May 2011

The Red Sox Game – We Finished It Right!

Back to back wins. Now that is the way to end our season match-ups against the Red Sox! Wednesday night was downright magical. I am used to watching the Angels east coast games on delay, so it was a nice treat for me, if not for the players, to hear that the game was just resuming from a 2 and a half hour rain delay as I was turning off the freeway from my evening commute. So we got to watch a full game’s worth of innings live – that game went late! Then today, to catch snippets of the game on the radio and know that my tired Angels were apparently a lot less tired that the Red Sox with Pawtucket reinforcements? Well, that was even better.

Coming home to watch losses on Monday and Tuesday was just a downer. I wasn’t particularly down on the Angels season prospects, mind you. Outside of games involving teams from Boston (and Kansas City) they’ve been playing really well this season. But getting pummeled is always a downer, especially when you know the outcome could have been different.

These last two games though? Wow! Heads up plays. Stellar pitching. Bats, bats and more bats! Hey, this visiting team on the field? They looked suspiciously like my Angels! Way to go guys! Way to recover. And, Mr. Vernon Wells, I am glad to see you get your swagger back, sir, and deservedly so. Seriously, another home run over the monster. A couple of great plays against the monster. And I love the way he runs the bases when he’s on a roll. Just when I think he was a little too daring, he reaches the bag standing up or with an unhurried slide just ahead of the ball. Of course, when I talk about base running, I have to mention Peter Bourjos, who recovered nicely from two bad games and lit up the basepaths – and, apparenlty, Kevin Youkilis! – with his speed.

Torii’s hitting again, warming up with the summer weather as predicted – even though it was cold and wet in Boston. Heck, everyone was hitting these last two games, including Bobby Abreu with the game winning hit among others, and Mark Trumbo with another shot over the monster. I have to give love to the bullpen too, which more than rose to the occasion. I am starting to love seeing Scott Downs and Rich Thompson striding out to the mound. And Trevor Bell was lights out, shutting Boston down for the last four innings Wednesday. And the fielding! Did anyone else see the play at the plate? Perfect throws from Wells and Aybar to Jeff Mathis at the plate who positioned his feet and body so perfectly, that he rolled Marco Scutaro with the tag and brought his sliding feet to a halt against Mathis’s own feet three inches shy of the plate. And the way, Mathis then popped up instantaneously to stare Youkilis down at second. Chills. I have a major soft spot for catchers, as I may have mentioned in this blog a time or ten, so this was my favorite play of the series – absolutely gorgeous to watch.

So, do I think this means the Angels are past their troubles with the Red Sox and can play them on even footing from now on? Would that I could say yes, but I think the weird, uneven rivalry goes back too far for that. However, this is a great start. It leaves the team in the right mood going into their next home stand and sets the proper tone for all future encounters with the dreaded Red Sox – who I was amused to hear serenading Youkilis with Biz Markie’s Just a Friend at every at bat. Now that’s man-crushing open and unrestrained, and quirky to boot, and I have to admire them for that, even as the incongruity of it all amused me to no end.

The Red Sox Game – We’re Doing It Wrong

My friends and I play a lot of board and card games. Anything silly, strategy heavy or, ideally, both is held in high regard. One of them, a card game called Munchkin, is both a send-up of and homage to role playing games, kung fu theatre, sci-fi, superheroes, Lovecraftian horror and a lot of the other stuff you love as a kid…okay, a lot of the other stuff I loved as a kid…or, you know, as an adult in a couple of those cases. ;) It’s an extremely silly game but also contains a fair bit of strategy. How longe do you collaborate with the other players to beat the monsters and steal their treasure? When do you start stabbing people in the back to win? Can you form alliances you can later betray? You know, great corporate world prep kind of stuff.

Hey Kristen, this is highly entertaining and all. Sounds like a fun game. But is there, oh I don’t know, a baseball tie-in in here somewhere? Yeah. Wait. I’m getting there.

Most of the cards that give you advantages in this game, will also give you a disadvantage in certain situations. For example, the boots of buttkicking card gives you a +3 against monsters because, one would assume, you could stomp on them more effectively, but will also give you a -1 if can’t kill the monster and have to “run away” because, well, they’re heavy.

Fascinating, Kristen. But is there like a +4 centerfielder lurking in here somewhere or a Mendoza line card (+5 defense/-2 offense) because, frankly, I’m not seeing any baseball tie-in. Quiet you. *clears throat* Ahem.

My point is this. For whatever reason, for the past two seasons, the Angels seem to have a -6 against the Red Sox. (Other seasons would certainly qualify as well, but we seemed to have turned the corner in 2009.) I’m not saying the Sox haven’t played good ball when our two teams met, because they have, in many cases excellent ball. It just that lately the Angels seem to slump no matter what and strange things happen. Our bats disappear. Players botch routine plays left and right – Peter Bourjos has had two errors this season. Both of them were dropped routine pop-ups while playing the Red Sox. The great bullpen adventure becomes more Frank Miller than Stan Lee. Most streaks, pitching, hitting or otherwise grind to a halt. It’s weird.

This season, the Angels have taken two out of three against the first place Indians, the Rangers when they were hotter than hot, the Blue Jays and, most recently, the hot and getting hotter Rays. So one would think that we would at least split our series with the Red Sox but, apparently it never works out that way. Come on guys, this is mental! Look at who you have beaten and look at how lights out you’ve been when you’ve played your best this season. Now, pull it together, back up Haren and give him some run support – no runners left behind! – and you can win this one and then turn around and do the same thing for Santana!

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As you probably deduced from the above or any number of news reports this evening, Jered Weaver’s undefeated streak came to an end, which was always going to happen eventually. As Dan Haren said in an interview after his loss, no one is going to finish the season at 27 and 0. He was recovering from a stomach virus during which he lost a reported 9 pounds – which really shows up on that lanky frame, 6’7″ or not – and had to spend some time in the hospital with an IV to restore fluids.

Suffice to say, he didn’t have his usual spark. His pitch counts were higher, things were just slightly off…and the really scary part is that he still could have won the game with a little more run support. And that’s not even addressing the crappy umpire call that lead to Pedroia being in a position to smack in the 2nd and 3rd of those runs and changed the game…of course, one of our runs benefitted from a less blatant bad call, so I can only complain so loudly *whistles*. What I’m saying here is, contrary to what some media folks are saying, the streak was not a fluke. Weaver is good and he is tough – and now we know just how tough! – and he will rack up more wins, as will the rest of the rotation who aren’t exactly chopped liver. Go Angels!

Surprise! Angels Lose. And Win!!

According to the wisdom of the post season ad campaigns, you can’t script October. While that is certainly true, I would argue that you really can’t script the other six months leading up to October either. It’s May 1st and the Indians have the best record in baseball while the Twins have the worst. ‘Nuff said. Any game has the potential to surprise and shock you, perhaps not as dramatically in the regular season as in the post season, but that potential is still there. This weekend’s Angels games were full of surprises for me, some pleasant, others groan worthy.

I didn’t expect Joel Pineiro to pitch such a strong game fresh off of the DL – seven innings with three strike outs, giving up only four hits and one walk, a nice surprise to say the least. Unfortunately, one of those hits was a Matt Joyce homerun and the Rays’ James Shields was pitching an even better game than Pineiro. With Shields dealing and the Angels unable to catch him in even one mistake for eight innings, I didn’t expect Torii to catch a piece of the ball in the 9th, or Howie to bring him home after the pitching change. With the exhilaration of tying the game up and getting through the bottom of the ninth unscathed, who could have imagined losing to a walk-off wild pitch in the tenth? Welcome back Joel! The guys really owe you run support next time and I tip my cap to Shields.

Cut to today when Angels fans tuned in to see ace Jered Weaver take on Alex Cobb, a 23-year old rookie right hander brought up from the minors just for the occasion, only to watch rookie vs. rookie instead as a nasty bout with the flu scratched Weaver’s start and Tyler Chatwood took the mound in his place. From there, nothing proceeded according to normal expectation. Chatwood actually lost his composure and took an entire inning to recover, giving up five runs in the process. Things looked grim in the first and I was really worried the Angels were going to give up, but with a Hank Conger solo homerun in the 2nd inning, they started to catch up instead.

Chatwood and the Bullpen kept the Rays from scoring again. Yes, our Bullen absolutely rocked! Rich Thompson had a great inning. Fernando Rodney nearly scared us to death by walking his first batter, but redeemed the walk and yesterday’s wild pitch when he helped with a tight double play and struck out the final batter. And I can tell I am going to adore Scott Downs. Calm and collected on the mound, he even calmed the infield down with jokes and a self deprecating smile after he accidentally turned a near certain double play into a single out and then returned to sitting batters down one by one.

The Angels’ bats were back and the team tied things up with help from Torii, Bobby Abreu, Mark Trumbo and others. But the best play of the game was one of those baseball surprises I live for. Homeruns are fun and all, but this chick digs cleverly manufactured runs. With one out in the 8th inning, Torii on third and Vernon Wells on first, Conger hit a hard line drive to second base for an unfortunate sure double play. Running on contact, Wells was within tagging distance of Ben Zobrist when he fielded the ball, but stopped just out of Zobrist’s reach. Wells then feinted toward first when Zobrist leaned in to tag him, drawing Zobrist and first baseman Casey Kotchman into a brief, unnecessary pickle during which they tagged first to get Conger out…and paid no attention to Torii who dashed home and scored. Wells was then tagged out in short order to end the inning, but the damage was done. The Rays did not score in the 8th and Jordan Walden shut everything down like clockwork in the 9th. After such a dreadful first inning, I was not expecting a lit halo but, yay! I certainly didn’t expect a televised game to have me yelling and cheering myself hoarse with the same unrestrained passion I might exhibit at the ball park either…and neither, I’m sure, did my neighbors. Sorry guys!

And there is even an unexpected silver lining to come out of Weaver’s scratched start. Through a quirk of scheduling, the Red Sox originally weren’t going to face Weaver this season…But now Weaver will start on Monday or Tuesday as his health permits. I have a feeling this series against the Sox will be very different from the last one Yay!!

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At the risk of sounding very Mother Hen-ish, did everyone see the information about the switch to WordPress this coming weekend on MLBlogosphere? It sounds like the changes are going to be fantastic! But we need to make sure we have an updated email address attached to our accounts and a couple of other things in preparation for the transition….oh, and be prepred for no blogging this weekend – The Horror! ;) Okay, maybe this is less Mother Hen, than a project management holdover from numerous system changes at a previous job.

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