According to the wisdom of the post season ad campaigns, you can’t script October. While that is certainly true, I would argue that you really can’t script the other six months leading up to October either. It’s May 1st and the Indians have the best record in baseball while the Twins have the worst. ‘Nuff said. Any game has the potential to surprise and shock you, perhaps not as dramatically in the regular season as in the post season, but that potential is still there. This weekend’s Angels games were full of surprises for me, some pleasant, others groan worthy.
I didn’t expect Joel Pineiro to pitch such a strong game fresh off of the DL – seven innings with three strike outs, giving up only four hits and one walk, a nice surprise to say the least. Unfortunately, one of those hits was a Matt Joyce homerun and the Rays’ James Shields was pitching an even better game than Pineiro. With Shields dealing and the Angels unable to catch him in even one mistake for eight innings, I didn’t expect Torii to catch a piece of the ball in the 9th, or Howie to bring him home after the pitching change. With the exhilaration of tying the game up and getting through the bottom of the ninth unscathed, who could have imagined losing to a walk-off wild pitch in the tenth? Welcome back Joel! The guys really owe you run support next time and I tip my cap to Shields.
Cut to today when Angels fans tuned in to see ace Jered Weaver take on Alex Cobb, a 23-year old rookie right hander brought up from the minors just for the occasion, only to watch rookie vs. rookie instead as a nasty bout with the flu scratched Weaver’s start and Tyler Chatwood took the mound in his place. From there, nothing proceeded according to normal expectation. Chatwood actually lost his composure and took an entire inning to recover, giving up five runs in the process. Things looked grim in the first and I was really worried the Angels were going to give up, but with a Hank Conger solo homerun in the 2nd inning, they started to catch up instead.
Chatwood and the Bullpen kept the Rays from scoring again. Yes, our Bullen absolutely rocked! Rich Thompson had a great inning. Fernando Rodney nearly scared us to death by walking his first batter, but redeemed the walk and yesterday’s wild pitch when he helped with a tight double play and struck out the final batter. And I can tell I am going to adore Scott Downs. Calm and collected on the mound, he even calmed the infield down with jokes and a self deprecating smile after he accidentally turned a near certain double play into a single out and then returned to sitting batters down one by one.
The Angels’ bats were back and the team tied things up with help from Torii, Bobby Abreu, Mark Trumbo and others. But the best play of the game was one of those baseball surprises I live for. Homeruns are fun and all, but this chick digs cleverly manufactured runs. With one out in the 8th inning, Torii on third and Vernon Wells on first, Conger hit a hard line drive to second base for an unfortunate sure double play. Running on contact, Wells was within tagging distance of Ben Zobrist when he fielded the ball, but stopped just out of Zobrist’s reach. Wells then feinted toward first when Zobrist leaned in to tag him, drawing Zobrist and first baseman Casey Kotchman into a brief, unnecessary pickle during which they tagged first to get Conger out…and paid no attention to Torii who dashed home and scored. Wells was then tagged out in short order to end the inning, but the damage was done. The Rays did not score in the 8th and Jordan Walden shut everything down like clockwork in the 9th. After such a dreadful first inning, I was not expecting a lit halo but, yay! I certainly didn’t expect a televised game to have me yelling and cheering myself hoarse with the same unrestrained passion I might exhibit at the ball park either…and neither, I’m sure, did my neighbors. Sorry guys!
And there is even an unexpected silver lining to come out of Weaver’s scratched start. Through a quirk of scheduling, the Red Sox originally weren’t going to face Weaver this season…But now Weaver will start on Monday or Tuesday as his health permits. I have a feeling this series against the Sox will be very different from the last one Yay!!
At the risk of sounding very Mother Hen-ish, did everyone see the information about the switch to WordPress this coming weekend on MLBlogosphere? It sounds like the changes are going to be fantastic! But we need to make sure we have an updated email address attached to our accounts and a couple of other things in preparation for the transition….oh, and be prepred for no blogging this weekend – The Horror! 😉 Okay, maybe this is less Mother Hen, than a project management holdover from numerous system changes at a previous job.
What’s what? Oh. That. Why, yes, that is a lit halo to the right there. *beams* Jered Weaver pitched a complete game shut out tonight to lead the Angels to victory over the A’s. With a record of 6 and 0 in the first 23 games of the Angels season, Weave now holds the franchise record for wins at this point in the season and is one of only four pitchers in Major League Baseball to go 6 and 0 in March and April.
I snapped the photo of the halo as we exited the game, having decided on a whim to catch the next Weaver start. Good decision. We managed to get to the game and to our seats just in time for first pitch, a rare feat indeed on a weeknight, and what a game. Weaver, of course, was very much on his game – ten strikeouts and only 1 walk. He did give up seven hits – three of them to Coco Crisp who really had a great game – but that is where the rest of the Angels came in, preserving Weaver’s shutout and proving that the poor fielding of the Red Sox series was nothing more than a really bad four days.
Peter Bourjos, Torii Hunter and Vernon Wells all had great catches in the outfield. Jeff Mathis and Erick Aybar picked off Crisp at second on an attempted steal that saw Aybar sticking to Crisp like a burr and applying the tag as he overslide the base slightly. Aybar had another fantastic play, fielding the ball well onto the grass and executing a perfect leaping throw to first base just in time to throw out Daric Barton and end the 8th inning…okay, actually the Angels benefitted from the umpire’s angle on that call. Seen from another angle, Barton was just barely safe, but it was a really close play and bad umpire calls will certainly cut both ways over the course of a season – see previous post.
And the bats decided to pay a visit again! Everyone hit tonight except for Jeff Mathis and Torii. Poor Torii. He usually heats up with the weather so April is not his best month to begin with and, after last season, I just plain think he’s trying too hard. I’m sure his bat will not remain silent for very long. Wells singled, Alberto Callaspo doubled and then Howie Kendrick doubled to bring them both home in the bottom of the second inning to give Weave early run support. Timely hits by Bourjos, Aybar and Bobby Abreu provided additional runs.
All in all, it was a fantastic game for the whole team and the perfect cure for the Red Sox blues…until we visit Fenway next month where, hopefully, we can devise an even better cure, like winning a few games…but I digress. Even the Angels fans rocked this game. I am sitting here sipping hot tea to soothe a throat happily hoarse from cheering as I type this. Seth and I sat in the front of the Right Field Pavillion this evening and right field fans are usually loud and enthusiastic but tonight, everything was amplified and we treated the players to a cheering, yelling, clapping, sign waving frenzy of support. Asked at the end of his post game interview why he was pitching so well this season, Weaver first credited the rest of the team and then said “Maybe it’s all of these great Angels fans who come out and cheer for us.” And mentioned that the crowd cheering his name really pumped him up. How sweet is that? Lights out pitcher and great with the fans to boot.
Here are some photos I took of the game including my view from left center (4 rows behind the wall):
Peter Bourjos and Vernon Wells discussing the catch Bourjos just made in center:
Gio Gonzalez pitching to Bourjos:
Weaver’s post game interview broadcast onto the big screen:
In an interview prior to this evening’s game, Dan Haren was asked about Jered Weaver’s stellar, personal single game strikeout record breaking performance on Sunday. He laughed and responded in an affectionate sounding tone that it was getting harder and harder to follow Weaver in the rotation. How do you follow a performance like that? Well, if you’re Dan Haren, you stride out to the mound, throw first pitch breaking ball strikes and other nasty stuff and pitch a one-hit complete game shutout! Boys? This one-upmanship thing? It’s seriously working for me. You can keep that right on up all season. Please!
This evening’s 2 – 0 win over the Indians was, quite simply, one of the best games I have been privileged enough to attend. I am absolutely euphoric as I sit here typing this and, at the beginning of the evening (Hey, I haven’t gone to bed yet, so it’s still the same evening!), I had no reason to believe I would even be in a good mood. I never leave work when I intend to and this evening was no exception. Still, I was making good enough time plop into my seat next to Seth more or less when the teams were delivering their lineup cards…until the freeway came to a dead halt a mere two offramps from my destination around a five car fender bender, roughly 15 minutes before first pitch.
Near the end of the second inning, and in quite a foul mood at this point, I finally set off across the parking lot toward the Big A. Thirty feet from the stadium gate, my ticket flew out of my hand, well out of my reach and looked ready to disappear entirely before I could do anything about it, when a tall gentleman in an Indians jersey reached out with long arms, snagged the runaway ticket and handed it back to me. I could have hugged him. I burst into the biggest grin and literally exclaimed My hero! Thank you!! I finally arrived at my seats, mood much improved but still bummed that I had missed two full innings plus an additional batter. But all it took to bring my mood full circle to excitement was a glimpse of that glorious field and the pitching display going on in front of me…that and the fact that my husband already bought us dinner so I didn’t have to miss another pitch, even though it was easily my turn to do this. What a guy!
Fortunately my comedy of errors getting to the game did not extend to the field. What. A. Game! Dan Haren! Peter Bourjos’ first homerun of the season. Dan Haren! Mark Trumbo’s first major league homerun ever! Oh, and did I mention Dan Haren? 😉 And then, just when it looked like the Indians were going to get a solid extra bases hit with the potential to bust the game wide open, who should come flying from right to center and seemingly straight up the high part of the wall but Spiderman himself, Torii Hunter. No lie, in the middle of one of the best pitching performances I have seen live at the stadium, this was one of the best catches I have ever seen live at the stadium. You will surely see it on the end of the week highlight reels. But even with that play, this was entirely Dan Haren’s show. He never let a runner get to second the entire game. He got the leadoff hitter out in all nine innings. He struck out eight batters. And it looked like he was able to throw all of his pitches for strikes tonight. It was a masterful performance.
The other fun thing about this game was we wound up having some of the best seats possible to appreciate it from. I am kind of a ticket snob, though economics have tempered this tendency considerably, and I had never sat in the upper deck before. But I really wanted to go to this game, I just had a feeling about it, and the tickets that met my strict price limits were in the front row of the lowest part of the upper deck, a section and a half behind third base. I have sat much closer before, but this was one of the clearest views I have ever enjoyed of the ball sailing over home plate…that and I had a great vantage for Torii’s catch and both homeruns. Really, especially considering how it started, I could not have asked for a better evening. We were even surrounded by enthusiastic fans, not as much a given as you might like to think. I cheered and yelled and cheered some more pretty much the entire game. I was happily quite hoarse by the time Haren fielded one last grounder and tossed it to Mark Trumbo at first for the final out…almost looking like he was going to run it over and get the out himself.
I can see myself at work tomorrow with a big giant grin on my face, and that, dear coworkers, is why I sound like Kathleen Turner today. Ha ha, I’m not bad. I’m just drawn that way. Sorry, couldn’t resist. 😉
Dan Haren, sitting ’em down one by one (Our view was not quite as far away as this photo would lead one to believe):
Look past the big screen with Haren’s post game interview and the note the Halo in it’s happiest natural state, all light up like Christmas:
Ah, the Angels game today. Losing the third straight game to the Royals 12 – 9 in the 13th inning was…
So…um…yeah…Baby showers anyone? I went to my husband’s cousin’s baby shower today. I absolutely loathe baby showers. Isn’t that funny? I mean, I like kids. I love helping friends and family celebrate good news, but I loathe baby showers…
Right. The game. This is a baseball blog after all, so I probably should talk about the game. I have a fun, bantering relationship with the husband of one of my cousins and, helpful Dodger loving fellow that he is, he left the following questions on my Facebook wall round about inning 11: “Four runs in the last three innings and you’re still going extras? Are the Angels aware they’re playing the Royals? Further, are they aware that these are not the same Royals they’ll call neighbors next year?” Yeah, about that…well see…it was like this…
You know what the problem with baby showers is? It’s the stupid games. If we could just have a normal party, co-ed or still ladies only, without having to diaper a balloon or pluck tiny pins from rice or guess…well, you get the general idea…and I digress. Again.
So, back to the game and the questions on my Facebook. Well, when you start out the game with Scott Kazmir on the mound, he allows five runs in the first one and 2/3s innings, we pull him and then go the bullpen in the 2nd inning. Our bullpen. The Arson squad part duex. In the second inning. You knew the game wasn’t going to be pretty. Oh, and our “closer”? Walking 3 batters and allowing two earned runs in 1/3 of an inning? I’m just…
You know, today’s shower was actually fun! I think this really just proves my basic argument though. The wonderful ladies who planned it dispensed with the silly games…Oh, I’m doing it again aren’t I? That weird tangent thing? Yeah.
It’s not like the game didn’t have it’s high points. The offense was amazing! The Angels hit five homeruns! Five! And Howie Kendrick hit two of them. We hit doubles. We hit triples. Bobby Abreu went five for five. Peter Bourjos went first to home! Have I mentioned before that the kid’s just a little fast? There were a number of truly heroic defensive plays too. Torii’s catch. Maicer’s catch. Jeff Mathis’ tag at the plate. Fleet Pete flying in to bail Vernon Wells out of a jam and keeping two of the runners from scoring, at least.
We scored nine runs for crying out loud! Customarily, when a team scores nine runs, including five homeruns, etc., that team wins…unless our bullpen is involved. So I think you all probably understand why I would rather talk about anything, even that most dreaded of social obligations the baby shower, than about today’s game.
In all seriousness, it’s only four games and the Angels traditionally start out slow. We fans usually spend most of April moaning and groaning about how it’s the end of the world and the Angels usually shape up and then some by May and do well, with occasional bouts of ugly, for the rest of the season. The problem is that last season we didn’t. And, some of the reasons we didn’t are some of the same reasons we just lost three straight to the Royals. I usually don’t call for radical changes in early April but, after last season, spring training and this week, it’s time to call the Scott Kazmir and Fernando Rodney experiments a failure. Bring Matt Palmer back up from the minors and look for a closer. An effective one.
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!!
My plan for this evening was to post a lot of photos and fun stories from today’s Angels Fanfest and exhibition game against the Padres. Unfortunately, I missed them both. My husband and I have been burning the candle at both ends and at a couple of points in the middle just for good measure for a few weeks now and this morning it finally caught up with him – he woke up too sick and headachey to do anything. I am a diehard baseball fan but I am a diehard wife first…okay, that makes me sound like a car battery or like I should be saying yippee ki-yay mother etc., but you get the general idea. Suffice to say, we stayed home, I took care of him and I wound up watching the game on the living room sofa, whooping and cheering between a snoozing husband and two snoring cats – yes, they snore. Louder than most people. It’s a little disturbing. As disappointing as this was, it really only means 12 extra days until I get to hear my first actual crack o’ the bat since September. That’s not so bad at all.
The game itself was as fun as a blowout beating up on a mix of the other team’s A, B and C squads can be – which is to say fun, it being baseball and all, but not outrageously so. Still, Dan Haren pitched a great five innings. It was great to see that he is definitely in April and May shape. Hisanori Takahashi, Kevin Jepsen and the other relievers looked more than ready for prime time themselves. Mark Trumbo is still hitting like a beast, even inside regular season height walls. He had a three run homer and an additional hit today. Peter Bourjos, Jeff Mathis and Alberto Callaspo also collected two hits each, including a nice triple from Bourjos. Hopeful signs for a great season, all. Mike Trout looked good but it was an uneventful game for him so I didn’t see much of him from my living room vantage point, another small disappointment.
There was, however, one definite consolation to watching the game at home – Torii Hunter and Vernon Wells were not playing today and joined Victor Rojas and Mark Gubicza in the announcer’s booth for two innings. Whether it was Wells giving Torii grief about his age – he is clean shaven this year because there was apparently a lot more silver in his beard than he liked – or Torii suggesting that Wells can’t bunt because he would hurt himself running hard to first, those two guys crack me up. They were also serious at times and it’s great to see them locked in and so psyched for the season. If I had to make the rough decision and pick a favorite current Angel, it’s Torii and I can tell Vernon Wells is going to become a favorite of mine as well. I know that clubhouse chemistry alone does create a winning season. But I think it is the important x-factor that makes a team’s strength greater than just the sum of its parts. I am thrilled that Wells seemed to fit so effortlessly into the work hard, act goofy Angels clubhouse that I love so much. Wells mentioned that Mike Scioscia’s group dinner tab Spring Training assignments definitely helped him make friends quickly, he he.
After the game, Mike Scioscia officially announced the Angels Opening Day pitcher. It’s Scott Kaz…I’m totally kidding. Of course it’s Jered Weaver. I would say, as predicted here on this blog, but this decision was pretty close to a given. In the same press conference Scioscia also announced that Joel Pineiro will definitely start the season on the DL. The Angels will go with a four man rotation – Weaver, Dan Haren, Ervin Santana and Scott Kazmir – using the extra days off in early April as the 5th starter’s spot, until Pineiro is scheduled to come back and pitch in the April 8th home opener. I think this is a great short term solution and I am now certain Pineiro will be healthy enough to start on April 8th. I have tickets for that game, as I’ve mentioned, and I have uncanny luck for being at games where it’s either a pitcher’s first start off the DL or first start with the Angels.
The Angels continue to hit in spectacular fashion, both those you would expect and those you would not expect. 39 hits and 31 RBIs in the last three games, even with the loss to Milwaukee? Whooooo hooooo! Granted, batting averages don’t really count for much in Spring Training because the pitching takes so long to get into season shape and the number of minor league pitchers each batter sees. However, the bats seem to be warming up more as the pitching warms up and this I will take as a hopeful sign for the season.
Starting rotation issues, however, are giving me concerns where I did not expect to have any just two weeks ago. Now it sounds like Joel Pineiro will spend a few days on the DL at the beginning for the season. I understand. I want him to pitch strong for as much of the season as he can and back precautionary decisions especially now before the season starts. So much for the 4th rotation spot, for now…though after Scott Kazmir’s last start, who knows?
Which brings us to our 5th starting rotation spot…well…How do you solve a problem like Scott Kazmir? And, yes, that did emerge from my head set to a Rodgers and Hammerstein approved tune. Thanks – or blame, depending on your point of view – to Red State Blue State. I wanted Kaz to regain his old form. I was really pulling for him. There were hopefully signs in several of his Spring Training starts – more control in one game, more strikes thrown in another, more consistency, etc. But it never all came together in one game, which in and of itself already has overtones of 2010. Then, on Thursday against the Brewers, he incurred eight hits and ten runs in five innings pitched. Owwwww-ch. And yet it still sounds like Kaz is our 5th starter. Which leaves us where exactly? Praying for rain every 5th start? That would be one baseball tradition I would prefer not to embrace.
Matt Palmer did pretty well today, pitching to contact with the infield and outfield living up to their capabilities. Hmmm…is he an alternative plan or is he bullpen bound, no ifs, ands or buts? Oh well, I guess we’ll find out on Tuesday after the game, when Mike Scioscia has promised he will announce the starting rotation, the 25 man roster and the opening day starters…because waiting for Wednesday evening would have been too last minute, she says with extreme affection.
In other news, preparing to buy tickets for a few games in Northern California has given me a renewed appreciation for buying Angels tickets down here in Southern California. On Stubhub you pay more than full price for even generic Giants and A’s tickets. Even now before the season has started. It is actually better to go through Ticketmaster for Giants and A’s tickets. The horror!! The Big A is so large and enough of our season ticket holders so unable to attend every game, that I can usually grab tickets at season ticket prices or even cheaper now or the week of the game off Stubhub or Craig’s list. Games against the Yankees, Red Sox and Dodgers are notable exceptions to this rule. But even so, wow. I had no idea I was so spoiled, but I’ll take it!