone will be wearing them in the future.’ Because, of course, last night was also the much hyped Angels Luchador Mask night. This promotion had equal potential for being really stupid or a heck of a lot of fun and it was decidedly the latter. It didn’t tread on watching the game much, if at all – which would have annoyed me – and fans had a blast. We donned the so-silly-they’re-actually-pretty-darned-cool-looking-things at the top of the 5th for 10 minutes to set the record, though many wore them for most of the game. As the season progresses, I expect these masks to take on Rally Monkey-esque significance…or at least Angels Gnome-esque significance:
Some fans went all out for the occasion, donning actual Luchador regalia or, in the case of these two super Angels fans below, constructing entire Luchador costumes out of previous Angels giveaways. I thought they looked so creative and fantastic that we had to snap a photo. Well done guys!!:
Torii Hunter takes a strong swing. This at bat would turn into a single in the 5th. The Angels bats were nice and busy Tuesday night with 12 hits in all, including a homerun from Maicer Izturis…yes, Maicer. Whooo. Hooo:
Erick Aybar slides back into first to avoid a pickoff attempt as Paul Konerko catches the ball. Aybar is currently leading the team in stolen bases with 9. This thrills me to no end because it’s one more sign that the Angels are back to playing Angels baseball and all is once more right with my world:
Aybar (short stop) and Mark Trumbo (first base) move with the pitch as A.J. Pierzynski, having doubled in the 7th, takes a lead off second base. Even if it was mostly so John Denks could get to Mathis, it was really funny to watch him pitch around Trumbo twice. It’s enough to give a lesser rookie a big head, I’m sure:
While Fernando Rodney warms up for the last out of the 8th inning, Peter Bourjos, Torii and Reggie Willits (replacing Howie in left) chat and stretch in centerfield. Could Peter and Reggie be trying to talk Torii into long socks? Reggie in left is another outfield permutation we’re likely to see a lot of while Wells is on the DL. I think this will work as a stop gap measure. I like his glove and his speed. I just hope we don’t see too steep a learning curve as Willits and Bourjos adapt to one another. I should also note that, although I cringed when I saw Rodney striding out from the Bullpen (but cheered him on robustly as he passed our seats), he did really well:
Scott Downs winds up while Callaspo moves into position. Downs took over the closer role for the evening as this was technically a non-close situation. He sure pitched like a closer though, sitting them down one, two, three. Well. Okay. Maybe that was more like one, twwwwooooo, three. Pierzynski, who was less impressed than I, fouled off many pitches before grounding out. A note on Callaspo. Everything I wrote in the offseason about our hole at third base? I am pleased to say I no longer think we have one. Whether it’s Maicer or Callaspo, I think third base is looking pretty darned good these days:
And that was the game. I had an absolute blast. I wanted to come home and immediately buy tickets for the rubber match, or at least post these photos, but I had to finish my meeting prep for today instead. Then today was such that…well…I got home at 8 and am posting about game 2 as game 3 heads into unecessary extra innings and the bullpen is making me ill. I tell you, this working for a living thing…well, it beats the alternative with a caber sized stick, I can tell you that much, LOL!
Game 3 Edit/Addendum – Wednesday’s Angels, on the Other Hand:
Yuck! Did that just really happen? With the blown save and the self-destructing bullpen and the run. Scoring. On. An. Intentional. Walk. Wild. Pitch!? I realize it’s part of the necessary learning process but Jordan Walden needs to stop working on the change-up when it’s just not happening and the game is on the line. Ever since he started working on it, things have been…interesting, occasionally for Hoban Washburne definitions of interesting. He’ll get it down. I’m sure of it. But in the mean time? And Kevin Jepsen? Well, are we already back to last season’s two out of three rock but that third outing will kill you every time? Also, I do not like uber-specialized pitching to begin with, and I really do not like our very recent – as in, since Tampa Bay recent – moves to bring star relievers in for just one or two batters in an inning. Wouldn’t it have been nice to have either Scott Downs or Rich Thompson available later in the game?
Tyler Chatwood pitched well enough to win. It’s a pity the Bullpen decided to have an early April relapse. It’s just one game. It’s only the third series we’ve lost so far this season. And amateur hour is going to happen for the best of teams from time to time. I understand it. But I don’t like it and I really hope my 2011 Angels show up in Texas, not this strange AA team that occasionally puts on their uniforms.
Hmmm…maybe I should go check out those ticket prices online tomorrow morning.
I’ll spare you the unnecessary Dickens parody. Suffice to say this weekend’s games against the Blue Jays were two very different wins for the Angels, one ugly but ultimately effective and the other, as pretty a pitching clinic as one could ask for.
Saturday’s game was quite the weird one. When I spoke longingly of single admission double headers a post or two ago, this is not quite what I had in mind. Matt Palmer had a rough start and wasn’t quite able to complete five innings. This is a shame. I really wanted to see him prove himself. Then we proceeded to work through all seven pitchers in the bullpen with mixed results before Dan Haren – yes, that Dan Haren, from the starting rotation – finished the game and earned the win in the 14th inning. Can I just say, this is why I adore Dan Haren. He’s old school, stepping in to do whatever the team needs when the team needs it. I believe he would still make his start tomorrow if the team let him…and I wish they would. Early pitching woes aside, this game was a great battle of the bats for four innings – we were up, then the Jays and so on. Then the runs dried up and hijinks ensued for the remaining ten innings as bad base running, walked batters, butterfingered position players, outright errors and stranded runners abounded on both sides.
There were good plays too, successful pick offs from Jeff Mathis and Rich Thompson, an out at home plate, etc… But the weird overshadowed the good in my opinion and I do not share the announcers’ enthusiasm for the bullpen’s performance in this game. Yes, they were troopers and prevented runs from scoring for 10 innings, which is no slouch, but they did it with too many walks, too many instances of bases loaded and too many innings that barely ended in disaster. They pulled it off, which is an improvement, but they way they pulled it off makes me question their ability to pull holds and saves off in the future. In the end, the Angels prevailed because of a, shall we say, questionable yet favorable runner’s interference call that prevented the Jays from scoring in the 13th, two timely hits in the 14th and the fact the Peter Bourjos is lightening fast. Bourjos hit a two-out double and Maicer Izturis brought him home with single. But it was Bourjos’ amazing speed, beating out Juan Bautista’s strong, quick throw to the plate by centimeters that really won the game. There is a reason this play was number 9 on MLB’s plays of the week this evening.
Sunday’s game, on the other hand, was fantastic. Jered Weaver pitched a gem of a start, beating his own single game strikeout record of 12 Ks with 15 Ks in seven and 2/3rds innings. He even managed a pickoff at first base, unusual for Weaver whose long limbs and cross body delivery don’t always lend themselves to catching the runner off the bag. It was truly a commanding performance all around and just what the bullpen, completely wiped out from the previous evening’s 14 inning marathon game, needed. Hisanori Takehashi came in to get the crucial last out in the 8th inning and Fernando Rodney, closer by default based on the number of pitches he and the other bullpen pitchers threw yesterday, looked like a closer today: three batters, 12 pitches, three outs and done. I am loathe to trust him again, but must give credit where credit is due. He looked good today. Unlike so many of Weaver’s starts last season, he had run support this game, including a Peter Bourjos two RBI triple in the 4th inning. I actually think that for most batters, this would only have been a double and that Mark Trumbo might have stuck around at third if Bourjos wasn’t on the verge of lapping him, so once again Fleet Pete makes quite the impact.
Any Angels win is a good day in my book, but I really hope to see more like Sunday’s this season than Saturday’s if at all possible. Of course, if winning this season winds up meaning a lot of 14th inning stretches, I’d rather sing extra Take Me Out to the Ballgames than the alternative. Saturday’s abuse of the bullpen (Of? By? Little of column A, little of column B?) has already had a huge impact on the 25-man roster. The Angels optioned Michael Kohn and Kevin Jepson down to the Salt Lake City Bees, activated Scott Downs from the DL and brought youngster Tyler Chatwood up from the Bees. The 22-year old Chatwood, another one of the local prospects the Angels like to recruit, is supposed to get his first major league start against the Indians on Monday in order to give Haren an extra day’s rest. I am interested to see how this turns out. I saw flashes of brilliance in Chatwood during Spring Training but also the need for a lot more work. Of course, this means I will get see Haren, one of my two favorite pitchers, start on Tuesday when Seth and I have tickets to the game again…assuming the Angels can wrap up Monday in a mere nine innings and he doesn’t close again, of course. 😉
The Angels announced their initial 25-man roster late this evening, following a 5 – 1 win over the Dodgers in their final preseason game. I say initial because, of course, there will be considerable roster shifting in April and possibly into early May as Scott Downs, Kendrys Morales, Joel Pineiro and Reggie Willits come off of the 15-day DL. So, for now, the 2011 Angels are:
Jered Weaver (RHP)
Dan Haren (RHP)
Ervin Santana (RHP)
Scott Kazmir (LHP)
Jason Bulger (RHP)
Kevin Jepsen (RHP)
Michael Kohn (RHP)
Fernando Rodney (RHP)
Hisanori Takahashi (LHP)
Rich Thompson (RHP)
Jordan Walden (RHP)
Trevor Bell (RHP), Matt Palmer (RHP), Francisco Rodriguez (RHP), and infielder Andrew Romine were optioned back to AAA Salt Lake.
Not a whole lot of surprises there. Okay, I was a little surprised to see Hank Conger stay on the roster. I figured he would stay in AAA so he could get work in every day. But I don’t know who I would have kept up instead, this may change when they need roster space for guys coming off the DL and, besides, carrying three catchers is becoming a Mike Scioscia tradition. Given his hot streak since the surgery, I wish they found a way to keep Palmer up. I know Bulger is out of options, but he didn’t have a very good spring, or late summer for that matter… I’m pleased to see Chris Pettit getting another shot after missing all of 2010 due to shoulder surgery. I don’t know how long that experiment will last once guys start coming off the DL but we’ll see.
I’m excited! Yes, I pretty much knew who would make the cut, especially given the limiting injuries. Even so, just seeing the official roster really drives home the fact that Opening Day is Thursday! And I’m hopeful. We may have platoons at both of our infield corners indefinitely, but today it doesn’t bother me. So far it seems to be working, better than I expected. And if Trumbo’s bat holds up during the regular season, I think the first base platoon will be resolved quickly, even if Kendrys isn’t able to come back full time any time soon.
I’m so ready for Thursday. We have Weaver on the mound, the triple centerfield patrolling the outfield and a couple of guys whose bats really, really love Kauffman Stadium. Bring on the Royals. Play ball!!
This is what happens when I leave my book at home, assuming I have no time for a lunch break and then realize that I absolutely require a lunch break as a mental break from all of the writing…I spend the time reading the news and writing for my blog. Makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? Actually, switching writing gears is sometimes relaxing. But I digress…Scary financial and global news eventually gave way to baseball headlines, with the following really catching my attention:
Angels May Call on Creative Approach to Closing
This MLB headline was the first that caught my eye and, unfortunately, my initial reaction was to laugh. My second was to snark on Facebook “By creative, do they mean effective? Because, after last season, an effective closer would be creative!” This led to an online “therapy session” with my Dodger fan cousins about our respective teams’ closing woes. (The Giants fan cousins were smart enough to realize that we didn’t want to hear a peep out of them and stayed away from this status update, thus positive family relations remain intact.) Of course, what the article actually meant was bullpen by committee with Fernando Rodney, Kevin Jepsen, Jordan Walden and possibly occasionally Hisanori Takahashi sharing closing duties as needed.
On the surface, this certainly is not creative used as an unusual synonym for effective. However, I hope that it is code for grooming Walden for the closer’s role without putting too much pressure on the kid too early. Walden showed poise, promise and blazing speed last season in several really difficult games and I am eager to see what he can do over the course of a whole season. Our closer woes were a big topic of conversation in the Right Field Pavilion last season, one of those ongoing debates where even the ushers and the vendors weigh in and I can’t wait to hear what everyone thinks of this development…okay, who am I kidding? I just can’t wait to go to a game!
MLB Overview 2011: Adrian Beltre and All 30 Teams’ Most Unpredictable Hitter
Another headline that caught my eye was this offering from the Bleacher Report. Some of their choices are spot on, others are apt to be controversial. I don’t know enough about every team’s lineup to say whether I think all of the Bleacher Report’s choices are good (especially when we get to the NL East – but that’s going to change after Interleague 2011, I’m sure). However, I think they hit the nail on the head with the Angels. No, the Bleacher Report did not use this as one more opportunity to pick on a certain recent acquisition, they selected Kendry Morales instead. Kendry was not selected for any prior issues at the plate but for the big question that’s certainly on every Angels fan’s mind: is he going to come back as strong and reliable as he was before the broken leg. Because an Angels lineup with a reliable, power hitting Kendry batting in the five spot is a thing of beauty and a lineup without his bat is…well…the sort of lineup that allows Jered Weaver to pitch a one-run game that the Angels still lose. Yeah, you all saw 2010.
While this was interesting, it really wasn’t news and it certainly wasn’t the news I went looking for:
How are long term contract negotiations going with Jered Weaver? Absolutely swimmingly, of course and the contract will be signed by the time pitchers and catchers report…right? Right? Yeah, it’s never really that easy, is it?
Are we really looking for a leadoff man or are we going to platoon with what we have? This is a topic of some discussion on Angels blogs. Given the options out there, I could really go either way on this one. I’m not overly thrilled with a leadoff platoon but, then again, I’m not overly thrilled with any of the options that have been bantered about.
Is Vlad going to get a job already? I know he’s talking to the Orioles right now but that contract doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. I actually think this is a good fit for all concerned. With Vlad’s mighty bat protecting Markakis and company in the lineup, if the Orioles pick up where they left off at the end of the 2010 season, they could seriously be spoilers in the AL East (and other places) and who knows? But Vlad needs to accept the fact that’s he’s no longer an outfielder, at least no more than every once in a while, and negotiate accordingly.