Heading into the 2013 season, the Angels were ranked highly on all analysts’ lists. A playoff berth was said to be all but assured and many even predicted they would reach the World Series. And indeed, even taking into account the pounds of salt it’s always best to take with preseason predictions, the Angels definitely seemed like one of the teams to beat. Certainly no one expected them to turn out to be one of the teams that everyone beats. *sigh* But, never fear ladies and gentlemen. The Angels are still having an extraordinary season — just not even remotely in the positive sense. They’re still causing jaws drop all over Major League Baseball and with play that causes fans to exclaim loudly — loudly and things that are largely unprintable, that is.
In fact, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that 2013 Angels are redefining baseball as we know it. So, with the intent of educating and informing the larger baseball audience, I offer the following TIAVSG Angels vocabulary lesson. While these baseball terms continue to hold their standard definitions for the other 29 teams, here is what they now mean in the Angels’ lexicon:
Run Support – A mercurial happenstance that seems to come and go in waves with no discernible rhyme or reason, though it is significantly more likely to disappear when the Angels starters are doing well, and reappear when the starters’ performance renders it ineffective.
Starting Rotation – Similar to Run Support. A Starting Rotation is a group of players whose effectiveness and ability are a mercurial happenstance that seems to come and go in waves with no discernible rhyme or reason and appears to “enjoy” an inverse relationship with Run Support.
Turning the Corner – I’m convinced that, for the Angels, this is no longer so much a defined vocabulary term as the limit in a calculus equation. The Angels are forever, one might even say infinitely, said to be approaching “Turning the Corner” but they never, ever actually get there.
Lead – A largely theoretical concept that is difficult to achieve and, once achieved, nearly impossible to hold.
Loss – Synonym for weekday. No, never mind. That was grossly unfair of me. Losses can occur on weekends as well.
Firemen – Traditionally this is a neat, somewhat old fashioned term for relief pitchers, because they come into the game in a high stress situation and ‘put out the fire.’ I am particularly fond of it because I’m generally fond of old fashioned terms with vivid imagery…and you are all shocked. Now, under normal circumstances, I am highly in favor of reading as much as one can of as many different kinds of books as one can and Ray Bradbury is a personal favorite going back to childhood. But whoever made Fahrenheit 451 required reading for the bullpen? I want them found and forcibly serenaded with Buttercup…I’m Henry the 8th, I am style…for several days. *shakes head sadly* Not that kind of firemen guys. Not that kind of firemen.
Astros (see also Cubs) – An offensive juggernaut of a team with virtually unhittable pitching.
Consistency – In standard baseball terminology, consistency always has a positive connotation. He’s getting consistent at the plate, for example, means the he in question is starting to hit regularly. But in just plain, old, everyday English, consistency is more of a contextual concept and, as the Angels are reminding us this season, it is more than possible to be consistently bad.
Closed Door Meeting – I am certain that this is now a common synonym for postgame spread as both occur with significant regularity after the conclusion of the game.
Ace – Fortunately for the Angels, the traditional baseball definition still stands. An Ace is the guy that stops the team hemorrhaging, the guy who takes the mound and gives his team a chance to win no matter what…even if the offense can’t get it together in time to actually give the W to him. But no matter how the Angels or anyone else continues to define an Ace, he can only take the mound every five games or so…ugh.
October – And thus, sadly I fear that the definition of this word is destined to become ‘a quiet time of deep sadness and contemplation, but mostly of idleness…idleness spent watching other teams in the playoffs.’
Fan – A pitiable creature, filled with self-loathing and wracked by guilt over his/her inability to refrain from snarking, griping, angry yelling and the composing of lengthy, disenchanted blog posts filled with sarcastic vocabulary lessons in the face of the Angels ongoing inexplicably terrible play…even though she…er..*cough, cough*…I mean, he/she still goes to games and watches almost every single one she…er…or he can’t attend on TV. A creature who, even awash with such emotions, cannot keep herself from starting to hope again, just a little, every time the team starts to show glimpses of their true ability and wins a game or two.
And that concludes this evening’s Angels baseball terms vocabulary lesson. I cannot tell you how much I want the Angels to start and keep playing the caliber of baseball that would make me well and truly embarrassed by this post. Seriously. No joke. I want to eat crow over this by season’s end. Few things would make me happier than posting a lengthy and heartfelt apology…but the longer this kind of play continues, the likelihood of my needing to scour the internet for tasty crow marinades from Food Network chefs decreases significantly.
(Cross posted with edits from L.A. Angels Insider. I don’t do a lot of cross posting, but this one fit the bill for both blogs.)
It all started with an absolute dearth of run support — because if what the rest of the Angels’ starting rotation experienced early in the 2012 season was a lack of run support, then clearly we must resort to stronger vocabulary when describing the strange case of Ervin Santana. In his first six starts of 2012, the team scored exactly three runs for Santana and all three of those came during his rocky first start against the Royals. The end result was an 0 and 6 record that belied his steady improvement over that time period which culminated in two quality starts, including the final game of that stretch wherein he struck out 10.
Unfortunately for Santana and our impressions of his season, his quality starts only overlapped with the Angels improving offense for two wins in May before his control slipped again. Then Santana began having entirely different issue with runs, namely with giving them up, frequently in the form of early inning bombs launched solidly into the stands. After a dismal performance in Colorado that can only partially be blamed on the stadium’s notorious altitude, fans had all but forgotten any quality starts.
But just as more and more fans were calling for a change, ‘Hey, that Garrett Richards kid looks pretty good. Once Jered Weaver comes off the DL, couldn’t we…’ Santana threw everyone a curve, pitching a one-hit shutout against the D-Backs that for six and two-thirds glorious innings was perfect in every sense of the word. Okay, so what do you do with a conundrum like that? It’s the strange case of Ervin Santana, indeed.
We all know the Angels’ most likely answer. Sometime this week, perhaps even as I post these thoughts, Jered Weaver will come off of the DL and Garrett Richards will head back to AAA. The Angels typically back the veteran, but in this case I don’t think fans should take issue with the decision. Yes, the four games leading up to Saturday’s gem were ugly, but Saturday didn’t happen in a vacuum. Lost amid the Angels’ April and early May offensive woes were enough strong starts to indicate that Santana’s latest flirtation with control issues, however hot and heavy it may have seemed, is just the same old on again, off again fling he’s had his entire career and not an all encompassing, season long relationship.
Looking at Santana’s record for the last four seasons, he heats up with the weather, giving the Angels strong Julys and Augusts, even during seasons where he’s struggled. I’m not saying that every start is going to be sunshine and rainbows from here on out but, given the near perfection we just witnessed, I think the Angels would be foolish not to at least see what late June and July have in store. If this weekend turns out to be an aberration and Santana’s control reverts to Colorado-like performances, it’s not like they can’t bring Richards (who pitched his own weekend gem) back up again.
Besides, we Angels fans know how our team has a tendency to torture…er…thrill…um, er…thrillingly torture?…us with more excitement in the eighth and ninth innings than is strictly necessary even at the best of times. Smart fans stocked up on plenty of antacid back in March. You know, just in case…
We’re in the last few days of July and, aside from a few lumps and bumps, the Angels are doing pretty well – Monday’s game notwithstanding. Comfortably above .500. Four games out of first place in the AL West. Ten and two in their last 12 series. Not bad for a team most of the talking heads were predicting would be deeply entrenched in the third or even fourth place spot at this point in the season.
However, even with all of August and September still left to play, the distance between the Rangers and the Angels isn’t moving in the right direction anywhere near quickly enough or consistently enough for the comfort of Angels fans. Giant sweeping changes are unnecessary. As I said, the Angels are playing pretty good ball. But, having watched far more games than not this season, I can’t help but notice certain key things the Angels could be doing that they just aren’t doing. Clearly, they must not know it’s okay. This is the only reasonable explanation. 😉
So, for the Angels education – and for your entertainment – in the style of that paragon of good information and insightful advice, Glamour Magazine, (Come on ladies, you know there’s nothing like a fashion magazine for a little guilty pleasure, comic relief. Come on gents, you know most of you have snuck a curious peak at an S.O.’s or sister’s stash at one point or another.) I present:
the glamour list – baseball edition
10 Things That Really Are Okay, Encouraged Even:
Scoring runs before we have two outs on the board.
Scoring runs before the 7th inning stretch.
Hitting homeruns at home too.
Lengthy, unbroken winning streaks.
Keeping opposing team runners off the bases between the second and third outs.
Heck, while we’re at it, sitting the other team down 1, 2, 3.
Being aggressive on the base paths…without being aggressively stupid on the base paths.
Disappointing rookies…opposing team rookies that is. Really, it’s not unsportsmanlike if you hit their pitches, make it hard for them to catch the ball and, you know, not allow them walk-off first hits.
Taking over 1st place early and never letting it go.
Teams other than the Angels beating the Texas Rangers…Okay, so this one isn’t for the Angels so much as the rest of the AL but, really guys, it’s okay. Any. Day. Now.
It was a glorious game, Sunday’s Freeway Series meeting between the Angels and the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Jered Weaver vs. Clayton Kershaw. The Dodgers’ pregame show announcers joked that, with those two greats on the mound, it was a bad day to be a batter. And they knew what they were talking about. Both Weaver and Kershaw had a shutout going until the 7th inning.
Every now and then one would allow a runner on base, occasionally two. But it never got any farther than that. For six innings. Say all you want about lack of run support, and if you’ve been reading this blog, you know I’ve said plenty, but this was not a case of the batters not getting it done at the plate. This was a case of two aces baffling each other’s lineups with a good, old fashioned pitchers’ duel and it was fantastic. Beautiful. Frustrating. Nail biting. Cheering. Stomping. Yelling. Faan-tastic. The kind of game where I had to tip my hat to Kershaw as much as I was tipping it to Weaver. And I wished that Seth and I had bought last minutes tickets and gone running off to Chavez Ravine instead of responsibly watching the game at home for free, just so I could be there in person to soak in every nuance.
Even after both lineups finally briefly broke through the gems to knock in a run a piece in the 7th and the Angels ended the duel by pinch hitting for Weaver in the 8th, it was a great game. It was a great game, that is, right up until the call when Dee Gordon stole second. That’s right I said second. Long before the play at the plate that everyone is talking about, Gordon touched second base, overslid the bag, Erick Aybar clearly blocked him from returning and applied a tag. But Gordon was called safe. He shouldn’t even have been in a position to head home on the later sacrifice fly. But he was. And he did. Because that’s how you play the game. And then, he was out again at the plate.
I have watched the replay more than 20 times on my DVR. Peter Bourjos’ throw could not have been more perfect. Jeff Mathis blocked the plate, wrestled Gordon practically into a bear hug, sweeping arms and legs away from the plate before Gordon could get so much as a finger in, and brushed Gordon’s back with the glove holding the ball. Mathis then triumphantly held up the ball for the umpire to see, allowing Gordon to break free finally and slap the plate. Three outs. Ball game. Angels win, right? Except not…now I’m not saying the umpire outright lost the game for us. At that point the Angels needed to buck up, get the third out (for the third time) and force the Dodgers into extra innings. And they didn’t do that. But the double bad calls really killed the greatness of this particular game. Who knows how it would have really ended if Gordon had been called out at second? Would Jordan Walden have continued his recovery or would the Dodgers have continued their rally? I don’t know. But whatever the outcome, I would have preferred that game to the one we all got. And considering the amazing pitchers’ duel and the quality of the first eight and a half innings, that is a very sad thing to have to say.
It’s baseball. Bad calls happen. They happen all the time. In huge egregious ways, like Armando Galarraga’s perfect game that wasn’t and any number of post season heartbreakers I could site. And in hundreds of smaller ways every week that may only matter to a particular batter or position player. By the end of the season, the bad calls usually even out. Heck, the Angels owe one of their wins against the Blue Jays in this season’s first home series to a truly terrible runner’s interference call that made the Blue Jays’ go ahead run null and void.
So where exactly am I going with this? In all honesty, I don’t know. I don’t want the game to change. I don’t want every umpire’s call second guessed and argued…on the field that is. We fans should continue to exercise our traditional right to beat every dead horse of a call into dust if it pleases us to do so. I don’t want to lose the pacing of the game or the spontaneity. I don’t want a cookie cutter feel to a trip to the ballpark. I don’t want umpires turning to computers to make every call, or even many calls. I don’t want baseball teams developing strategies around how to use a set number of umpire challenges in ways that go well beyond the goal of simply redressing a wrong. I don’t like the idea of increased instant replay eroding decision making.
So what do I actually want? I wanted this particular great game and so many others to remain great games. Angels win or lose, I wanted this game to proceed to its natural conclusion. And, yet, I realize that just saying I want umpires to make better calls is childish. They are only human, they have always been human, and rather than showing any increase in umpire errors, I believe that advancements in camera and television technology allow us even more opportunities to “appreciate” just how human and fallible they have always been. So, do I want MLB to increase the use of instant replay in regular season games? I don’t want to want it. And I don’t want it…yet. But year by year each game changing bad call chips away at the steadfastness of my resolve a little more…
And now I am off the ballgame again. Angels vs. the Nationals. I’m sure I’ll post pictures later this week. The way things worked out between the games Seth and I always try to get tickets for (the freeway Series at both stadiums, 4th of July…), games we just sort of wound up with tickets for (this evening), and our upcoming Bay Area Baseball Extravaganza, our end of June and first half of July is practically an embarrassment of baseball game riches…and yet I wonder how many of them, indeed if any of them, will be as good as this game almost was.
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:
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:
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?!:
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:
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):
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:
Erick Aybar at bat in the 3rd. Chatwood’s single allowed him to score off of Aybar’s two-out third-inning triple:
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:
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:
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!
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:
Don Mattingly calls a Dodgers meeting on the mound. Following Wells’ homerun, Guerrier is pulled and the Dodgers move deeper into their bullpen.
Overall the Angels Bullpen was fantastic! Scott Downs locked them down in the 8th and Trevor Bell held them in the 9th:
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?
So the Marlins. Well they sure are nice and heating up now, aren’t they? This is just one more service we provide here at the Big A. Blah. But it did make for a pretty good game, really, and in the end the Angels were victorious…victorious and shocked out of their “okay we scored in one early inning, now we’re done for the game” habit so I am pretty happy out here in California. And Wow! Mark Trumbo is a beast, and rapidly becoming a clutch beast at that. I miss Kendrys, but Trumbo’s season is helping to keep me from completely pining away.
There are but two real flies in my ointment. Torii. Oh Torii! Speaking of beasts. If you haven’t seen the highlight reel yet, Torii Hunter made a spectacular Torii Hunter catch against the Marlins right center wall…running as hard as he could into the Marlins right center wall. This wasn’t a situation of Torii forgetting where the wall was. You could tell from his expression as he began his running jump into the wall, that he knew right where it was. But that was what was required to catch the ball. So he caught the ball, slammed into the wall and crumpled to the ground, writhing in pain, all while holding his glove up with the ball displayed so there was no doubt. He even argued with Mike Scioscia to stay in the game. Some nights, Chuck Norris wears Torii Hunter pajamas.
Understandably, Torii is now day to day. The x-rays were negative but he bruised up the same area he bruised going over the wall against the Yankees and took a pick-off attempt throw to in one of the earlier Marlins games. Hey, I know. Maybe we should ban outfield walls and pick-off throws, because players could get serious bruises and stuff… </ sarcasm > The other fly? We have several very consistent reliable arms in our bullpen but have also regained a few inconsistent arms through DL-necessitated player transactions and it’s starting to show. Something to work on. And now it’s back to California to conclude the Four Corners Road Trip against the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium:
I am excited. Freeway Series games have such energy and are a ton of fun. My husband and I are making the trek out the 5 freeway for Saturday’s game. Tyler Chatwood will take the mound for the Angels and Hiroki Kuroda will take the mound for the Dodgers and I will take a ton of photos. Hmmm, two pitchers with chronic lack of run support. This could get interesting. We’re even supposed to meet fellow blogger Emma from Crzblue’s Dodger Blue World, so much fun is in store…provided my sore throat gets the message that it is on serious notice and at least improves. I see my future and it involves more black tea, honey and lemon juice. It is a truly vile, syrupy, acidic concoction whose vileness, alas, is only exceeded by its effectiveness…and did I mention that it makes me whine? 😉
Fan Hide and Seek Night at the Sun Life Stadium
For the last several seasons, I have been hearing how low attendance is at Marlins games, but I had to see it for myself to really understand it. I realize that it was a weeknight and they had recently lost 11 in a row, but I swear there were more fans in the field box sections bordering the infield alone, at Fenway Park at 2am near the end of that marathon, extra innings, multiple rain delayed game we played in Boston in early May. I was flabbergasted.
And I mean this in no way as mockery of Marlins fans. The Marlins fans that were at the game were loud and passionate sounding…and you could hear every word each individual fan was saying, the stadium was so empty. And I am sure there were many more Marlins fans watching the game on TV. No, this is just my way of saying, wow. That visual, as much as the years-long abandoned construction projects, blocks with multiple foreclosure vacancies and acquaintances in the double digits who have been unemployed for a year or more, reminded me that while we are seeing signs of economic improvement, we are still stuck in this thing and we are going to be for a long, long time.
So let me get this straight. Tyler Chatwood is batting 1.000 (In addition to pitching a great game!). Jered Weaver is a beast even with precious little run support – six punch outs and 20 first pitch strikes on 28 batters! Torii Hunter is the run support – both RBIs on Monday were Torii! The bats are waking up, including Vernon Wells’ – he’s batting .292 with seven RBIs and three homeruns on this road trip so far! And Maicer Izturis is the Rally Monkey. Well, it sounds like everything is working out alright to me.
The Angels redeemed themselves against the Mets in game three and then, in their next stop on the Four Corners Road Trip, went on to win game one against the Marlins. Things seem to be falling back into place again in the sense that each component of the Angels’ game has been strong enough that some of the parts are able to take the slack for another part, when that part fails. No offense on Monday? Weaver’s pitching, the bullpen and the defense carried the day. Scary bullpen on Sunday? No problem. Again, starting pitching, this time Chatwood’s, and the offense, also including Chatwood not to mention Wells, Peter Bourjos, Jeff Mathis and several others – built up enough of a lead that it all worked out. Keep it up guys and we might have ourselves a pretty good streak going!
However, I was amused to look at headlines on MLB.com last night and discover that somehow, we may have beat the Marlins but somehow we also lost to the Braves last night:
Hmmmm…what exactly are they saying here? That Tim Hudson is so good, he single handedly beat the Blue Jays and a team the Braves weren’t even playing? Or is this a Freudian commentary on the Angels chronic lack of run support? The headline was corrected this morning, and possibly even moments after I noticed it. But notice it I did, and it was too funny to to share with you all…and now I sincerely hope MLB never takes a comedic look at the typos and crimes against commas I have committed on this blog, LOL.
Bud Selig Tells Frank McCourt “No” and “Bad Dog” and Rubs His Nose in it…So He Learns
Actually, as you all probably know, it went a bit beyond that. The deal with Fox that Bud Selig rejected yesterday was the last possible call from the governor that Frank McCourt had any hope of hearing. And even though it makes things a little rougher still for the Dodgers right now, I could not be happier. Selig, as quoted in the MLB.com article really said it best: Critically, the transaction is structured to facilitate the further diversion of Dodgers assets for the personal needs of Mr. McCourt. Given the magnitude of the transaction, such a diversion of assets would have the effect of mortgaging the future of the franchise to the long-term detriment of the club and its fans.
As a baseball fan, and as a lady who rooted passionately for the Dodgers in childhood, the last few seasons under the Mommy Dearest like affections of the McCourts have made me ill. The Dodgers are one of the most storied franchises in baseball and their fans are great people. I may give my friends and family good-natured crap and about leaving the game before the 8th inning, but Dodger fans are a passionate, knowledgeable, blue-bleeding bunch and they do not deserve the past few years’ treatment any more than the players do. The only hope the Dodgers have of full and lasting recovery from this particular abusive relationship, is if the McCourts are no longer in the picture.
So, citizens of Dodgertown, (hey, I get your emails and read your billboards from time to time) I tip my glass to you with the sincerest hopes that this is the beginning of much, much better things to come for you. Perhaps even eventual ownership by Steve Garvey and Orel Hershiser, which is the rumor I most hope is true. My glass is full of coffee, mind you, because it’s the middle of the day and all that. But, really, it’s the thought that counts! I even wish you a long and fruitful winning streak…starting in about two weeks. 😉
Post Tuesday Game Edit:
Okay. Granted the Marlins had just lost 11 in a row. Rationally there were going to win one eventually. But why do I feel like the Angels are the slump buster team of the American League, temporarily on loan to the National League? Overreacting? Just a tad. Which is why I typically don’t post immediately following a game. We’ll get ’em tomorrow. But still! Five to two? Shut out until the ninth inning? Really? Guys. When I talked about keeping it up and getting a streak going, this is pretty much the antithesis of what I was talking about…and by pretty much, I mean exactly.
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:
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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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
The Angels bullpen. Hisanori Takahashi, Fernando Rodney and Jordan Walden hang out with the bullpen catcher and other staff early in the 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
…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.