A Tale of Two Wins – Angels vs. Blue Jays

I’ll spare you the unnecessary Dickens parody. Suffice to say this weekend’s games against the Blue Jays were two very different wins for the Angels, one ugly but ultimately effective and the other, as pretty a pitching clinic as one could ask for.

Saturday’s game was quite the weird one. When I spoke longingly of single admission double headers a post or two ago, this is not quite what I had in mind. Matt Palmer had a rough start and wasn’t quite able to complete five innings. This is a shame. I really wanted to see him prove himself. Then we proceeded to work through all seven pitchers in the bullpen with mixed results before Dan Haren – yes, that Dan Haren, from the starting rotation – finished the game and earned the win in the 14th inning. Can I just say, this is why I adore Dan Haren. He’s old school, stepping in to do whatever the team needs when the team needs it. I believe he would still make his start tomorrow if the team let him…and I wish they would. Early pitching woes aside, this game was a great battle of the bats for four innings – we were up, then the Jays and so on. Then the runs dried up and hijinks ensued for the remaining ten innings as bad base running, walked batters, butterfingered position players, outright errors and stranded runners abounded on both sides.

There were good plays too, successful pick offs from Jeff Mathis and Rich Thompson, an out at home plate, etc… But the weird overshadowed the good in my opinion and I do not share the announcers’ enthusiasm for the bullpen’s performance in this game. Yes, they were troopers and prevented runs from scoring for 10 innings, which is no slouch, but they did it with too many walks, too many instances of bases loaded and too many innings that barely ended in disaster. They pulled it off, which is an improvement, but they way they pulled it off makes me question their ability to pull holds and saves off in the future. In the end, the Angels prevailed because of a, shall we say, questionable yet favorable runner’s interference call that prevented the Jays from scoring in the 13th, two timely hits in the 14th and the fact the Peter Bourjos is lightening fast. Bourjos hit a two-out double and Maicer Izturis brought him home with single. But it was Bourjos’ amazing speed, beating out Juan Bautista’s strong, quick throw to the plate by centimeters that really won the game. There is a reason this play was number 9 on MLB’s plays of the week this evening.

Sunday’s game, on the other hand, was fantastic. Jered Weaver pitched a gem of a start, beating his own single game strikeout record of 12 Ks with 15 Ks in seven and 2/3rds innings. He even managed a pickoff at first base, unusual for Weaver whose long limbs and cross body delivery don’t always lend themselves to catching the runner off the bag. It was truly a commanding performance all around and just what the bullpen, completely wiped out from the previous evening’s 14 inning marathon game, needed. Hisanori Takehashi came in to get the crucial last out in the 8th inning and Fernando Rodney, closer by default based on the number of pitches he and the other bullpen pitchers threw yesterday, looked like a closer today: three batters, 12 pitches, three outs and done. I am loathe to trust him again, but must give credit where credit is due. He looked good today. Unlike so many of Weaver’s starts last season, he had run support this game, including a Peter Bourjos two RBI triple in the 4th inning. I actually think that for most batters, this would only have been a double and that Mark Trumbo might have stuck around at third if Bourjos wasn’t on the verge of lapping him, so once again Fleet Pete makes quite the impact.

Any Angels win is a good day in my book, but I really hope to see more like Sunday’s this season than Saturday’s if at all possible. Of course, if winning this season winds up meaning a lot of 14th inning stretches, I’d rather sing extra Take Me Out to the Ballgames than the alternative. Saturday’s abuse of the bullpen (Of? By? Little of column A, little of column B?) has already had a huge impact on the 25-man roster. The Angels optioned Michael Kohn and Kevin Jepson down to the Salt Lake City Bees, activated Scott Downs from the DL and brought youngster Tyler Chatwood up from the Bees. The 22-year old Chatwood, another one of the local prospects the Angels like to recruit, is supposed to get his first major league start against the Indians on Monday in order to give Haren an extra day’s rest. I am interested to see how this turns out. I saw flashes of brilliance in Chatwood during Spring Training but also the need for a lot more work. Of course, this means I will get see Haren, one of my two favorite pitchers, start on Tuesday when Seth and I have tickets to the game again…assuming the Angels can wrap up Monday in a mere nine innings and he doesn’t close again, of course. ;)

8 Comments

It’s still early, so games like Saturday are going to happen. With Weaver on the mound, games like Sunday will happen, too, hopefully more than not. He’s a special pitcher. I love the Bees, by the way.
–Mike
http://burrilltalksbaseball.mlblogs.com

I think I’m getting a man-crush on Weaver. There was a time (the 2006 playoffs) where I had one on his brother too, but Jered is much, much more talented. And, as they say, a win’s a win’s a win. I’d like for my team to get one of those.
–Jeff
http://redstatebluestate.mlblogs.com/

Gotta agree, a win’s a win, no matter what it looks like. :-) Though of course I’m sure everyone would prefer good, crisp play, but no matter…

Have fun at the game tonight!

Sue
Rants, Raves, and Random Thoughts

Mike – Yeah, Weaver is one of my favorite pitchers…in case you couldn’t tell. One of these days, we’re going to get to a Bees game. I think it would be a lot of fun.
Jeff – Weaver is certainly very man-crushable – talent, clutch and old school bulldoggish-ness. What’s not to like? Now when his brother was good, he was very good indeed, but Jeff Weaver’s talent just seemed to burn out all of the sudden. The Cards will start winning. It’s still early April.
Sue – Very true, and I will take all wins I can get which is good because historically So Cal teams tend to excel at the ugly kind, LOL. Thanks, I will!
– Kristen

Watched the last four innings of the game tonight…..Haren was masterful. Guy was throwing first pitch breaking balls for strikes time and again. It’s hard for any hitter to beat that, and when they do hit it….T Hunter runs deep into the gap and makes a leaping catch at the wall. Your team looks real good.
http://wrigleyregular.mlblogs.com/

Watched the last four innings of the game tonight…..Haren was masterful. Guy was throwing first pitch breaking balls for strikes time and again. It’s hard for any hitter to beat that, and when they do hit it….T Hunter runs deep into the gap and makes a leaping catch at the wall. Your team looks real good.
http://wrigleyregular.mlblogs.com/

Weaver has always been *that* starter for the Angels. The one Scioscia can rely on to take a series or pull the team of of a slump. He hasn’t been fool proof over the years, but when Weaver is
“on,” I’d rather not be rooting against him.

- Randy
http://heirloom.mlblogs.com

Russel – Wasn’t he amazing! This was one of the best games I have even attended. Haren was beyond lights out and then, yeah, Torii, what a fantastic catch! We were standing up and cheering practically the whole game.
Randy – You always have such a wonderful way with words! And this season with Weaver and Haren the rotation is really something special…well, until we pass Santana and then we’re praying for a heck of a lot of rain, or at least guys to heal up and get off the DL.
– Kristen

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