Results tagged ‘ Dan Haren ’

Royally Flushed…and Yet, Still Not My Grandfather’s Angels

What a difference a few days makes. Shutout by the Royals on Wednesday and shutout for seven of nine innings on Tuesday. Blast and damn. < broken record > The Angels hit in both games, just not with runners in scoring position. </ broken record > Heck, we even managed to load up the bases twice today, once with no outs, and have no runs to show for it. No, Scott Downs should not have given up the homerun today and Joel Pineiro should not have given up five in the third yesterday. But the offense needs to stop putting our starters and relievers in a position where they have three or less, often less, runs to work with, especially when we can and have done much better.   

Six runs on Sunday, ten on Monday, three on Tuesday and none today. I really don’t want to have to come up with a “Tanana and Ryan, then two days of cryin’” like slogan for the 2011 offense, thank you very much, but that’s certainly the way things looked in May. Okay, now </ broken record >. 

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Tanana and Ryan, then two days of cryin’. This, of course, was the Angels own special version of the more famous “Spahn, then Sain, then pray for rain.” from back in the days when Frank Tanana and Nolan Ryan lead the Angels four-man starting rotation. I can’t remember if I learned that one from life-long Angels fan grandfather or from any number of trivia and history books I devoured as a young lass. Either way, the Angels pre-game shows and Angels weekly continue to air snippets from the 50th Anniversary celebration documentary and are currently in the middle of the Tanana/Ryan era and I can’t help but think of my grandfather. 

I’ve written of my grandfather’s Angels fandom on this blog before and of my own upbringing rooting for the Dodgers – and don’t think there wasn’t a small, or perhaps not so small, amount of youthful rebellion in my father choosing to root for the Dodgers over his father’s Angels…well, youthful rebellion and maybe Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale had a little bit to do with it too. Grandpa passed away a few years after the Dodgers won the Series in 1988, so he never saw my conversion to Angels fandom, though I bet he’d have been tickled by it. 

If I close my eyes I can still hear the particular sound of the radio playing the baseball game on the floor next to Grandpa’s armchair in the dining room, punctuated with short bursts of an announcer’s voice growing excited over a play; an announcer’s voice that was both less melodic and more enthusiastic than that of Vin Scully, with whom I was more familiar. And I can hear the occasional sounds of my grandfather’s hand slapping the arm of his chair softly in approval as he kept one ear on the game throughout our visits. 

It’s funny what you remember and funnier still what you inherit from family. The hand slap of approval, for example? My father does the same thing. I remember distinctly from childhood, on the few Sundays my Dad took time to watch a game, being able to tell you from pretty much any room in the house if the Dodgers, or USC or anyone playing Notre Dame was doing well by the deep, happy sounding thump of his hand against the coffee table or the arm of his chair. One. Two. Three. And then continuing louder and more insistent, like fans slapping the backs of seats at a game, if the action on the TV screen continued, eventually resulting in a whoop of joy and a resonant “All right!” 

My father’s approval slap is significantly louder than Grandpa’s was. I think this has less to do with any difference in enthusiasm than it does with an understanding that slapping the chair arm too loudly in my grandparents’ house probably would have violated my grandmother’s sense of decorum with company over, even family company, and resulted in the radio’s banishment to the workshop in the garage. Much to my everlasting amusement, during a particularly good Angels game last season – hush you, there were a few – I paused mid cheer because I was suddenly overcome with these memories of Grandpa, Dad  and baseball and couldn’t think why…until I noticed my own right hand, poised to continue slapping the coffee table with enthusiasm. I don’t know when I started doing that. It was completely unconscious on my part. But it makes me smile to think that I have my mother’s laugh and my father’s – and his father’s – cheer. 

And all of this remembering and recounting helps remind me that these 2011 Angels, frustrating though a few things have been this season, are not my grandfather’s Angels in the best possible way. It would have surprised and thrilled him to no end to root for a team that could smooth over some rough edges and contend, let alone one with such talent – five quality starters, a bullpen that can get the job done, gold glove winners in the outfield, and a bumper crop of talented rookies. Okay, he would have seen flickers of recognition in the lack of power displayed by the lineup thus far and the occasional wilder exploits of the bullpen, but only flickers. It’s June and these Angels are only two games out of first. 

Perspective achieved. Rest up today guys and enjoy some home cooking, or whatever gets you ready to hit and play a great game. The Yankees are coming to town and we’ve got Weaver on the mound on Friday and Howie Kendrick returning to the lineup. Time to go win some ballgames!

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My fingers are crossed for Dan Haren! More blah Angels luck this week – he experienced a “tweak in his back” during Wednesday’s bullpen session significant enough to fall down. He will be evaluated tomorrow in order to determine if he will make his scheduled start on Saturday. If he has to sit the start out, this will be the first scheduled start Haren has ever missed…ever, as in entire career. He’s old school like that, one of the reasons I like him and love having him on the team so much. I want Haren to maintain his streak because I want this to be nothing and him to remain in top condition. But if this isn’t nothing, please, please, sit out a start or two to prevent worse issues down the line.

Angels take 2 out of 3 in Minnesota + Memorial Weekend Highlights

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.

Jered Weaver, Jeff Mathis and Dan Haren share a lighter moment during the 5/25 home game vs. the A's. before the ups and downs of the Twins series. I just thought this was a funny/cute photo. Photo by This is a very simple game...

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.

The northern view from the Santa Fe Dam portion of the San Gabriel River Trail. I figured I would share an atypical view of L.A. county from my bike ride. Photo by This is a very simple game...

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!

Wrapping up the A’s Series with a Photo Finish

 I suppose I should add an addendum to my Support Your Starting Pitchers plea from the other day. Run support that doesn’t materialize until the 9th inning a) typically does not qualify as supporting your starting pitcher, though I do applaud giving plenty of love to the bullpen too and, b) only really counts if you can actually pull off the win at that point. Scoring early and often is the better way to go – it supports the whole pitching staff equally. I know, I know. If only it were that easy! 

So, Thursday. Ugh. What to say? Brett Anderson was on. The Angels’ bats were off. Joel Pineiro didn’t have his greatest start. And the A’s bats were on. It wasn’t a terrible game, but it was hardly a recipe for a win. And so we split the series with the A’s, Texas and Seattle did similar things with the ends of their week and less than two games separated the last place team from the first place team in the division heading into Friday’s games. And that’s just the way it is in the Wild, Wild AL West this season – a little frustrating and very, very exciting! Praise the Angels and pass the defibrillator. 

And because I didn’t like Thursday’s game and I’m not liking this evening’s game much at all so far – which we are watching on delay so Seth can see every pitch too per the Friday Night Ritual – Let’s take a step back to Wednesday’s game. I was there. It rocked! Games like Thursday where things are okay but just not quite good enough are going to happen a fair number of times in a season. Here’s hoping that the Angels can play more like they did on Wednesday for the rest of this road trip! 

So, Wednesday Ervin Santana was his controlled, nasty best – six strike outs and only one earned run (with six hits and two walks so many thanks to the Angels stellar defense too!)… 

Ervin Santana was definitely on against the A's. Photo by This is a very simple game...

…Which means that a lot of A’s batters looked like Daric Barton here, looking back almost confused as the umpire prepares to call a strike: 

Daric Barton at the plate with Hank Conger catching. Photo by This is a very simple game…(Seth)

…Here Josh Willingham finds himself in similar straights: 

Josh Willingham at the plate with Hank Conger catching. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Of course, Willingham did walk that at-bat and then successfully stole second base, but it was a close play – short stop Erick Aybar waits for Hank Conger’s throwdown:

Josh Willingham steals second while Erick Aybar waits for the throwdown. Photo by This is a very simple game...(Seth)

Our seats were front row of the upper deck again but only a section behind 1st base this time, so I could see into the Angels dugout which was fun for a change. I didn’t take too many pictures of that. I prefer to watch the game, but I did like this one – Jered Weaver and Dan Haren obviously sharing a joke about something, with Tyler Chatwood intent on the game beside them. Perhaps they are saying “Wow, run support. I thought that was only a myth.”:

Jered Weaver, Dan Haren and Tyler Chatwood hang out in the dugout. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Of course, this means our seats were right above the A’s dugout. I like this one too because it makes one wonder what they’re talking about. “Hey, Coco. How far did Torii hit that ball?” “It went far Andy. All the way over there.”:

Kevin Kouzmaniff, Andy LaRoche, Coco Crisp and Daric Barton in the dugout. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Mark Trumbo dives back to first to avoid the tag from Daric Barton. I’m of two minds about the recent acquisition of Russel Branyan and Trumbo is the reason. On the plus side, Branyan fits in well with the team and could be a nice big bat in our lineup – though based on his batting average it does seem as if he hits homeruns or nothing at all. And he’s cheap, so if he doesn’t work out we can easily release him. But I don’t want to see Trumbo get any less playing time. He’s slumping a little bit at the plate at the moment, but he’ll heat up again and I really, really like his reflexes, glove and intelligence at first:

Mark Trumbo avoids the tag from Daric Barton. Photo by This is a very simple game....

This game also saw scrappy utility player Reggie Willits get his first hit for the season (two swings after this one) and a crucial early sacrifice bunt as well. Reggie spent most of Spring Training and part of April on the DL for hamstring issues and has taken awhile to get back into the swing of things…so to speak. Peter Bourjos, in the on deck circle behind Reggie, also snapped a hitless streak Wednesday: 

Reggie Willits at bat with Landon Powell catching and Peter Bourjos on deck. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Rookie Alexi Amarista takes a nice swing. Playing second for the evening, Amarista had a heck of a game too. He went two for three at the plate and his uniform is quite clay covered in this photo from diving all over the field playing a very acrobatic human ball trap all night – yet another Angels rookie I am thrilled to have on the team this season. I wish I had photos of his diving catches at second:

Alexi Amarista at bat with Landon Powell catching. Photo by This is a very simple game....

Jordan Walden and Rich Thompson warm up in the bullpen. Hats off to the bullpen this game! Scott Downs had another great outing. I love having him on the team this season and am instantly reassured when I hear 8 Second Ride start to play and know he’ striding up to the mound. Rodney also had a nice outing. Apparently the key is to start warming up another reliever the second he walks someone:

Jordan Walden and Rich Thompson warm up in the bullpen. Photo by This is a very simple game....

Jordan Walden on the mound. Believe it or not, this was the first time I have seen Walden pitch live. For better or worse depending on the game, I have not been present for any save situations this season. Very, very impressive! Walden changed his walk-up music for this homestand. He used to emerge from the bullpen to the classic guitar riff from Smoke on the Water now it’s Robb Zombie’s Dragula. I love Deep Purple, but I have to say I approve. Robb Zombie is a little more bad ass, which is what this young closer is rapidly becoming:

Jordan Walden on the mound. Photo by This is a very simple game...

I don’t have any good Torii Hunter photos from the game itself, which is a shame because he had a great game between the homerun (immediately followed by a homerun from Alberto Callaspo!) and a couple of great plays in right that are just so many blurs on my camera. So we’ll go with this photo of his much deserved post-game interview:

Torii Hunter's post game press conference outside the dugout. Photo by This is a very simple game....

 
Update: Okay, so I wound up liking tonight’s game very, very much! Way to come from behind guys! Way to hold ‘em bullpen! Way to bring the bats! Welcome to the team Russel Branyan! And Fleet Pete is nothing short of amazing sometimes!

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!

Friday Gourmet, Wine & Angels: Yay! A Win for Ervin Santana

I was a little worried going into this series. Yes, the Rays started the season badly, but I knew that wasn’t going to continue. They have been hot, hot, hot lately – just ask the Twins – and David Prince was on the mound. But, even amid the concern, I just couldn’t imagine Ervin Santana going any longer without a win. Fortunately, that turned out to be the better instinct. Congratulations on your first win of the season, Ervin, and here’s to many more. You earned it and man were you due – see, the guys can show you love with run support too, especially when you don’t botch it with a bunch of walks. Whooo hoo!

This week’s Friday Night Ritual (wine, “gourmet” dinner and the Angels game) spread: Tapas, Tempranillo y beisbol. I was in a really good mood today and felt like playing in the kitchen, so we had quite the array of tapas to nibble on during the game – garlic sherry mushrooms; orange, rosemary and pimento marinated olives; bacon wrapped dates; costini with ricota, Spanish chorizo, arugula and a balsamic reduction; and oranges. Hey, it’s dinner for the rest of the weekend too and it succeeded in relaxing my husband who’s had a rough couple of weeks continuing to find a cubicle seat every time the music stops at work. The Tempranillo is from Paso Robles’ Bodega de Edgar, who specializes in Spanish varietals, thus securing the continuing affections of my wallet. And let me just say that it’s a good thing we have Pilates so early on Saturday, because I have Edgar’s Garancha and Albarino in the closet too and the way the game looked like it was going after those errors in the third inning, opening a few more bottles was starting to sound like a mighty fine idea.

Before and after the third inning bobbles though – two hands please Erick, two hands -things settled down into a great tight game with the Angels ultimately emerging victorious – my favorite kind. Santana pitched a good game – less walks, more Ks and quick outs. There was no keeping Ben Zobrist off of the base paths, but at least Santana held him to one hit and one walk with no RBIs. The Angels’ bats recovered nicely from their one day longer than necessary vacation. Almost everyone had multiple hits – Bobby Abreau, Torri Hunter, Mark Trumbo, Howie Kendrick, Alberto Callaspo. Trumbo’s homerun was a monster, absolutely beautiful to see. Everyone else had a hit except Jeff Mathis – come on Jeff, we know you can hit. Pretend they’re all postseason games against the Yankees, please.

Howie and Trumbo, each playing their more natural position again, and Bourjos all had great defensive games. Wells made a great play at the end. Fernando Rodney, gave us all a heart attack when his first pitch turned into a BJ Upton homerun, but mostly settled down and got the three outs we needed with only one additional hit so, yay. Jordan Walden has recovered nicely from his last appearance in which he recieved his first blown save and loss. He earned his fourth save of the season this evening, allowing only one hit. Double yay!

Our pitchers are finally starting to come back from the DL! Scott Downs pitched one inning tonight almost up to his usual level after a nasty, persistent stomach virus – one K, one walk, no hits, not runs. Joel Pinero takes the mound for the first time this season tomorrow and I loved his interview this evening. He sounds excited by the feats of Jered Weaver and Dan Haren and eager to get out there and see what he can contribute. Heck, I can’t wait for him to be fully up to his usual level. Best of luck to you tomorrow Joel! …and kindly wrap yourself in protective bubble wrap after the game. Thanks ever so. ;)

Angels and A’s – You Can’t Win Them All. Sigh.

No team can win them all, that’s for certain. So you’d think I would be more calm and philosophical during a tight extra innings game on a late April afternoon…that I wasn’t really supposed to be paying much attention to anyway, what with the game taking place during business hours and all. I blame my computer. Okay. And maybe this tiny little obsession I have with Angels baseball. But mostly my computer.

I wasn’t going to have time for the game at all, until my laptop’s hard drive died a most inconvenient death the minute I tried to log into email…inconvenient because remote employees do not have access to shared network folders and I have been extremely lax about backing up my files on my own even though I really know better. Long story short, our IT guys are amazing and by 8 p.m, I had all of my files intact and a brand new hard drive. But for the 12 hours in between these two occurrences? Well, I quickly exhausted everything I could possibly do that was of a business nature without access to my own files and anything additional I could scounge. So from about 5 on it was me and the Angels and the anxiety of waiting to see if my files would pull through.

By the time we got to the 8th inning, I was so antsy between the close game, all of the weird plays and calls, and the unusual stresses of my own day, that I ditched the phone and sat in my car in the parking lot listening to the rest of the game on the radio – groaning over the terrible (game costing, really) umpire call, cheering wildly for Bobby Abreu’s RBI double, swearing loudly over the botched play…I mean triple…in left field (also game costing). It’s possible I even bit my nails…or at least looked at them in a way that was starting to make them feel uncomfortable. And all of this for one late April game? Clearly, it was my computer’s fault.

Removed from the passions of the game itself, however, I am philosophical about the loss. First, I have to give props to the A’s and Tyson Ross. It was a good game and Tyson Ross is definitely another exciting, young pitcher…grrrrr. Still, the Angels managed to keep the game close, even while displaying the team’s flaws. And any loss you can learn from…well…pretty much still sucks. But I guess it’s kind of like an unintentionally productive out – life would have been better without the out part but at least you have something to show for it. So, what have learned from the series against the A’s, wins and losses alike?:

  • Our pitching is strong. Weaver? ’nuff said. Chatwood? I am continually impressed by his confidence on the mound and ability to battle through situations where he gets himself into trouble. I anticipate him getting himself into trouble less often as the season progresses. And when Dan Haren has a “bad” outing (two walks, one hit batsman), it’s still only a three hit, one (unearned) run affair. Pretty darned winnable for the Angels. Can we give this man some run support please?
  • The Angels need to work on RISP. This is hardly news, but what was most apparent to me in this series is that we strand a lot of batters and miss opportunities even in a winning game, even in a high scoring game. It’s just less apparent at that point. We need to review situational hitting – stop overswinging on pitches in hopes of knocking it out of the park when a base hit would get the job done.
  • I’m not going to pick on our veteran players at the plate. No, some players aren’t contributing yet. Yes, this is the same thing Angels fanss say pretty much every April. There are small signs here and there that certain bats are starting to warm up. I fully anticipate not needing to bring this up any further by mid May.
  • Hank Conger is really good behind the dish and only going to get better but he and Haren should talk a bit and get on the same page. This way, they don’t have to argue pitches and Conger can keep Haren that good, striking out batters left and right, kind of mad instead of the bad, slipping and hitting batters with the ball, kind of mad.
  • Peter Bourjos and Vernon Wells need to work together a little longer before they are fully in sync. Bourjos and Torii Hunter seemed to read each other well from day one last season, but I know this is different with every player. Most of the folks I hear are blaming the botched catch…I mean triple…on Wells. I’ve watched the replay a few times and I think it was Bourjos’ error. It’s the centerfielder’s job to call the ball, especially when running all the way into left field to catch it when the left fielder is about to make the catch. I’m not chewing on either player here, I just think this is one of those April learning moments – both need to communicate better with one another and Bourjos – greatly improved over last season when he was already frighteningly good – still has situations here and there where he needs to call the ball with more authority.
  • The Angels are better with Mark Trumbo at first base. Howie Kendrick has such a great glove at second that putting him at first always seems like a good idea for a game or two…until we have a game with difficult plays at first. I’m sure Howie could be fine at first with a solid month playing the position like he had in ’06, but why? Howie is a great second baseman and we have Trumbo to play first.
  • I don’t mind the line-up tinkering as much this season. I think that, in particular, switching between Bourjos and Erick Aybar as the leadoff man when Maicer Izturis is not available is keeping either one of them from feeling too much pressure and, as a result, we’re getting decent production out of both of them in the leadoff spot more games than not.

Not a bad position to be in in April, really, especially when time will take care of a lot of the problems on its own and there is still time to work on the rest. Interestingly enough, I think the A’s could take my bullet points, change a few of the specific details and say pretty much the same thing.

Friday Gourmet, Wine & Angels: Coulda. Woulda. Shoulda. Yuck.

Thursday’s game was an exercise in frustration. Josh Beckett was dealing but the Angels had a very few opportunities early on and couldn’t capitalize on them. Tyler Chatwood’s start was okay and would even be considered good if he hadn’t walked five batters, the last of which proved costly. The Angels could have scored more runs after Torii’s 7th inning homer tied the game up. Erick Aybar could have been content with a double. The bullpen could have kept us in the game. And the extra innings heroics could have worked out. The umpires also could have made better calls – not all of the close ones were bad. Dustin Pedroia was safe at home *resigned sigh*, but at third? Only if running five to six feet outside the base path to avoid the tag is suddenly Kosher. Oh well, that was the fourth run and didn’t matter. They would have won with three. Fans also could have been classy and not thrown money at Carl Crawford. Or, to sum it up another way, after the game, I decided that helping my husband snake the drain pipe for the washing machine was more enjoyable than watching the postgame show. But I still had high hopes for Friday when we would send Dan Haren to the mound…oh boy.

This week’s Friday Night Ritual (wine, gourmet for varying definitions of gourmet dinner and the Angels game) spread: triple mushroom risotto with pancetta accompanied by a bottle of Cypher Winery’s Peasant, a lovely take on a French field blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Tannat and Counise that tastes like plums and black cherries with hints of nutmeg, vanilla and anise. Making risotto was a therapeutic decision. After the tense extra innings drama and unsatisfactory result of Thursday’s game, I was anxious in the hours leading up to this evening’s game and, trust me, spending half an hour stirring, stirring, ladling, stirring, carefully judging texture and stirring some more is oddly calming. And it turned out well, if I do say so myself. Which was good because, the way this evening’s game went, starting it anxious might have proved fatal for the throw pillows.

Dan Haren wasn’t dealing tonight, which is bound to happen from time to time, and the rest of the team wasn’t backing him up consistently. Not with run support and not with defense either: a Wells bobble, Peter Bourjos with one highlight reel play and one blooper reel play, a Mathis passed ball and not a bloody one of them capable of hitting with runners in scoring position until the 8th inning. Not exactly a recipe for success. Okay, the safe call on Saltalamacchia at third blew goats, as did several others, and then he scored the first Red Sox run on the next hit. Demoralizing? Yes. But that was not a reason to fall apart for two innings. Bad calls happen. That’s baseball. So get productively angry and get the next guys out.

And yet, we still almost pulled it off. Timely hits in the 7th and 8th innings, and an equally timely Saltalamacchia passed ball – darned nice of him, really, after that call at 3rd ;) – finally put the Angels on the board and brought us within one run of catching the Red Sox. Then, it was the ninth inning with you know who on the mound. Ugh. Hank Conger got a hit though. In a déjà vu moment, we had hopes that Howie Kendrick could stick it out through another battle and get a hit this time. Who knows what might have been if Paplebon hadn’t benefitted from such a generous strike call on the second pitch. Howie may well still have struck out…but he might not have. Oh well. Who knows what might have happened if the guys had settled down immediately after the botched call in the third, or if Bourjos made the catch instead of blowing it, or if Wells had made the other catch for that matter.

So, am I panicking or even particularly worried? No. It’s only two games. It’s April. They can’t win all 162 no matter how much I would like them to and even quality players will have bad days, sometimes all at once. Am I annoyed and kind of deflated feeling? Yes. I am tired of getting beaten by the Red Sox, especially when they are playing good baseball but hardly unbeatable baseball. We should have won this one. Oh well. At least the wine and risotto were good.

So, guys, can we go get ‘em the next two games? Yes, their pitching is tough but this is hardly an impossible request.

Angels’ Texas Two Step – Big Misstep, Stomp

So the little bird we were counting on to fly in at the last minute and tell the Angels where the Rangers rumored jewel encrusted armor might have a crack or two (Psssst, it’s right over the heart…er…pitcher’s mound, a concept we should well understand.) was apparently delayed a day by bad weather. But, once that bird did arrive, ooooh boy. 15 hits. 15 runs. 12 RBIs. Nice. Almost too nice to be entertaining…almost. *grins*

So, about Monday. Even if the aforementioned bird had arrived, C.J. Wilson is definitely not the weak point in the armor I was talking about and he was pretty on. To make matters worse, it was not the good Ervin Santana who took the mound for the Angels. It’s not Scioscia’s fault. It’s so hard to tell until you get a few innings in. Both the good controlled Santana and the bad out of control Santana have dark goatees – in clear violation of the evil twin statutes in the Marvel accords, I might add. What’s a manager to do…other than, oh I don’t know, pull him a little earlier? I know, I know. Then we have to roll a D-10 to see if the Bullpen self destructs. In this particular game, however, the Bullpen did a fine job, especially Rich Thompson. It’s possible they might even have saved us if it weren’t for the bats. Not to take anything away from C.J. Wilson, who clearly pitched a great game, but it’s not like we can’t hit him. We were hitting him, in fact. Just not with runners in scoring position. 10 hits. 1 run. But, enough about that.

Cut to today and you have a completely different game. Matt Palmer had an excellent second start. If he keeps this up, I will have even less worries about the starting rotation once you get past Weaver and Haren. And the bats, especially the junior bats, were on fire. Mark Trumbo, Hank Conger and Peter Bourjos combined for nine of the 15 hits and two of the three homeruns. Trumbo had four RBIs! Conger rocked at the plate! And Bourjos? Yes, it was a single and an error not a real infield the park home run but how many other ballplayers could get all the way home on that error? A few, but not many. The sight of him tearing around second and then third? He is so fast that it looked like a special effect. Vernon Wells, Alberto Callaspo and Maicer Izturis also continued their hitting streaks and our fielding was spot on. Of course, the Rangers also committed four uncharacteristic errors and pretty much crumpled after the fourth inning, which didn’t hurt matters any. In fact, it almost took the fun out the game…almost.

But about the kids? I’m extending my Chatwood plea to all of them. Can we keep them, Sosh? Please. They’re young. They won’t be much trouble. Can we, can we? Well, they’re all safe for the first round of returns from the DL, at any rate. Erick Aybar came off the DL this evening and I am pleased with the corresponding roster change. Brandon Wood has been designated for assignment. The assumption is that he won’t pass waivers and will cease to be an Angel sometime in the next three days. Wood seems like a nice kid. He’s got pretty good moves at short stop and I wish him well wherever he lands, but it’s time. It’s more than time. The Murphy’s Law corollary pertaining to baseball changes of scenery being what it is, expect Wood to become a 2011 batting champion runner up somewhere else, ha ha ha.

So, there you have it, two very uneven games. They killed us once, we killed them once and we’re still tied for first place…an unimportant April 19th 1st place, but still. Tomorrow, the rubber match, with our hero, Ace #1, Jered Weaver – as opposed to our hero, Ace #2 Dan Haren :) – appearing on the mound for the Angels. He will duel it out with Matt Harrison, a Nolan Ryan favorite and all around tough customer. Hopefully both teams really show up this time and make this the game it should be…with the Angels ultimately winning, of course. This could be a heck of a game.

Angels Weekend: Of Brooms, a Youth Uprising & the AL Central

It was quite the busy weekend at my house. In addition to the usual Pilates class and errands, we made pickled red onions, scoured the house, rearranged the furniture upstairs and did a lot of sweeping…oh, yeah, wait. That last part? That wasn’t Seth and I. That was the Angels!! ;)

Sorry for the brief bragging indulgence but, did you see us play last season? I think we can all agree, I’m due. So, suffice to say, it was a good weekend. Tyler Chatwood? I was a little apprehensive about his second major league start, especially when he’s definitely pitching to contact and the While Sox can hit. But, wow, can the kid pitch! And what confidence and poise on the mound. If he starts getting hit, he regroups, recovers and moves on. Can we keep him Sosh? Pleeeeeease. Can we? Can we?!

Another weekend revelation? Hel-lo Hank Conger. After Spring Training, Conger stayed on the 25-man roster primarily because of the large number of Angels on the DL. Everyone has been referring to him as the Angels third catcher, the assumption being that when a few of the regular players come off the DL, Hank will go back to the Bees, leaving Jeff Mathis and Bobby Wilson to duke it out for the primary catcher’s spot. Hank, however, has seized this brief opportunity with both hands in a death grip and sprinted with it. Seriously, each appearance has been better than the last. The pitchers seem to love him. He calls a good game. He catches guys stealing. He caught Juan Pierre stealing. That’s not easy. And he’s hitting and seems a little stronger with each plate appearance. I think it’s time to stop calling the kid the third catcher. I think it’s time to just call the kid the catcher. Let Mathis and Wilson duke it out over who gets to stay up when everyone comes back off the DL…except this is Mike Scioscia’s Angels, so all three may very well wind up staying up. I’m rolling my eyes right now, but it’s with affection.

Other high points? Dan Haren is now 4 and 0. Like Jered Weaver, he didn’t have his best start and now has an E.R.A. over 1 but, also like Weaver, not his best start is still pretty darned good and was good enough for the W. Maicer Izturis had a very hot bat. Mark Trumbo is a beast at the plate and is getting darned good at pulling off a tag out of nowhere at first, which is good because the rain wet ball wasn’t exactly helping with those throws to first. I. Love. Our. Outfield. Have I mentioned that before? Vernon Wells is continuing to gain momentum at the plate and in left field. The bullpen did really well. Jordan Walden almost blew his first save in spectacular fashion but this kid has a closer’s ice water in his veins. He loaded up the bases, then settled down and got the outs he needed without flinching. I wish I could say the same. I flinched, twitched, paced around the room, swore a blue streak and generally was not a pretty sight until he calmed down and got that last out. But as long as he doesn’t make a habit of getting himself into a jam in the first place, it’s nice to know that Walden can get himself out of a jam.

The Angels had a great weekend and Texas got beaten up by the Yankees so now we’re tied for first. Tied. For. First! Yes, it’s April 17th. I realize that standings at this point mean absolutely nothing. First place and a couple of bucks still won’t buy you a grande latte at Starbucks – those suckers cost $3.50. But after every major sports publication picked the Angels to finish in third place, well out of second, being tied for first with the red hot Texas Rangers feels pretty darned sweet right now. *toasts the Angels with a glass of Malbec* Oooookaaaay. I was going to drink that anyway. It went with dinner, gorgeously in fact. But it tastes just that much better after being raised in honor of the Angels.

Starting Monday, the Angels face the aforementioned red hot Texas Rangers. The red hot AL Champion Texas Rangers. I’m a little nervous. I’m a little excited. Well see how it goes. They’re tough. Really tough. But here’s the thing. We beat them a few times last year when the Angels were far, far from their best and the Rangers were still red hot. So…can we beat them? Yes. It sure won’t be easy, but I believe we can. Will we beat them? I sure hope so, but it’s far from a given, and we’re heading into the bottom of our starting rotation, though Ervin Santana has certainly had some success against Texas. You have to play the games to find these things out, fortunately, because I already know where we stand on paper. I don’t think this series is truly make it or break it time for the Angels. Again, its only April. But this series is an important test even so. Go Halos!!

Random Thoughts on an Angels Off Day

Extra Innings
It could be my memory playing tricks on me, but the number of extra innings games played out so far this season seems unusually high, considering it’s only April 14th. The Angels alone have already played in three extra innings game and we’re set to play the White Sox this weekend who have already played in five extra innings games. At the moment, the Angels extra innings record (2-1) is better than the White Sox (2-3) but the Angels’ one loss was the only extra innings game where they were the visitors. So what does this mean for the weekend? Will the Angels and White Sox mutual flair for the dramatic cancel one another out so the game lasts a mere nine innings? Or should we Angels and White Sox fans brace ourselves for a couple of 14th innings stretches and beyond? Hmmm, I wonder. Do they do a 21st inning stretch? ;)

Vernon Wells
Like a lot of Angels fans, I am disappointed that Vernon Wells didn’t come on board and instantly light the scoreboard on fire with the heat of his mighty bat. However, while I certainly didn’t expect him to be at 5 for 49 on April 14th, I wasn’t really counting on the other scenario either. I know that sometimes bats warm up right away and sometimes they take a while. I mean, Kevin Youkilis, Carl Crawford, Victor Martinez and Juan Uribe are all hitting at or below the Mendoza line at the moment. At the beginning of any season you can pick a list of similarly big hitting names with temporarily hibernating bats. Does anyone seriously believe these guys will stay batting that far below their career averages for the rest of the season? Didn’t think so. I’m not saying we can all expect Vernon Wells to bat .400 this season or anything like that, but the man’s career average is .278, so assuming anything less than a productive batting average for the season seems equally silly.

Booing him already, as some have done, is outright ridiculous to me. I loved Angles Live Radio Host Terry Smith’s response to a particularly annoying fan on this front. The fan called in berating Wells and how much we’re paying him for a batting average just above .100 and had already written the whole thing off as a failure. Smith sounded weary and annoyed with the caller’s argumentative tone and asked if he honestly thought that Wells’ batting average would not improve this season. The caller said he really didn’t believe Wells would improve his average and Smith responded in a deadpan voice. “Well then, you clearly don’t know very much about the game of baseball. But you got on the air this evening so I guess you should be proud of that.” Well said, Terry Smith, well said.

My thoughts? By all means, be disappointed Angels fans. It’s disappointing. But also cut the guy a little slack. It’s April 14th. Wait and see what he can do in a few more weeks. Oh, and ignore the stupid contract. It will drive you crazy and think about it – yes, it’s a ludicrous contract, but why should we care? Personally, unless I hear that the Angels are unable to spend money they need to spend to keep or obtain new players, that the other players are upset by the contract or Vernon Wells never makes it above the Mendoza line, I really don’t care how much they’re paying him.

Starting Rotation
I didn’t think I would be saying this when the season started but our starting rotation is a little scary right now. Certainly not Jered Weaver and Dan Haren. They’ve been amazing so far this season and show no signs of stopping. And Ervin Santana has been alternately good and a trooper, battling through a less than stellar start where his speed just wasn’t there to at least keep the Angels in the game for the bullpen and the bats to take over. Hey, some days are like that and there is a lot to be said for not crumbling and continuing to fight your way through it. It’s just that after Santana our rotation gets a little…um…improvisational.

Our number 4 and 5 starters are on the DL – where Kaz can stay indefinitely in my opinion barring miraculous improvement! – so the Angels have been using off days as a phantom start day and hosting a revolving door for the other spot. Tyler Chatwood is supposed to get his second major league start this Saturday but for the next vacant start, who knows? Matt Palmer again maybe? Chatwood showed a lot of the poise under pressure and ability to battle through a bad start that I just praised in Santana on Monday. Now that he’s gotten the obligatory Welcome to the Big Leagues, Kid homerun and an extra one just for good measure out of his system, hopefully Saturday will be more like his later innings and Chatwood will prove a useful replacement.

Regardless, so far the season is going reasonably well and it’s been anything but dull. Occasional anxiety attacks interspersed between periods of contentment and even euphoria seldom are. ;)

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