Were you aware that, in addition to being MLB “berth” month, September is both National Wine Month and National Bourbon Month? Whether or not this is coincidence, I can’t help but feel it’s appropriate…unlike some of those other special monthly designations like National Collegiate Alcohol Awareness Month (thanks, but weren’t we all aware of alcohol in college, like extremely aware) and National Pork Month (I’m not entirely certain if this is more of a food thing or an offshoot of National Collegiate Alcohol Awareness thing but I was hesitant to see what the internets would tell me if I looked it up. You understand, I’m sure.) I can really get behind this September last month of baseball/alcohol appreciation tie-in thing. Suitable for comfort or celebrations, alcohol pairs wonderfully with all of your September needs. But I digress…
So, the Angels lost to the A’s and now have a big old E next to their name in the AL West, the last team to fall prey to the dreaded E, though time zone bias did play a role in that. After the loss to the Jays especially, I was expecting this eventually. I am even glad it happened early enough to avoid having to watch Texas celebrate on our infield when I go to the game on Monday, but that doesn’t mean I am happy about it in general, you understand. Even so, Friday night was a good night at the ballpark if for no other reason than aren’t they always?
Fresh off a start on three days’ rest, Jered Weaver was a little overly strong in the first inning, giving up a homerun to Jemile Weeks in the first at bat and hitting Josh Willingham before settling down for six scoreless innings. Really, with 3 runs, only two of them earned, on 6 hits and 0 walks with 8 strikeouts? Weaver pitched well enough to win.
The bullpen, shown here largely in goofier relaxed moments, was solid too with Rich Thompson coming in to record the last two outs in two batters in the 9th.
Sadly, Gio Gonzales was on and, as usual, largely incomprehensible to the Angels while our bats remained…Inert? Immobile? Stuck in customs? Whatever the reason, the team only cobbled together three hits while stranding 10 guys on base, only one of whom (outside of Torii’s solo homerun) actually made it all the way to third. You don’t win ballgames that way, especially against the A’s who, regardless of what their record says this season, can and will make a team pay for mistakes…mistakes like our boneheaded fielding error in the 8th, for example.*face palm*
I was disappointed with the loss to be sure, but accepted what was, at this point in the season, inevitable. I reminded myself that I had enjoyed a lot of the season, had enjoyed this evening out at the ballpark and that the Angels still had a small shot at clenching the wild card. And so I began to watch the final Friday Night Fireworks post game show of the season only somewhat deflated. And I was fine. Really adult about all of it. It’s only baseball, right? …right up until the bouncy Beach Boys soundtrack ended and the next wave of beautiful fireworks launched to the tune of Train’s Calling All Angels. Then the distinct explosions of glittering color blurred into an impressionist knock off of blue and red swirled with green, purple and yellow as tears welled up in my eyes and began to roll down my cheeks.
I am not proud of this fact. I am 35 years old and this was a baseball season, one of many near playoff misses I have witnessed in my lifetime. But…there was a wonderful quote that prefaced the broadcast of the 2010 All Star Game in Anaheim. I have searched and searched today, trying to find the exact quote, but the Interwebs have failed me. The gist of the quote is that baseball is a child’s game and when we watch the game we do so through a child’s eyes and with a child’s glee and so, for the span of a game, can remember however briefly the wonder and innocence of being a child. Baseball always fills me with a child’s excitement and glee, so looking back on last night I think it’s only appropriate that, for a few moments, it filled me with a child’s disappointment, raw and unencumbered by any need to put on a brave face and act the adult.
Ten minutes later and on into today, I have prospective and am back to disappointed but not crushed. Still, for those of us who do embody the quote I can’t find when around this pastime we adore, I think it’s important to embrace and acknowledge this side of ourselves. Even if it means admitting that all too often there absolutely is crying in baseball, this is also the side that allows us to experience unrestrained and darned near unreasonable joy over the feats of 25 men we don’t know on a field of grass, clay and chalk. The side of us that allows us to, for example, cheer again the very next day after a division elimination while we return to torturing ourselves with Wild Card elimination number math. I think it’s the child side balanced with the adult that allows me to laugh when I am happy and search for reasons to laugh even harder when I am disappointed or upset. To that end, I give you the rest of the photos I have selected from the game, all photos that made me laugh for one reason or another:
And, hey, good news this evening! A stronger Angels performance earned a victory while the Red Sox lost to the Yankees…and the Rays won too but what can you do? The Angels also announced their team awards. Congratulations to Jered Weaver for winning the Nick Adenhart Pitcher of the Year award and to Mark Trumbo for the team M.V.P. award – neither a surprise and both extremely well deserved!! So, onward to the last four games of the season and hopefully the last four wins of the season. I am all for the Angels finishing the season as strong as they can whether that means a miracle Wild Card Playoff berth or just a final record that’s that much better.
My husband just got a new job!! Lacking the ability to set off fireworks from my blog, execute a Nastia Liukin worthy tumbling run of joyous flips and whipbacks, or hire John Williams to compose an appropriately uplifting and celebratory musical score just for the occasion, I don’t think I can adequately explain the magnitude of our happiness over this news…so that extra exclamation point will have to suffice. He has a little bit of time in between jobs so to celebrate we headed up the coast for a long weekend at my inlaws’ place in Cambria.
However, just because I decided to take the weekend off from watching baseball games does not mean the Angels were supposed take the weekend off from playing them. Oh yes boys, I may not have been watching, so I missed all of the hit batsmen and other drama and will have to catch up when I return, but I saw those scores and can I just say? Yuck. Ouch. And what the hell was that?! And against a last place team too! Yes, this is baseball and in any given season the underdog pulls through a reasonable number of times but the fact remains that these are games the Angels needed to win. Good thing I am weekending in the land of relaxing views and copious amounts of wine!
Then on Sunday *poof* as if by magic, the bats reappeared (Hel-lo Erick Aybar!), as did the gloves and the arms. The pitching settled down. Our ace took the mound on short rest and, without the Texas heat compounding things, gave the team just what it needed. And ‘lo and behold we had ourselves a contending baseball team that actually played like one.
…which does , of course, raise the question, are the Angels still contending? After this weekend’s performance, salvaged on Sunday or not, do they still have a chance in Hell of making the playoffs? That’s a tough question…
I have a fantastic recipe for a chocolate mousse pie. It’s a deceptively simple recipe, just good bittersweet chocolate, butter, eggs, sugar and cream with splashes of vanilla and dark rum. The secret to the mousse is all technique and chemistry, so external factors like the weather or the temperature of the kitchen can ruin it all too easily. If something goes wrong and the chocolate in the ganache at the base of the mousse begins to seize, all you can do is whisk it for all you’re worth and hope you can get the whipped cream to blend in to make mousse. At this point, failure is almost certain and, chances are, all you will be left with is a sore arm and a lump of chocolate the consistency of greasy play dough sitting in a pool of thinning whipped cream. But every now and then, luck and just quick enough thinking are on your side, and everything whisks into a perfect suspension of chocolate in whipped cream awaiting only the addition of the meringue.
Honestly, I think this is where the Angels are right now. Whisking and hoping. They did a lot of damage this weekend and with only 10 games left in the season…I just don’t know. With Weaver pitching on short rest, we have our best possible pitchers lined up for the final series against Texas but more stars have to align on the way to that series for it to matter. We are 4.5 games out of first. It’s not just a matter of the Angels needing to win at this point, Texas needs to lose. A lot. But I haven’t thrown my cap – yes, the “ugly” one 😉 – down in disgust and given up yet. Any chance, no matter how small, is worth rooting for.
So, boys, for this next series against Toronto, did you remember to pack your bats? Gloves? Arms? Clutch? Drive? Best pitching performances? Fantastic! I trust you made a list and checked everything off just to be sure? Wonderful. Hopefully you rearranged your bags so you could bring all of this on as carryon luggage this time. We don’t need those bats or gloves to get lost at the airport again like they apparently did in Baltimore, now do we?
- From a baseball standpoint, Saturday and Sunday were as heartening as Friday was disappointing. Outside of baseball, the whole weekend rocked. I didn’t bring a single project home from work this weekend. Go team, me! Okay, I work from home for half the week so, technically, I didn’t bring a single project out of my computer bag for the weekend, but you get the general idea.
- Jered Weaver, fresh off the plane from his grandfather’s funeral in Oregon (My sincere condolences on your loss. Losing a grandparent is extremely difficult and the bruise on your heart may fade, but never leaves.) worked his heart out on the mound for five innings on Saturday but his control was, understandably, far from his usual precision. It was a thing of beauty to see the rest of the team, offense, defense and bullpen alike, pick him up and get Jered the win. It was an ugly win to be sure, but the guy’s had so many pretty losses that he more than deserved this.
- Food Truck Wars alumni Nom Nom Truck, Grill ‘Em All and the Grilled Cheese Truck too? Believe the hype, they really are worth spending 45 minutes in line. They fact that in doing so we also contributed to a fundraiser for the local high school band? Pretty cool way to kill a Saturday afternoon.
- Joel Pineiro looked amazingly like…well…Joel Pineiro on Sunday and I cannot tell you how gratifying it was to see that. My hat’s off to him for working his way through his troubles with such a good attitude and I hope this is a sign that his rough times are over.
- Holy Angels offense, Batman! Torii and Aybar and Trumbombs. Oh. My! Not to mention hard, clutch knocks from Bourjos, Callaspo, Conger and Wells! Keep it up, gentlemen. This is how we win ballgames.
- With 25 homeruns to his name, Mark Trumbo is getting closer to matching and perhaps surpassing Tim Salmon’s franchise rookie homerun record of 31 from 1993. Whether or not he gets there, that’s pretty darned slick. Go Trumbo!
- As distasteful as it was, I actually rooted for the Red Sox this weekend…which is probably why they lost. Stinky Red Sox. Hmmm. Do you think they know that my love was merely a matter of temporary convenience? *nods* It’s the only rational explanation. 😉
- While my husband tends to see the Aybar as half Gilligan (serious props to True Grich for the all too often spot-on nickname), I tend to see the Aybar as half highlight reel. But there’s no denying he could go either way in a given game. Flip a coin.
- Midnight Vineyards Malbec is an excellent tater tots wine…yeah, I cracked up typing that too, hear me out. Inspired by our food truck adventures, we made gourmet burgers on Sunday, topped with blue cheese, mounds of sautéed mushrooms and a veritable tossed salad of baby greens, red onions and balsamic vinaigrette. We paired it with tater tots accompanied by curry ketchup and siricha ketchup dipping sauces. So this was a wine worthy meal…that also happened to prove the truth of the initial statement.
- I’m going to the game on Monday! It’s the perfect way to cap off the last weekend of summer. And I wound up getting field box seats so cheaply, I’m almost embarrassed. Thanks guys, but this better just be just a holiday weekend vacation thing, because although my last post is still true and this will take work and luck, we’re still in this!
Do you ever have one of those days where odd things seem to parallel your mood or activities? You think of a song and change the station on the radio only to find that song? Or a coworker randomly starts the same conversation you just had that morning with your mom? Does this ever seem to happen with the baseball team you follow? Saturday, was my husband’s birthday “observed” – as opposed to Tuesday, his actual birthday, when we have tickets for the company seats at the Big A, whoo hoo! We hosted a pizza party/game night in his honor, so I knew that, between the prep, the party and the clean-up, I wasn’t going be able to pay as much attention to the Angels play as I would like to. Little did I know the Angels themselves wouldn’t be paying much attention to their play this weekend. Yikes!
The baseball/life parallel was a beautiful thing on Friday night. We cleaned the house and I baked a dark chocolate cake. Making this cake is as much about technique as it is about the recipe. If you cream the butter and sugar long enough and take a sufficiently light, careful hand with the folding, you have an almost ethereally light, fluffy cake. Fold too quickly or too long, or outright mix the batter, and you develop the glutens to the point where you basically have bread. A nice calm no doubter of a game was just what the doctor ordered.
Melt the chocolate, blend, combine. Vernon Wells hits a homerun. Dry ingredients, buttermilk, whipped egg whites, gently fold. Ervin Santana going strong. Back until the cake is springy to the touch. Double play to finish the game. Howie to Aybar to Tumbo. Light that baby up. And now let’s finish mopping the floor. Excellent. Great Friday! And can I just say that between their humorous sign campaign response to the sign stealing accusations and their classy welcome for Vernon Wells, I love Blue Jays fans!
Saturday, however, the whole baseball/life parallel thing started to suck. Big time. Yes, I needed to chop and prep all of the pizza toppings. Yes, I needed to make the double vanilla, cream cheese icing for the cake and that involves whipping thick ingredients. Yes, Seth had to work so I was on my own and frustrations from the game lead me to chop and whip with greater…hmmm…shall we say efficiency. But come on Angels, I didn’t need that kind of help! I’m strong lady. I can chop onions, mushrooms, garlic and the like in a good mood, would have preferred to in fact.
I was concerned about this particular Jered Weaver start heading into the game anyway. He doesn’t pitch as well when circumstances muck up the rotation. Just like in May, when illness delayed his start, Weaver seemed to come back throwing too hard and with less control after his extra rest. And for a guy who lives by pinpoint precision against a hot hitting Blue Jays team on yet another day where the Angels own bats stood still? My recipes were on the right track. This recipe, however, was one for disaster. And Pineiro’s two innings on top of it all? Ouch. Clearly he’s not working anything out in the bullpen. Is he injured? Is it psychological? Would Dave Duncan consent to maybe call and whisper to him over the phone? I got nothin’. But then I had the birthday party and a house full of people, wine to pour, pizzas on the grill and a really great time, all perfect distractions from any thoughts of Angels.
So, Sunday this would have to end right? We capped off a thoroughly decadent late night with a thoroughly decadent morning – sleeping in until first pitch and then lounging on the sofa to watch a good match up with a breakfast of leftover prosciutto pizza with blue cheese, apples and caramelized onions. And the beginning was great. Torii Hunter’s homerun. Dan Haren was dealing. Peter Bourjos smokin’ down the base paths. But it was not to be. After the game I could see one more parallel. I had a really happy Saturday night, and I was feeling it Sunday morning to a certain extent, hence the lounging. But some of the Angels and Mike Scioscia, love him though I do, must have had an even happier Saturday night. How else do you explain Bobby and Trumbo’s base running in the 9th? Or Scioscia’s decision to go to Fernando Rodney in the 10th?
The parallels, however, have to end now. See, Seth and I are going to be enjoying pizza, cake and other party leftovers easily until Thursday, but the Angels better not be keeping too many leftovers from their weekend. Torii’s hitting streak. Bobby’s reemerging bat. The fielding perhaps. The fact that Jered Weaver is such a stud, that even after giving up eight runs in less than five innings on Saturday, he still has the lowest E.R.A. and the third lowest WHIP in the majors. These are good leftovers to keep. But the lack of clutch, the inconsistent bats and the scary bullpen moments? Leave them on the road. The Rangers are coming to town for a four game series and with this disastrous road trip the Angels are four games behind them. This isn’t the last stand of the season right here, right now but it sure is time to get serious about winning again.
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.
Well, if the Angels had to lose two close games to the Yankees, at least it happened while I was out of town. It’s so much easier to stay detached you only check in with one of the games on your phone from time to time. You’re a lot less invested and barely notice all of the runners stranded in scoring position when you’re merely regaling your husband with your own rendition of the game day play by play ob the way back down the coast.
Seriously, when you can’t watch the game on TV, or hear your announcers’ commentary on the radio, you really only notice the good stuff – Bobby’s hitting streak, Trumbo’s homerun, Fleet Pete doing his thing, the fact that Howie’s back. All of the bad stuff – the missed scoring opportunities, the botched plays, the Yankees homeruns – barely even registers. …You know, except for the part where I’m totally lying. April or September, squeaker or blow out, glued to the action before you on the field from the first pitch or just catching the score the next morning, losses always sting…especially when they seem to be coming in streaks.
It’s a marathon not a sprint. It’s only June. It’s just two losses. And all of the other clichés which, of course, are clichés for a reason. Yes, we’re only four games out of first and it’s just the beginning of June. Anything is still possible and I believe that this team can turn things around but it’s disheartening to be back under .500 on June 5th…and to have the AL West standings finally spread out by more than two games and be in third place and four games out. Absolutely fixable, but completely frustrating even so.
Anyway. Me? Out of town again? So soon? Well, that at least that’s more fun to write about than griping about the Angels. This weekend is the reason I was not going to go up to the wine festival last weekend until the Am Gen Tour was coming through and I decided that practicality and responsibility are really terribly overrated concepts. So this weekend, we were back up in Paso Robles for the Seafood and Sangria Summer Kickoff Party at Rio Seco, the baseball winery.
It was pouring rain for much of the weekend so the summer kickoff took place indoors, but the evening was a lot of fun. The Hinkle family were gracious hosts as always. This was a mostly locals crowd but they made sure we felt right at home – the older daughter who we usually chat with in the tasting room even asked how the Angels were doing. They remember their baseball and baseball fans here. The food was excellent. I now have several great ideas for sangria later in the summer, including one with the MVP reserve, apples and berries. More please! And the party favors were half cases of wine – the Grand Slam Cab/Syrah blend no less, ensuring that the party will continue at several Friday Gourmet, Wine and Angels evenings at our house later this summer. We had a nice time hearing some of the local gossip and all about the Giants – central coast California is absolutely not Angels country. They’re disappointed about Buster Posey but not exactly calling for Scott Cousins’ head or any rule changes in Paso Robles. Bruce Bochy take note…and a lesson or four.
A spectacular, improbable come from behind win. A heartbreaking extra innings loss following a brilliant pitching performance by Jered Weaver. Dan Haren’s luck finally changed as the offense rallied to his support early and often. What a weekend! And that’s just the baseball part. So, what was the best part of my weekend?
Peter Bourjos’ amazing catches? Whether we’re talking about the catch on Friday or any of the others this weekend, Bourjos was a human highlight reel. And he wasn’t too shabby at the plate either. (I’m ignoring the hot potato incident with Torii Hunter in right field as a one-time only thing, unless proven wrong.)
The fact that the offense came out to play in two out of three games? Erick Aybar, Torii Hunter, Alberto Callaspo, Bobby Abreu and Mark Trumbo, I applaud you! Now, how about the offense coming out to play for three out of three games in Kansas City? The Angels need to redeem themselves in KC this week.
The exciting come from behind win on Friday night? By the way, arent the Twins supposed to be a last place team? Because they sure weren’t playing like it this weekend. They were a very good team this weekend. The Angels seem to bring that out in other teams. Um…thanks??
Jered Weaver’s nine lights out, two-hit, shutout innings? All that and no W? Very sad and very frustrating for Weaver, I’m sure. But that doesn’t make the feat any less fantastic.
The game night (of the board and card variety) we hosted on Saturday? That’s right, we decided to be social at the expense of some of the ballgame. Me, a few of my favorite smart asses in the whole wide world, a moderately epic quantity of wine, good food and games, games and more games until the wee hours of the morning. It was just what the doctor ordered for some much need stress relief.
Kicking some strategy game ass on Saturday? Yes gentlemen, I may have consumed more wine than you but don’t think that means I will wale on you any less. *evil laugh*
Turning the TV off on Saturday, because we had non-baseball friends over, when Jered Weaver was mid-gem, before the traumatically disappointing end? In hindsight at least, this is a good thing.
Dan Haren finally getting a much deserved 5th win? It’s funny. Haren has joked in interviews that after losing a few games where he pitched lights out, his next win would probably be a less than stellar performance with full run support…and that is exactly what happened. I don’t care, Haren’s a little off is better than a lot of pitchers on and the man was due.
Mark Trumbo’s homerun into the upper deck? And this was on an inside pitch where he couldn’t extend his arms!
The Bullpen? Well, on Friday and Sunday at least. Yes, Walden let things get a little more exciting than necessary Sunday but he pulled it off. They all did. They came to the mound for their inning or part of an inning and got it done.
Hitting the bike trail with my husband after the ballgame on Sunday? It was only a 6 and a half mile ride in and around Santa Fe Dam. I might even have said pathetic once. But it’s been two years since I was last able to ride my bike and bike riding was pretty high up on the list of things my knee might never quite be up to again, so I’m going to go with Bravo! …and thank you reformer Pilates.
The weekend’s not over yet because we both have Monday off, the game starts at 1:30 and there is still the possibility of many of these things happening all over again?
Yeah, these are all great things, but I’m going to go with that last one!