Interleague has always been good for the Angels. This year the team won every Interleague series and finished by taking two from the Dodgers this weekend at the big A. Friday’s game was the Angels sole loss in this series, proof perhaps that a day of rest is not always in order. The team’s level of play across the board prompted me to comment on FaceBook “The Revolution may not be televised, but the Zombie Apocalypse just aired on Fox Sports West.” But they were back in fine form Saturday and Sunday, with a dominant performance against Clayton Kershaw on Saturday and a tightly contested duel between Ervin Santana and Chad Billingsley on Sunday.
Seth and I had tickets to Saturday’s game, good seats in the club section just on the foul side of the left field pole. It’s amazing what folks will part with cheap these days. 🙂 Anyway, the energy was high and the fan interaction was a lot of fun, one reason I love Freeway Series games. Our seats were in front of three suites – one with Dodgers fans sandwiched between two filled with Angels fans – and intermingled with mix of fans of both teams. The suite dwellers were the fun, loud side of thoroughly hammered and formed the loudest component of both teams cheering/mostly friendly trash talk sections. The funniest part was after a one-two-three inning for Weaver when the Angels were already well ahead. The Dodgers suite switched from yelling “Let’s Go Dodgers” to “Let’s Go Yankees” of all things in perfect unison. They earned a lot of laughter and claps of approval from the Angels crowd. Who doesn’t appreciate a good sport?
Jered Weaver and Clayton Kershaw warm up in the bullpens just before first pitch. This photo shows off the side by side terraced bullpens I spoke of earlier. Seth and I did take the camera to the game, but some absolute dork left the memory stick at home in her computer. She had long brown hair and freckles…oh, yeah…it was me. J So there aren’t as many from the game and these photos are not as good as some of our others. To get the good photos, you have to have enough memory to snap several shots of a play or an at bat.
Jered Weaver warms up before the game. Weaver pitched a dominant game, allowing only four hits and one run in eight innings. At first it didn’t look like he was going to get much run support, as usual. But in the end the guys gave him downright gaudy seven runs. Hey, I could get used to gaudy and I’ll bet our pitchers could too.
Garret Anderson throws out the first pitch. As part of the 50th Anniversary celebration Angels alumni will throw out every first pitch this season. Recent retiree Garret Anderson threw out the first pitch on Saturday and I was thrilled to be on hand to watch this Angels great, still the holder of eight different team batting titles, accept the honor. Fernando Valenzuela threw out the first pitch on Friday, a controversial choice among Angels fans because he only played for the Angels for one year. I, personally liked the idea of including Fernando because of what he meant to baseball in California and how his rising star helped show off the considerable talents of our own skipper, Mike Scioscia, when he was a young catcher trying to earn the everyday role. Besides, I think it was a nice touch on the part of the Angels front office to choose Angels alumni for this series who also had Dodger ties, underscoring the long, intertwined history between our two teams.
Hank Conger chats with Jordan Walden and the bullpen and Bullpen Coach Steve Soliz address the relievers before the game. One, I like these photos my husband took from our vantage just above and in front of the bullpen because you can see some of the personalities and bonding in our bullpen this season. But also, this series, and indeed for most of interleague, the bullpen flat out rocked and I wanted to take a minute to recognized their important contribution.
Jeff Mathis leads off of second base after knocking a double into left field. This series was marked by unexpected but extremely welcome contributions at the plate from unlikely sources. Russell Branyan knocked in the winning run plus on with a two-run no doubter on Sunday and on Saturday it was Jeff Mathis with a solid double putting him in position to score the Angels first run of the night. He also had a single and a nice sacrifice bunt (and a badly failed sacrifice bunt, but we’re only talking positive here.)
Vernon Wells crossing the plate and celebrating with Mark Trumbo and Erick Aybar after another timely homerun. I am really enjoying his bat right now!! I managed to catch Wells doing his point to the sky as he crosses the plate and I love the exchange between Wells and Trumbo. It looks like Trumbo is saying “Dude, what was that?! How far did that go?!”
Behold the power of the rally manicure! I fidget. When I’m writing, when I’m resting, when I’m watching the game from home, just whenever. Sometimes the end result is useful, like folded laundry or and organized bill file and sometimes it’s just really silly, like random nail art for work or, you know, the ballgame. But I got more compliments on the silly things Saturday that I figured I would post them for posterity and/or mockery…and hey, if I were the sort to be superstitious about such things, they did win didn’t they? 🙂
Doesn’t everyone love a win?! The Angels celebrate after the game.
And in news outside of baseball, this weekend further rocked because Seth and I got out on the bikes a lot. I have come a long way since Memorial Day weekend and was able to ride in the rough again…okay, it was mild rough, but still. We took this trail on Saturday and again this morning. Go go Gadget knee. 🙂
The Angels swept the Nationals and, oh yeah, we went to a baseball game on Monday! Work has been plentiful, all consuming, fun and, occasionally, FUn this week – I came home from Monday’s game and moved a project along until 2am, that kind of fun. Between that and the games I suddenly looked up, it’s Thursday already and I haven’t posted my photos. Oh well…
Our seats for Monday night’s game were just to the foul side of the foul pole down the first base line, in the second row. Prime visitor’s section this. And, indeed, we set in front of and behind two families of Nationals fans vacationing in Los Angeles and next to a Phillies fan and his young daughters who were here on one of the middle stops of a larger baseball tour vacation. They had just come from Seattle and were headed out to Arizona then Texas. So jealous! When everyone has the right attitude, visiting fans can be a kick to enjoy the game with and all parties involved in this particular case were really nice and a lot of fun to chat/snark with.
Bobby Abreu leads off of second. Being on the field level, these seats were excellent for catching glimpses of personality on the field, some of which I got on camera. As you can see, Bobby is a talker on the base paths, especially at second base. He always wears a huge smile and gestures broadly with his hands so it is unclear for the most part if he’s goofing around, talking trash, just shooting the breeze or what. Probably a little of columns A, B and C. What little I catch of it on TV is pretty darned funny…and of course he has 13 stolen bases (not bad for one of the few ballplayers left who are older than me :)) so perhaps this is all part of his strategy. Get ‘em laughing, then break for third?
Vernon Wells at bat. These seats were not, however, the best for views or photos of the plate. The first base umpire is always in the way. That’s okay. Ssometimes I enjoy having a closer vantage of the outfield and plays at second. Wells is continuing to heat up in June. He hit a single this at bat, which eventually lead to a run and then went four for five on Tuesday with a crucial two-run homerun. And Angels fans are starting to respond. Both developments are very welcome indeed.
Catcher Bobby Wilson and Pitching Coach Mike Butcher meet with Ervin Santana on the mound. Santana got off to an uneven start, giving up homeruns in the 2nd and 4th, but settled into a good rhythm after that. He lasted eight innings and on the Angels, starters don’t pitch in the 9th inning unless they’re pitching a shutout or something equally spectacular, so that’s pretty darned good.
Just a random shot of the Angels bullpens. The bullpens at the Big A are terraced, which is a little unusual. The Angels bullpen on the lowest “step” in the front. And if you look at the photo you can see the Nationals in the visitor’s bullpen one step up and behind the home bullpen. Starting another “step” above the visitor’s bullpen you have the Left Field Pavilion seats. In this bullpen shot you can see Angels relievers Michael Kohn (standing up), Fernando Rodney, Hisanori Takashi’s translator, Hisanori Takashi and Jordan Walden kneeling down and…what? Praying? Vomiting? Spitting sunflower seeds? Catching a few ZZZs? Probably the real answer isn’t nearly as funny so I’m going to go with one of mine.
The Nationals brought the Racing Presidents with them to Anaheim for the series. So was this a) an incredibly stupid idea, b) a fine example of Interleague sharing of baseball cultures and traditions, or c) I really hate Interleague and fail to see how these two comments are mutually exclusive? You make the call. I initially thought the idea was kind of dumb, only because this is the Nationals’ tradition and it’s the Angels ballpark. But it was kind of fun to see and it provided a between innings icebreaker with the Nationals fans around us. I took the opportunity to ask, so, what’s the deal with Teddy? He’s really never won? I mostly knew the answer, but it was fun hearing all about the goofy, fun tradition from fans. We’d been talking a little between innings before that, but talked a lot more often after: relievers we love/who make us cringe, hitters who are starting to do better than their batting average indicates, overinflated contracts…it turns out Angels fans and Nationals fans have a frightening amount in common.
Nationals Catcher Wilson Ramos and Pitching Coach Steve McCatty meet with Pitcher John Lannan on the mound. All was going well for Lannan and the game was tied 2 to 2 until the Angels started hitting in the 6th. The Angels scored their third run shortly after this meeting and then Lannan was pulled. I love the photo because of the facial expressions and body language. I can only imagine the conversation that went with it. McCatty: Alright then, how are we going to get out of this? Lannan: Well, gee I don’t know Coach. I thought maybe I’d throw some strikes and get him out.
Mark Trumbo grows impatient during the meeting on the mound – again, with being able to catch glimpses of personality from these seats. Mark Trumbo is usually as professional in demeanor as a veteran so I was amused to see him visibly impatient at another break in this already lengthy at bat, with his cheeks puffed out like an exasperated little kid. Very cute actually. He ground into a double play this at bat, but was pretty solid at the plate this series. His average is creeping back up again and he is the American League’s rookie homerun leader with 13. Coincidentally, the Nationals’ Danny Espinosa is the Rookie Major League homerun leader.
The Nationals outfielders, Roger Bernardina, Laynce Nix and Jayson Werth meet during the subsequent pitching change. ‘Damn Werth, you have lots of friends over here too. You’re a real popular guy in Anaheim.’ Suffice to say, Angels fans were heckling Werth all night, which isn’t surprising. There are a few folks I see regularly in this section and the left most corner of the right field MVP section (Season ticket holders? Maybe, maybe not.) who heckle pretty much everyone, occasionally even our own players. Whether or not that was the topic of the outfielders’ conversation, I’m sure Werth is used to it by now.
Peter Bourjos and Vernon Wells joke after Peter snags a fly ball to end the inning. The outfield chemistry is shaping up much better as the months role by. This is very helpful, especially with various assorted centerfielders, corner outfielders turned DH and the occasional second baseman flopping roles in the outfield on a regular basis to accommodate injuries, Interleague and random acts of lineup juggling.
Yes that is Torii Hunter right in front of me in right field. The news report prior to Monday’s game was that Torii took batting and fielding practice Monday and looked good enough to return soon, possibly as soon a Wednesday. Imagine our delight when they brought him in as an unexpected substitution in the top of the 8th inning. The whole crowd erupted and we went especially crazy in the seats around right field with our welcome backs.
Jorda Walden takes the mound in the 9th. Unfortunately this would prove to be another blown save for Walden, his third in a row, when he gave up a two-out homerun to Danny Espinosa. The young Nationals fan in front of us turned around and informed me “Blown Save”. Thanks kid, I kind of figured that one out on my own. No liner notes needed. So, am I worried about Walden? No. Not at all. When I started advocating making the rookie our closer, I knew there would be some growing pains. This is a kid who had every intention of being a starter and never thought about the closer’s role until it turned out he had quite the aptitude for it this season. So far, he has 18 saves (including last night’s) which is respectable. And when he does blow it, instead of crumbling, Walden is right back in the game to get the next batter. Monday night when he gave up the homerun, he threw the next pitch for a called strike and then coaxed the batter into a ground out to end the inning. And he was right back in the game on Wednesday night with a 1-0 lead on the line and got the save. That says something to me. We will probably witness a few more growing pains this season, but I have no doubts that Jordan Walden is our closer.
Scott Downs pitches in the 10th as Howie Kendrick (who moved to first base in the 8th when Torii came in to the game) moves into position. I mentioned we were chatting about relievers with the Nationals fans? Well, Scott Downs is one of the few I never worry about. When I look over to the bullpen and see Downs warming up, with that distinctive haircut easily identifiable across the field, I breathe a sigh of relief. Yes, he has an off outing here and there, but by and large he comes in and gets it done and he has five wins for the season, as many as some teams’ starters, to prove it. Monday night and the rest of the Nationals series was no exception.
Brian Bixler stands on second flanked by second baseman Maicer Izturis and third baseman Alberto Callaspo. Bixler reached 2nd on an uncharacteristic fielding error by Maicer. There were an annoying number of Angels fielding errors this series actually, but we recovered from all of them to sweep. I hope the errors are more an indication of tiredness from the epic Four Corners Road Trip than anything more trend setting, shall we say.
Peter Bourjos takes a long lead off third. I think it is safe to say that Bourjos has worked through his slump at the plate. He went four for five on Monday with one RBI and was a crucial component of the 10th inning rally, knocking a ground rules double into the stands mere feet from my seat, that put Callaspo in scoring position for Maicer Izturis’ walk-off single. Yes, when that happened I tapped the young Nationals fan in front of us on the shoulder and informed him “Walk off.” Fair’s fair right? Acutally, everyone was laughing both over the “Blown Save” and the “Walk Off.”
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 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.
While the Angels grounds crew plows up the entire diamond for a series of U2 concerts and then puts everything back the way it was again, the Angels will spend two weeks circling the country in pursuit of truth, justice and the baseball way…Okay, really just in pursuit of a whole lot of Ws, but didn’t it sound more poetic the other way? Anyway back to the travel part. Affectionately – by which I mean sarcastically and with no small amount of annoyance – dubbed the Four Corners Trip by Mike Scioscia and crew, this road trip will take the Angels to the four corners of the continental United States, more or less. Once they conclude their current series in Seattle, the Angels will fly to New York to play the Mets, after which they will fly to Florida to play the Marlins and then right back home again to play the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. That’s a journey of just over 8,000 miles.
Now the length of the road trip does come courtesy of the U2 concert. But the craziness of the broad spectrum of destinations comes courtesy of Major League baseball. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to just fly out the East Coast and play more Eastern Division teams while the Angels were already out there than flying all over hell and gone? Perhaps they could have played the Yankees and the Rays on either side of the Interleague match-ups? Or maybe this would have been a better time to head for Boston or Baltimore. Heck, even stopping in Kansas City on the way out to the east coast, rather than having the Royals fly to California would have made more sense.
And this isn’t even the only crazy road trip the Angels have scheduled in 2011. In Oakland right after the All-Star break for three days, Monday off, just three days at home to play the Rangers and then out to Baltimore with no day off to play the Orioles before heading back home by way of Detroit to play the Twins in Anaheim, anyone? The Four Corners Trip is merely the craziest of the bunch.
I realize that every team has crazy schedule situations this season and if by some miracle a team escapes such oddities, don’t worry, MLB will get to you next year. I also realize that there is a certain amount of scheduling craziness inherent in being a Western Division team, where no two in-league opponents exist within the same 100 mile radius. Florida teams have a similar problem. And no amount of proper prior planning is going to completely fix that.
Angels Manager Mike Scioscia is one of the proponents of expanding the post season to include two wild card teams in each league. I myself am not a fan of the idea. However, Scioscia keeps talking about making the post season extension feasible without pushing play back out into November by scheduling the regular season more efficiently. Avoiding having so many bizarre road trip situations, like the one described above, which Scioscia said looked like Kindergarteners designed it, would allow MLB to shave off a few rest days here and there, shortening the regular season in a sane fashion without actually cutting out any games. If MLB makes an effort to take some of the stupid end of the crazy spectrum out of the away schedules, I would like that _so_ much that I might find it in my heart to tolerate additional wild card teams…eventually. Just no more of this 15 teams in both leagues realignment talk, okay. Now _that’s_crazy…not to mention contrary to having moved the Brewers to the National League in the first place.
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Two Ws in Seattle
However, as much as I am griping about the travel involved in the Four Corners trip, I have no complaints about the trip itself. So far the Angels are wearing it very well. They took two against Seattle including Jered Weavers’ complete game shutout this evening. Wins for Weaver and Dan Haren in the same spin through the rotation. Angels bats striking early and often, including multiple hits for Bobby Abreu and Howie Kendrick whose bats are on fire and two homeruns by Vernon Wells in Monday’s game. Spot on fielding. Heads up base running. A clutch bullpen. Oh yeah! Sure there are still a few things to work on, but keep it up boys. You’re playing like Angels!
And with those two wins, the Angels gain two games on Seattle, of course, but also one on Texas to whom those nice, helpful Yankee boys administered a beating this evening. Well, nice and helpful this evening anyway. What’s not to like?!
The Continuing Saga of Kaz
Scott Kazmir had yet another rough start in Salt Lake City this evening. He lasted 1.2 innings and is on the hook for six earned runs on five hits, three walks and one hit batsman. I don’t report this gleefully. I am sorry he hasn’t made any improvements at all and seems to be backsliding even further after such a solid career with the Rays. However this evening current Angels GM Tony Reagins and former Angels GM Bill Stoneman were in attendance at the Bees game, taking stock of Kaz’ performance. I expect we will hear a final decision soon. It’s more than time to stop prolonging the agony.
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.