Results tagged ‘ Erick Aybar ’

Angels Sweep the Mariners and Head into the All Star Break One Game Behind Texas

Sweeping the Mariners in a four game series was a most fitting way for the Angels to head into the All Star Break. After all, it was series win over the Mariners at the beginning of the epic Four Corners Road Trip that helped June’s struggling Angels turn it around and embark on a 19 and 6 streak. During the Angels reign of terror through the National League and back again, bats were discovered, starting pitchers delivered gems, bullpen pitchers delivered holds and saves a plenty and a talented nineteen-year old number one prospect made his Angels debut. I attended Saturday’s nine to three victory and hd a blast watching our guys do their thing and the kid fitting right in…you know, with all of the other Angels kids.

Yes, with Peter Bourjos’ unfortunate hamstring strain late in Thursday’s game, Trout-mas came early to Anaheim this year. No, Mike Trout did not knock two grandslam homeruns in his first game or singlehandedly field every single ball that made it to the grass as the increasingly outrageous hype surrounding this talented young man might have lead one to believe. But what he did do was get a hit and an RBI in his second game in the show. Show off his speed on the base paths and in the outfield. He did display a rookie’s hesitancy on several plays, which is to be expected, but more than made up for it with one highlight reel, game saving catch and several other catches of varying difficulty and generally charm the heck out of Angels fans everywhere with the joy he takes in the game and his pleasure at just being called up.

Mike Trout waits in the hole in his second major league game. Angels vs. Mariners, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

So what is my assessment of the lad? I am really pleased. I think he’s extremely talented and a stellar future corner outfielder. Corner outfielder? What’s that you say? Yep. You read that right. Trout can fly and dive and catch but no more so than our current future Gold Glove centerfielder (if not this season then soon) Peter Bourjos. And Bourjos has a strong, sure arm while Trout…well he doesn’t have Johnny Damon’s arm or anything, but baring some serious improvement, it isn’t strong enough for centerfield. Still, the thought of an outfield in 2012 or 2013 with Bourjos in center and Trout in left gives me goosebumps thinking of all the extra base hits they will rob. And although he didn’t really get  piece of one this series, Trout has more of an extra base hits bat than Bourjos so they will complement one another nicely in that regard as well…as they blaze around the basepaths forcing errors left and right. To wax Christopher Lloyd as Judge Doom-ish for a moment: My God, it will be beautiful!

Center fielder Mike Trout looks to left fielder Vernon Wells after a play. Angels vs. Mariners, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

But for this season, once Bourjos is back in shape, I like our existing outfield with players who have already ironed out their communications issues and work as a unit. I also think Trout’s bat is going to take the same amount of time to warm up as our other rookies’ did, and would rather the team deal with that at the beginning of next season rather than the middle of this one…and hopefully for Trout, the vets won’t make him walk up to Miley Cyrus’ Party in the USA next time. Too funny!

Mike Trout dives back to the back as first baseman Adam Kennedy catches the throwdown. Angels vs. Mariners, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

But back to Saturday’s game. Now that’s a homerun swing! I lucked out and happened to snap the photo right as Torii hit his first of what would be two homeruns for the evening.

Now that looks like a homerun swing to me! And, indeed, it was the first of two for Torii Hunter. Miguel Olivo is catching. Angels vs. Mariners, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Michael Pineda was every bit as formidable as his reputation states. He sat down six Angels in a row to complete the first two innings.

Rookie phenom Michael Pineda on the mound. Angels vs. Mariners, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

And I think that might have been the story of the game, were it not for our secret weapon: Rookies who had faced Pineda in the minor leagues just last season! Mark Trumbo said hey, I know how to hit this guy and got the Angels off to a nice start in the 3rd with a single. He would also homer in the 8th.

Mark Trumbo fouls one off. Miguel Olivo shown catching. Angels vs. Mariners, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Hank Conger also knew Pineda and stood his ground against Pineda unafraid and worked the count into a walk. Then Mike Trout got his first base hit, a sacrifice he beat out with his speed, and his first RBI and Trumbo scored.

Mike Trout bats in his second major league game. Angels vs. Mariners, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

…Setting the stage for Torii’s first homerun of the evening.

Hank Conger, Bobby Abreu and Mike Trout congratulate Torii Hunter on his three-run homer in the 3rd. Angels vs. Mariners, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

The rockpile at the Big A, wrapped in smoke from homerun fireworks. Angels vs. Mariners, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Joel Pineiro pitched a pretty good game. He had a strong start and overcame a shaky 5th inning to deliver seven innings with seven strike outs and only one walk…he did allow ten hits, but the infield and outfield had his back. The Angels took off scoring runs again in the bottom of the 5th and the tide never came close to turning again.

Joel Pinero's pitching release. Angels vs. Mariners, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...(Seth)

Joel Pineiero wraps his arm and Maicer Izturis rests during the Angels at bat. Angels vs. Mariners, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Here are a few other snapshots from the game. Erick Aybar tries to sell an attempted pick off of Greg Halman to the umpire. Don’t worry, the ump didn’t blow this one. Chalk it up to Erick’s poor acting chops…or, you know, the ball sitting there on the grass two feet behind him.

Erick Aybar tries to sell the tag on Greg Halman to the umpire. Ummm, Erick. The ball's about two feet behind you. No dice. Angels vs. Mariners, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...(Seth)

Peter Bourjos, Erick Aybar and Alberto Callaspo chat in the dugout during an Angels at bat. Bourjos is still day to day but it sounds like he should be well enough to play after the All Star Break.

Peter Bourjos, still day to day with a pulled hamstring, Erick Aybar and Alberto Callaspo chat in the dugout. Angels vs. Mariners, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Batting coach Chris Chamblis, Adam Kennedy, Brendan Ryan and Jack Cust chat in the dugout. “Coach, if I see fireworks come out of the rockpile one more time…”

Batting coach Chris Chamblis, Adam Kennedy, Brendan Ryan and Jack Cust chat in the dugout. Angels vs. Mariners, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Former Angel Adam Kennedy steps up to the plate. This was a good photo of Hank Conger maneuvering behind the plate.

Former Angel Adam Kennedy steps up to the plate with Hank Conger catching. Angels vs. Mariners, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Trumbo decides to make the play himself. Yoooou’re out!

Mark Trumbo takes the out himself. Angels vs. Mariners, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...(Seth)

The Angels bullpen heads for the clubhouse after the game. Hmmm…looks like it was Jordan Walden’s turn for the Cookie Monster backpack.

The Angels bullpen files out after playing their part in another successful game. Looks like it was Jordan Walden's turn for the Cookie Monster backpack and Michal Kohn called dibbs on Tinkerbell. Angels vs. Mariners, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

And now? Well, it’s good to be busy at work and headed up to the Bay Area because otherwise I’d be awfully mopey for baseball this week. I love seeing the right players named to the All Star Teams because it is an honor and it tickles them, but I seldom get really pumped for the All Star Game itself.

What Were Angels Fans Thinkin’? That the Post Win Dierks Bentley Concert Rocked, of Course!

Saturday, country singer Dierks Bentley and his band helped the Big A get a little bit Sideways following a killer 9 to 3 victory over the Mariners for the second concert in the Angels 50th Anniversary Summer Concert Series. Of course I went to the game too, and that was even more fun than the concert, but it was faster to write about the concert first…so stay tuned for the game/series/sweep! notes, same bat station, same bat blog…or something like that…but enough of that. Back to the concert.

The grounds crew move the stage into position and the is stage firmly in place behind second base and ready to rock and roll…er…with country flair?…well, I think country rocks just as hard as my rock and roll faves anyway, so you get the general idea. Anyway, when I was choosing tickets for this game, I was having a hard time picturing how the stage would be set up and didn’t find a lot of help online. So, Angels fans or anyone else planning on taking in one of the other concert offerings this summer, take a look at the pics below and think of the favorite places in your price range from which to view Aybar or Kendrick diving for a ball on the grass just behind second base.

The grounds crew hauls the stage into place on pulleys with trucks. Dierks Bentley at the Angels Summer Concert Series, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

The summer concert stage, all set up behind second base. Dierks Bentley at the Angels Summer Concert Series, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Dierks Bentley and his bad move out to the stage. Hey, it was almost as cool as Downs or Walden making an entry from the bullpen. ;)

The band heads for the stage. Dierks Bentley at the Angels Summer Concert Series, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Dierks Bentley rocks out with his guitar and invites a fan to “come a little closer.” I liked Dierks Bentley before this concert. My husband turned me on to country about the time we got married and Bentley is one of many acts I have come to love for his clever, oft sarcastic lyrics, rich voice and rocking guitar. But hearing the band perform live, I love them all the more – especially after the bluegrass rendition of U2’s Pride they performed in honor of our grounds crew and their herculean efforts to prepare the Big A for and rehab it from the U2 concert last month.

Dierks Bentley performing at the Big A. Dierks Bentley at the Angels Summer Concert Series, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Dierks Bentley invites a fan to "come a little closer." Dierks Bentley at the Angels Summer Concert Series, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Angels players enjoy the concert! Interested Angels and their families watched the concert from in front of the dugout. It was nice to see the guys enjoying themselves one game away from ending a fantastic home stand. I have identified Angels players where I could, but some of these guys could be staff or Mariners players joining their friends. (There are no intentional shots of family members here.) Show me a headshot of any of the Angels in uniform and I can tell you who it is, but in street clothes I freely admit that I can’t identify most them. Sadly, I would be the fan who couldn’t recognize some of her favorite Angels if she accidentally sat next to them in a bar…until they spoke that is. That’s just how my memory works. I once sat in front of Martin Sheen at a performance of Death of a Salesman and had no idea it was him until he spoke.

(Back) Fernando Rodney, Bobby Wilson, Trevor Bell (?), Jeff Mathis, (front) Bullpen Coach Steve Solis and someone I do not recognize enjoy the concert. Dierks Bentley at the Angels Summer Concert Series, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Peter Bourjos, Mark Trumbo, Hank Conger and players/staff I do not recognize enjoy the concert. Dierks Bentley at the Angels Summer Concert Series, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Closer shots of the bass and fiddle players. I am a sucker for instruments beyond the typical “Rock Band” set up of guitar, bass guitar, drums and keyboard. The Barenaked Ladies bass. Flogging Molly and the Dropkick Murpheys bagpipes. Boingo’s horn section and “rumba phones”. Jethro Tull’s “heavy metal” flute. I adore them all! So is it any wonder I started liking country music largely for the fiddles, banjos and bass?

A good shot of the fiddle player. Dierks Bentley at the Angels Summer Concert Series, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...(Seth)

A nice shot of the bass player while Dierks Bentley has a "guitar duel" with a band mate. Dueling guitars trump dueling banjos? Dierks Bentley at the Angels Summer Concert Series, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

The band takes a “huddle” post concert. All told, Bentley and band gave us nearly an hour of great music. The set list was as follows: Feel That Fire, Every Mile a Memory, Am I the Only One, Free and Easy (Down the Road I Go), Trying to Stop Your Leaving, Settle for a Slowdown, Lot of Leavin’ Left to Do, Up on the Ridge, How Am I Doin’, Pride (In the Name of Love), Come a Little Closer, Sideways, What Was I Thinkin’. And, let me tell you, jotting that down at the concert gave me pleasant flashbacks to my college days, noting the set lists for Nine Inch Nails and the last Boingo Halloween concert to post on Occidental College’s usenet group for my less fortunate friends to enjoy. How’s that for the way back machine, ladies and gents? ;)

A post concert huddle. Dierks Bentley at the Angels Summer Concert Series, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

All told, I give the summer concert series a huge thumbs up. It was a lot of fun to cap off the win rocking out in the stands with other fans. The music was great and the sound was even decent considering the sheer amount of cement involved in stadium concerts. The Angels grounds crew and special events staff did an amazing job getting the concert set up quickly after the game and Bentley and his band absolutely did not disappoint. And they were so gracious and charming. Bentley repeatedly praised the Angels organization, grounds crew and players. He admired the fans’ tailgating expertise and kept telling us how tickled he was to be performing in a well lit stadium where he could see all of us. Apparently he’s a real baseball fan too and roots for the D-Backs.

I have but one small complaint. I have extremely eclectic taste in music. I was raised on classic rock. I went through a hair band and metal phase. I came of age during the alternative and grunge movements. I love, love, love punk, especially with bag pipes. I really like country music from the traditional to the poppy. I like ska, jazz, blues, surf rock, rockabilly, big band, Dixieland, Irish folk music, classical, some hip-hop, funk and pop, and the list goes on. And yet, there was only one out of the four concerts I wanted to attend. Granted, I really wanted to attend this one, but I anticipated drooling over at least two or three of the four. But even if that were to be the case every year from here on out, I would still vote for continuing the concert series promotion long after the anniversary. Way to go Angels!

4th of July Win and Nothing But Angels Fireworks Ever Since

Mariano Rivera gracefully bows out of the All-Star Game due to injury and fire balling rookie closer Jordan Walden is named to the AL team in Rivera’s place, joining his equally deserving teammates Jered Weaver and Howie Kendrick. Yay! Peter Bourjos injures his hamstring. Oh no!! (Ouch! It didn’t look season ending or anything but it sure looked painful.) And Angels #1 prospect, 19-year old Mike Trout gets called up from AA to take Bourjos’ place for a few days. Yay!?! The Angels were only a game out of first. Yay! The Angels were tied for first. Yay!!! The Angels are a game out of first again. Eh. Wow, get busy and take a few days away from blogging and the whole world changes!

Well, as excited as I am about Trout debuting – and I wish him one heck of a great game tonight! – I understand this is a temporary move until Bourjos is back on his wing-shoed feet and I think that’s probably for the best, unless he just takes off on a tear that is. Trout is 19, after all, and the outfield is really clicking the way it is. So while we wait for this excitement to unfold in a few moments, I’m going to wade back into blogging – after four days off, the horror! ;) – by posting my photos from the 4th of July game against the Tigers.

Yes, I went to the ballgame again. *big, huge grin* As I mentioned a few posts ago, I am in the middle of a borderline embarrassment of baseball riches in terms of game tickets right now. We have tickets to tomorrow’s game and Dierks Bentley concert. And, no, Dierks is not the only one that wants to have some fun tonight…er…tomorrow night. And then, next weekend we will enjoy our Bay Area baseball extravaganza. Crazy fun!

Catcher Jeff Mathis and the evening’s starter Joel Pineiro warm up in left field right in front of our seats. I am developing a wallet healthy love for the first row of the upper deck but nothing beats field seats, in my opinion, when you can find someone willing to part with them cheaply. This 4th of July, the stadium was packed, almost as packed as during the Freeway Series earlier in the weekend, and the fans were fantastic. We happened to be sitting near a lot of Tigers fans, all of them pretty cool. Most were on vacation but the couple in our row just moved to Southern California last week. Their new diehard Angels fan neighbor brought them to the game to welcome them to California and give them a taste of home at the same time. All three individuals were really, really nice and I adore their story. Now that’s being neighborly:

Catcher Jeff Mathis and starting pitcher Joel Pineiro warm up in left field before the game as the flag bearers move into position. Angels vs. Tigers, July 4, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Ah the dreaded, and ever hilarious rookie reliever backpacks! We caught the Tigers heading toward the pen at the beginning of the game but couldn’t get a good shot of the Angels rookies until after the game. Apparently the Tigers prefer pink Hello Kitty for their small dose of rookie humiliation while they Angels go for the slightly more dignified blue. Hey, the Cookie Monster backpack Bobby Cassevah is sporting is actually pretty cool. And, yes, that is our All Star closer modeling the Tinkerbell backpack. Excellent sports all, really, and at least neither team played the Beiber card. I don’t know why all of the baseball hazing traditions amuse me so, but they do:

A Tigers rookie reliever sports the dreaded pink Hello Kitty backpack. Angels vs. Tigers, July 4, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...(Seth)

Bobby "Cookie Monster" Cassevah and Jordan "Tinkerbell" Walden sport the rookie hazing backpacks on their way out of the bullpen. Angels vs. Tigers, July 4, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Torii Hunter and Bobby Abreu greet Victor Martinez before the game begins. I like baseball players to be fiercely competitive once the game begins, but I enjoy seeing player fraternization before the game. I like the idea that a lot of the guys are friends outside of the game across team lines. And from what I have seen before Angels games Torii, Bobby and Erick Aybar have friends on every single team in the majors. Besides, aren’t the truly competitive more apt to go all out when competing against friends than just random folks they know in passing?:

Torii Hunter and Bobby Abreu greet the Tigers Victor Martinez before the game. Angels vs. Tigers, July 4, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Like all MLB teams who played at home on Monday, the Angels had special extended pre-game festivities in honor of the 4th of July. I love spending the 4th at a baseball game. It’s a wonderful celebration of so many of the things about our country that are great. Last year, after the 4th of July Angels game, my husband told me that was the most fun he had ever had on the 4th of July. And that says a lot because he’s an Eagle Scout who spent a lot of great 4ths backpacking and kayaking in truly gorgeous parts of the country:

A military color guard before the National Anthem. Angels vs. Tigers, July 4, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

A flag covers the outfield during the Star Spangled Banner. Angels vs. Tigers, July 4, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

The "Spirit of Ronad Reagan" a Boeing C-17 flies over the scoreboard after the National Anthem. Angels vs. Tigers, July 4, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Joel Pineiro took the mound for the Angels and pitched a great game – one run on five hits and three walks. Pineiro only had one strike out, but the sinkerball appeared to be sinking which was a good sign. This has been tricky for Pineiro this season, largely because of injuries I feel. So less hits, less walks, no homeruns and only one run. Pineiro is definitely getting back on a good track:

Joel Piniero on the mound. Angels vs. Tigers, July 4, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Tigers pitcher Charlie Furbush takes the mound in his Major League debut. (And don’t think I didn’t giggle a little when I typed that. Sometimes I’m still 12.) Regardless of the score, Furbush showed promise. He was not easily flustered and he didn’t make very many mistakes…the Angels were just able to take advantage of each mistake he did make, a nice change for a team so often baffled by debuting pitchers:

Rookie Charlie Furbush takes the mound for the Tigers. Angels vs. Tigers, July 4, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Torii Hunter “welcomes” Charlie Furbush to the big leagues, knocking a pitch into the bullpens for a one-run homerun. Vernon Wells also went yard in this game and the Angels offense was generally nice and present:

Torii Hunter on the verge of "welcoming" Charlie Furbush to the big leagues. Angels vs. Tigers, July 4, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Goofy shenanigans in the Bullpen in the second inning. While I would love to know who said what that had Trevor Bell playing “hear no evil”, that will never happen. So I will have to content myself with this wonderfully silly photo:

Reliever Trevor Bell hears no evil as the bullpen gets up to some shenanigans...oh to be a fly on the wall. :) Angels vs. Tigers, July 4, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Peter Bourjos takes a deep lead off third as Erick Aybar takes a swing in the 3rd inning. This shot immediately preceded one of the odder occurrences of the game. The umps charged Furbush with a balk and awarded Bourjos home plate. Personally, I hate the balk call. I have no problem with pitchers being a little deceptive and think that the call is never enforced consistently among the umpires anyway. But, hey, we’ll take the run. Bourjos was on a mission this inning. He had just stolen second and third easily and was bound and determined to score even without the balk call:

Peter Bourjos takes a deep lead off third as Erick Aybar takes a swing. Bourjos would score on a balk on the next pitch. Angels vs. Tigers, July 4, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Mark Trumbo moves to catch the throw down in the 4th as Jhonny Peralta moves back to first base. Peralta was a little tricky for Pineiro, accounting for two of the five hits as well as, on this hit, the Tigers only RBI.

Mark Trumbo moves to recieve the throw down as Jhonny Peralta moves back to the bag. Angels vs. Tigers, July 4, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...(Seth)

Peter Bourjos makes another great catch. What, can’t you tell its Fleet Pete? ;) No, this isn’t the highlight reel game changing catch in the 6th. That photo looks even worse. But it was another good catch. I am crossing my fingers and hoping Bourjos heals quickly and thoroughly because he is something to watch in center and his bat has been great lately too. No, the reason the photo is blurry isn’t because Fleet Pete moves too fast…though I suppose that if I’d thought this through a little better I could have passed it off that way. ;) No, basically, getting good action shots from a distance with powerful zoom is a little like firing a rifle. You have to have excellent breathing control. In fact, again much like a rifle, it’s best if you can hold your breath, hold your body perfectly still and lightly press the shutter button. I am pretty good at this for most plays, but when it comes to amazing catches and also double plays, I get way too excited to hold my breath and keep still:

Peter Bourjos makes another dynamite catch in center...what, you can't tell it's him? ;) Angels vs. Tigers, July 4, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Mark Trumbo successfully steals second in the 6th, sliding under second baseman Ryan Raburn’s tag. Trumbo has joked in several interviews that he is “not as fast as the other kids” and he’s not…when you’re talking about Bourjos. But all jokes aside, Trumbo can move and he’s a smart base runner:

Mark Trumbo slides under second baseman Ryan Raburn's tag. Angels vs. Tigers, July 4, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Angels fans stand as reliever Michael Kohn goes for the final out of the game. See, Southern California fans can be passionate! We (or rather they, not my husband and certainly not I) may spend way too much time playing with stupid beach balls in the stands, but that doesn’t mean we don’t care. Kohn did a great job in a non-close situation, getting the last three outs while handily preventing the game from becoming a close situation. And, yes, the Kohn puns are pretty much boundless at the Big A. You Kohn do it! InKohnceivable! Koooooohhhhhhnnnnnnn! And so on. Seriously, fans have scores of them:

Michael Kohn prepares to strike out Alex Avila, the game's last out. Angels vs. Tigers, July 4, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

And, of course, what would 4th of July be without a heavy dose of simulated rockets’ red glare? If the Angels had kept the fireworks show in the same location as last season’s display, our seats would have been some of the best in the house. As it was we had the foul pole in the way, but the fireworks show was still pretty darned cool. This season the 4th wasn’t a get away day for the Angels so the team, the office staff and their families were able to come sit out on the infield in front of the Angels dugout and enjoy the show with the fans. It sounds silly, but it was cute to catch a glimpse of our tough players just being “dad”. I think it would have been disrespectful to take photos of that, especially for a blog. However, Seth took some great shots of the fireworks show itself and this was the best one:

Fourth of July fireworks over the scoreboard. Angels vs. Tigers, July 4, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...(Seth)

Angels Earn 2011 Freeway Series Bragging Rights…and How!

Interleague has always been good for the Angels. This year the team won every Interleague series and finished by taking two from the Dodgers this weekend at the big A. Friday’s game was the Angels sole loss in this series, proof perhaps that a day of rest is not always in order. The team’s level of play across the board prompted me to comment on FaceBook “The Revolution may not be televised, but the Zombie Apocalypse just aired on Fox Sports West.” But they were back in fine form Saturday and Sunday, with a dominant performance against Clayton Kershaw on Saturday and a tightly contested duel between Ervin Santana and Chad Billingsley on Sunday.

Seth and I had tickets to Saturday’s game, good seats in the club section just on the foul side of the left field pole. It’s amazing what folks will part with cheap these days. :) Anyway, the energy was high and the fan interaction was a lot of fun, one reason I love Freeway Series games. Our seats were in front of three suites – one with Dodgers fans sandwiched between two filled with Angels fans – and intermingled with  mix of fans of both teams. The suite dwellers were the fun, loud side of thoroughly hammered and formed the loudest component of both teams cheering/mostly friendly trash talk sections. The funniest part was after a one-two-three inning for Weaver when the Angels were already well ahead. The Dodgers suite switched from yelling “Let’s Go Dodgers” to “Let’s Go Yankees” of all things in perfect unison. They earned a lot of laughter and claps of approval from the Angels crowd. Who doesn’t appreciate a good sport?

Jered Weaver and Clayton Kershaw warm up in the bullpens just before first pitch. This photo shows off the side by side terraced bullpens I spoke of earlier. Seth and I did take the camera to the game, but some absolute dork left the memory stick at home in her computer. She had long brown hair and freckles…oh, yeah…it was me. J So there aren’t as many from the game and these photos are not as good as some of our others. To get the good photos, you have to have enough memory to snap several shots of a play or an at bat.

Clayton Kershaw and Jered Weaver warm up before the game in the Angels side by side bullpens. Angels vs. Dodgers, July 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Jered Weaver warms up before the game. Weaver pitched a dominant game, allowing only four hits and one run in eight innings. At first it didn’t look like he was going to get much run support, as usual. But in the end the guys gave him downright gaudy seven runs. Hey, I could get used to gaudy and I’ll bet our pitchers could too.

Jered Weaver warms up with Jeff Mathis before the game. Angels vs. Dodgers, July 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Garret Anderson throws out the first pitch. As part of the 50th Anniversary celebration Angels alumni will throw out every first pitch this season. Recent retiree Garret Anderson threw out the first pitch on Saturday and I was thrilled to be on hand to watch this Angels great, still the holder of eight different team batting titles, accept the honor. Fernando Valenzuela threw out the first pitch on Friday, a controversial choice among Angels fans because he only played for the Angels for one year. I, personally liked the idea of including Fernando because of what he meant to baseball in California and how his rising star helped show off the considerable talents of our own skipper, Mike Scioscia, when he was a young catcher trying to earn the everyday role. Besides, I think it was a nice touch on the part of the Angels front office to choose Angels alumni for this series who also had Dodger ties, underscoring the long, intertwined history between our two teams.

Angels great Garret Anderson throws out the first pitch. Angels vs. Dodgers, July 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Hank Conger chats with Jordan Walden and the bullpen and Bullpen Coach Steve Soliz address the relievers before the game. One, I like these photos my husband took from our vantage just above and in front of the bullpen because you can see some of the personalities and bonding in our bullpen this season. But also, this series, and indeed for most of interleague, the bullpen flat out rocked and I wanted to take a minute to recognized their important contribution.

Hank Conger chats with Jordan Walden in the bullpen before the game begins. Angels vs. Dodgers, July 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...(Seth)

Rich Thompson is all ears as Bullpen Coach Steve Soliz address the bullpen before the game begins. Angels vs. Dodgers, July 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...(Seth)

Jeff Mathis leads off of second base after knocking a double into left field. This series was marked by unexpected but extremely welcome contributions at the plate from unlikely sources. Russell Branyan knocked in the winning run plus on with a two-run no doubter on Sunday and on Saturday it was Jeff Mathis with a solid double putting him in position to score the Angels first run of the night. He also had a single and a nice sacrifice bunt (and a badly failed sacrifice bunt, but we’re only talking positive here.)

Jeff Mathis leads off second past Dodgers shortstop Dee Gordon after hitting a solid double into left field. Angels vs. Dodgers, July 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Vernon Wells crossing the plate and celebrating with Mark Trumbo and Erick Aybar after another timely homerun. I am really enjoying his bat right now!! I managed to catch Wells doing his point to the sky as he crosses the plate and I love the exchange between Wells and Trumbo. It looks like Trumbo is saying “Dude, what was that?! How far did that go?!”

Vernon Wells crosses home plate after a two-run homerun. Angels vs. Dodgers, July 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Mark Trumbo and Erick Aybar congratulate Vernon Wells on his homerun while Alberto Callaspo and Mike Scioscia wait to clap him on the back. Angels vs. Dodgers, July 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Behold the power of the rally manicure! I fidget. When I’m writing, when I’m resting, when I’m watching the game from home, just whenever. Sometimes the end result is useful, like folded laundry or and organized bill file and sometimes it’s just really silly, like random nail art for work or, you know, the ballgame. But I got more compliments on the silly things Saturday that I figured I would post them for posterity and/or mockery…and hey, if I were the sort to be superstitious about such things, they did win didn’t they? :)

Behold the power of the Rally Manicure! Angels vs. Dodgers, July 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Doesn’t everyone love a win?! The Angels celebrate after the game.

Dan Haren, Jordan Walden, Bobby Wilson and DH Bobby Abreu congratulate the fielders after the Angels win. Angels vs. Dodgers, July 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

The Angels and Angels coaching staff celebrate after the win. Angels vs. Dodgers, July 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

And in news outside of baseball, this weekend further rocked because Seth and I got out on the bikes a lot. I have come a long way since Memorial Day weekend and was able to ride in the rough again…okay, it was mild rough, but still. We took this trail on Saturday and again this morning. Go go Gadget knee. :)

Nature trails inside the Santa Fe Dam recreation area. July 4, 2011 Photo by This is a very simple game...

Freeway Series Finale, What a Game It Very Nearly Was + My Thoughts on Umpire Calls

 

It was a glorious game, Sunday’s Freeway Series meeting between the Angels and the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Jered Weaver vs. Clayton Kershaw. The Dodgers’ pregame show announcers joked that, with those two greats on the mound, it was a bad day to be a batter. And they knew what they were talking about. Both Weaver and Kershaw had a shutout going until the 7th inning.

Every now and then one would allow a runner on base, occasionally two. But it never got any farther than that. For six innings. Say all you want about lack of run support, and if you’ve been reading this blog, you know I’ve said plenty, but this was not a case of the batters not getting it done at the plate. This was a case of two aces baffling each other’s lineups with a good, old fashioned pitchers’ duel and it was fantastic. Beautiful. Frustrating. Nail biting. Cheering. Stomping. Yelling. Faan-tastic. The kind of game where I had to tip my hat to Kershaw as much as I was tipping it to Weaver. And I wished that Seth and I had bought last minutes tickets and gone running off to Chavez Ravine instead of responsibly watching the game at home for free, just so I could be there in person to soak in every nuance.

Even after both lineups finally briefly broke through the gems to knock in a run a piece in the 7th and the Angels ended the duel by pinch hitting for Weaver in the 8th, it was a great game. It was a great game, that is, right up until the call when Dee Gordon stole second. That’s right I said second. Long before the play at the plate that everyone is talking about, Gordon touched second base, overslid the bag, Erick Aybar clearly blocked him from returning and applied a tag. But Gordon was called safe. He shouldn’t even have been in a position to head home on the later sacrifice fly. But he was. And he did. Because that’s how you play the game. And then, he was out again at the plate. 

I have watched the replay more than 20 times on my DVR. Peter Bourjos’ throw could not have been more perfect. Jeff Mathis blocked the plate, wrestled Gordon practically into a bear hug, sweeping arms and legs away from the plate before Gordon could get so much as a finger in, and brushed Gordon’s back with the glove holding the ball. Mathis then triumphantly held up the ball for the umpire to see, allowing Gordon to break free finally and slap the plate. Three outs. Ball game. Angels win, right? Except not…now I’m not saying the umpire outright lost the game for us. At that point the Angels needed to buck up, get the third out (for the third time) and force the Dodgers into extra innings. And they didn’t do that. But the double bad calls really killed the greatness of this particular game. Who knows how it would have really ended if Gordon had been called out at second? Would Jordan Walden have continued his recovery or would the Dodgers have continued their rally? I don’t know. But whatever the outcome, I would have preferred that game to the one we all got. And considering the amazing pitchers’ duel and the quality of the first eight and a half innings, that is a very sad thing to have to say.

It’s baseball. Bad calls happen. They happen all the time. In huge egregious ways, like Armando Galarraga’s perfect game that wasn’t and any number of post season heartbreakers I could site. And in hundreds of smaller ways every week that may only matter to a particular batter or position player. By the end of the season, the bad calls usually even out. Heck, the Angels owe one of their wins against the Blue Jays in this season’s first home series to a truly terrible runner’s interference call that made the Blue Jays’ go ahead run null and void.

So where exactly am I going with this? In all honesty, I don’t know. I don’t want the game to change. I don’t want every umpire’s call second guessed and argued…on the field that is. We fans should continue to exercise our traditional right to beat every dead horse of a call into dust if it pleases us to do so. I don’t want to lose the pacing of the game or the spontaneity. I don’t want a cookie cutter feel to a trip to the ballpark. I don’t want umpires turning to computers to make every call, or even many calls. I don’t want baseball teams developing strategies around how to use a set number of umpire challenges in ways that go well beyond the goal of simply redressing a wrong. I don’t like the idea of increased instant replay eroding decision making.

So what do I actually want? I wanted this particular great game and so many others to remain great games. Angels win or lose, I wanted this game to proceed to its natural conclusion. And, yet, I realize that just saying I want umpires to make better calls is childish. They are only human, they have always been human, and rather than showing any increase in umpire errors, I believe that advancements in camera and television technology allow us even more opportunities to “appreciate” just how human and fallible they have always been. So, do I want MLB to increase the use of instant replay in regular season games? I don’t want to want it. And I don’t want it…yet. But year by year each game changing bad call chips away at the steadfastness of my resolve a little more… 

And now I am off the ballgame again. Angels vs. the Nationals. I’m sure I’ll post pictures later this week. The way things worked out between the games Seth and I always try to get tickets for (the freeway Series at both stadiums, 4th of July…), games we just sort of wound up with tickets for (this evening), and our upcoming Bay Area Baseball Extravaganza, our end of June and first half of July is practically an embarrassment of baseball game riches…and yet I wonder how many of them, indeed if any of them, will be as good as this game almost was.

New York, New York, a Helluva Town, the Angels Were Up, Then the Angels Were Down

The Angels’ Crazy Four Corners Interleague-ean Baseball Odyssey, Stop #2: New York. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Friday, the Angels reached stop number two on the Four Corners Road Trip and returned to Interleague play with a bang. Joel Pinero notched his 100th career win as the Angels bested the Mets in a tight four to three victory. Both teams played well and the outcome was a question mark right up to the last pitch. The Angels bats were out in full force and clutch with men in scoring position. Torii Hunter, Maicer Izturis and Howie Kendrick all had a multiple hit game. Mark Trumbo, Peter Bourjos and Vernon Wells also contributed to the hit parade. Most importantly, every time the Mets scored, the Angels were able to score in response. That hasn’t exactly been a given this season, a big part of the reason we’re still below .500.

The defense was pretty good as well. Another highlight reel Bourjos catch up against the wall in center. A couple of great plays at first. We have got to work on keeping the other guys from stealing though, even though players like Jose Reyes are smart, fast and dangerous on the base paths. Fortunately, Pinero had a good start and kept the sinker ball down and the Bullpen did their thing with only minimal hiccoughs. Jordan Walden had us all on pins and needles when he walked the first two batters, but then he let the ice water back into his veins and struck out the next three in a row to earn the 16th save of his rookie season.

So what happened Saturday? Well, let’s just say there are a lot of very satisfied goats walking around the Bronx right now. (Note to self, “if my husband laughs” is probably not the best barometer there is for appropriate. ;) ) Without the benefit of the DH option, in order to get Bobby Abreu back into the lineup (good idea), we put our weakest outfield configuration on the field (bad idea). Abreu, Wells and Hunter all alone in that giant Citi Field outfield without Bourjos’ speed? Very bad idea.

Then, Russell Branyan replaced Mark Trumbo at first in the starting lineup for reasons unbeknownst to me – can’t we declare Branyan a cheap, failed experiment already? – and Erick Aybar proceeded to have one of those, fortunately rare, games when you wonder where his head is at and what joker oiled his glove with Vaseline. The official record shows only one error, but I watched every play and the Mets scorekeepers were extremely generous in this regard. Dan Haren had a bad night and the umpire’s strike zone was doing him no favors. And with few exceptions, the team could not hit – Mark Trumbo, a late innings replacement going two for two with one deep homerun to right center, was our only highlight.

“Which is more important, a strong offense or a strong defense?” is one of those questions whose answer varies with every team and every season. For the Angels this season, the offense doesn’t seem to be in a position to weigh in on that argument no matter what tweaks Scioscia might make to the lineup. In this situation, every single run is a big deal. Ours and theirs. If we aren’t going to give the pitchers run support then we absolutely have to put the best possible defense out on the field every day. No more Branyan  at first and leaving speed out of the outfield…oh, and when Aybar is having one of those games? Pull him. So, on to the rubber match, where I hope to see a lineup that reflects our best defense, and then on to Miami: 

The Angels "Four Corners Road Trip" takes the team on an 8,000 mile trek across the United States and back again both vertically and horizontally, as helpfully illustrated by our oh-so-creative kitchen table and Ticket to Ride visual aid...Yes, you would be correct. This trip will take the Angels nowhere near Berlin. ;) Photo by This is a very simple game...

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Happy Father’s Day to all of the wonderful dads out there, and especially to mine! 

Daddy, softball coach, friend, confidant, giver of hugs, encourager of dreams and occasional shoulder to cry on, like most fathers, mine has worn many, many hats, and all of them much better than he will ever know. My father gave me my head for trivia, my irreverent sense of humor, my stubborn streak, my love of music, John Steinbeck and Mark Twain, my blue eyes and freckles and so much more. He taught me the value of working hard, the power of a good laugh and if the ball falls into your glove, never look surprised. And my love for the game? Well, as with so many things that are wonderful, I owe that to both my father and my mother. Thank you does not even begin to cover it, but it will have to do.

The Day(s) the Angels Bats Stood Still (with runners in scoring position)

Okay, so that title could accurately describe most Angels games this season, including games we win. But, after scoring only 10 runs in the last 6 games (or the month of June so far, if you prefer), I felt it was particularly appropriate today. Mercifully, and quite improbably, the entire AL West lost on both Monday and Tuesday so this hasn’t hurt the Angels as badly as it could have, though it means we missed to stellar opportunities to gain ground on Texas and Seattle. I’m not seriously pushing the panic button yet, but Klaatu barada nikto already! Angels stop the team’s self-destruction now, while we still can without an extremely difficult slog uphill!

I spent the majority of Monday’s game against the Rays alternately begging, pleading and threatening in the direction of the TV for the Angels to just score some runs in the plural. No dice. Last night was sadly much of the same, but it was bittersweet. The loss was a blow, but any night at the ballpark, especially an unexpected one, can only be a good one. Yes, an unexpected night at the ballpark. My husband called me just before four yesterday, obviously very busy at work, and barely had time to listen to my excited “Hell, yeah!” response to his “If I told you we had the company seats tonight could you run into Pasadena and pick up the tickets?” before rushing me off the phone with an OkayThanksCallYouLater. Tease.

Except he wasn’t teasing. (Also, he wasn’t rude. We give each other leave to outright hang up on one another at work if necessary. Business is important and when it has to come first, well then, it does with no whining or hurt feelings.) Long story short – sales contest, Angels tickets reward, amazing company seats and your intrepid blogger’s mission, which she ecstatically chose to accept, was driving from Whittier to Pasadena for the tickets, to Azusa for the Angels gear and camera, to Brea to pick up the husband and then to Anaheim for the game. A journey of 75 miles, in less than 3 hours, in L.A. rush hour traffic…and we just made it inside the stadium by first pitch, whoo hoo!
The view from the seats – yes, that is home plate you see. We were ten rows back from the sign in front. Just, wow! I only wish we could have seen an amazing comeback from these seats. If I were ever so lucky as to be outrageously wealthy, I wouldn’t have a box, I would buy season tickets someplace like this – on the field, home team side, close to plate but still on the dangerous side of the net and as close to the front row as I could get.

The view from the company seats. I hope my husband is lucky enough to earn these again. :) Angels vs. Rays, June 7, 2001. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Dan Haren on the mound, executing the brief pause in his delivery. I call it the antici…..pation delivery. This was Haren’s first time back on the mound after the back pain that delayed his originally scheduled Saturday start – because he was able to pitch in the same spin through the rotation, it counts as a delayed start, not a missed start, so his personal record remains intact. He was really working for each pitch in the first four innings and my initial thought was that he started back too soon. But he worked back into a strong rhythm after that and looked as good as ever by the 5th. I guess the guy really did just need to get out there and pitch. My hat’s off to you Dan. Even with the rough patch, you pitched well enough to win.

Dan Haren on the mound, executing the famous - and wickedly effective! - pause in his delivery. Angels vs. Rays, June 7, 2001. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Bobby Abreu in left field. Because he is Mike Scioscia and this is what he does, but more so lately because of the team’s miniscule RISP, there have been quite a few lineup shakeups the last few weeks. Sorry Bobby, but last night’s lineup resulted in one of my least favorite outfield configurations – Bobby in left, Vernon Wells in center and Torii Hunter in right. We have absolutely zero speed on the left side of the outfield with this configuration and less speed than ideal in the center and on the right. Also, Wells is much better these days in the smaller area of left field and he just plain doesn’t play our center field wall well. The end result was a triple to left that should have been a double and a double to center that should have been an out, among other issues.

Bobby Abreu in left field, preparing to break with the pitch. Angels vs. Rays, June 7, 2001. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Mark Trumbo and runner Casey Kotchman (At least, I’m 90% certain it’s Kotchman based on the order of the photos. Let me know if I am wrong) move with the pitch. This was partially just me playing with the camera from our close to the field vantage, but I like the photo. Mark Trumbo has been a bright spot in terms of hitting for power and continuing to produce during the team’s at the plate slump. It was a shame that his leadoff double turned triple by an error in the 7th was wasted.

First baseman Mark Trumbo moves positions with the pitch as Casey Kotchman takes a lead off the bag. Angels vs. Rays, June 7, 2001. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Hank Conger maneuvers behind the plate. This is partially another Kristen was playing with camera again (see the ball), and partially a Kristen really loves catchers photo. I can’t help it, most of my favorite players are catchers (or centerfielders…or short stops…or more or less anyone in an Angels uniform ;) ). What can I say? I admire the guy who calls the shots on the play, holds the pitcher together when things are getting rough, and faces down major league freight trains bearing down on him several times a game, while he blocks the plate like a badass. Catchers rock! And I think Conger is shaping up to be a very, very good one.

Catcher Hank Conger moves into position with the pitch as Reid Brignac decides to take this one. Home plate umpire Laz Diaz is one of many MLB officials who helps guage the direction the play is going with one hand on the catcher's back. Angels vs. Rays, June 7, 2001. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Joe Maddon says, oh and one other thing during an argument with the umpires. I still haven’t watched the replay myself, wherein it sounds like Johnny Damon was in fact out at the plate, as it appeared from my vantage pretty much right there, but it was a really close play. Great throw from Torii to the plate and great execution by catcher Hank Conger either way. And wow, Damon really is playing like his younger self again on the Rays.

"And another thing..." Rays manager Joe Maddon argues a close call at the plate. Angels vs. Rays, June 7, 2001. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Howie Kendrick at the plate with Bobby Abreu on deck. Howie, less than a week off the DL, had a strong ground rules double hit this evening and Bobby continued his streak at the plate, going 2 for 4, both of which were bright spots.

Howie Kendrick at bat with Bobby Abreu taking practice swings on deck. The Rays' John Jaso is catching. Angels vs. Rays, June 7, 2001. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Torii warms up before his final at bat. I really hate it when Torii strikes out and especially in the last inning, because you can see in his face how much not coming through bothers him. But he went 2 for 4 this game so maybe things are falling back into place for him.

Torii Hunter warms up before his final at bat as Alberto Callaspo warms up behind him. Angels vs. Rays, June 7, 2001. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Erick Aybar looking sheepish – as well he should after those plays at short. This photo montage wasn’t meant to be a litany of the Angels ills last night, but it’s hard to be a complete Pollyanna. Aybar is one of my favorite short stops most of the time. But every few games he starts making errors and missing plays such that it boggles the mind to think it’s still the same guy at short. This was one of those games, though he did help out with a hit to open the first inning and his outs at the plate came early enough in each inning that he was not one of the game’s rally killers.

Shortstop Erick Aybar does not look happy in the later innings of the game. Vernon Wells is seen behind him in centerfield. Angels vs. Rays, June 7, 2001. Photo by This is a very simple game...(Seth)

Kevin Jepsen takes the mound. Jepsen had a refreshing outing for the last one and one/third innings – one hit, one intentional walk (I hate this play, and question it almost every time even though I know it is well accepted strategy.) and one very well timed and important strike out. When Jep pitches like this, I love to see him on the mound. Even though he is no longer number 65, he’s started walking out to Rob Zombie’s Thunderkiss ’65 again which is always a fun one to hear, especially if it helps Jep bring back the swagger of some of his better outings in years past.

Reliever Kevin Jepsen begins his pitch as second baseman Howie Kendrick moves into position behind him. Angels vs. Rays, June 7, 2001. Photo by This is a very simple game...

And that was my impromptu evening at the ballpark. Yay for the ballpark. Sob for the loss. Hopefully the Angels bring their clutch bats to the final game because I am about to leave for the game…with more planned tickets this time.

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!

Friday Gourmet, Wine & Angels: Let the Wild Interleague Rumpus Begin

Now that was the way to come back from a bad couple of weeks. Nine runs on ten hits to beat the Braves 9 to 0. Ervin Santana pitched a complete game, four-hit shutout and was just plain nasty, striking out seven and walking no one, throwing both his slider and breaking ball for strikes. Not a single Brave made it to second base. It was beautiful.

Our bats were back and the rookies in particular were in fine form. Mark Trumbo had a fantastic game with a couple of stellar plays at first, a three-run homerun and two additional hits, finishing a triple shy of the cycle. Alexi Amarista went hitless but continues to impress in the field with several great plays and one leaping catch that did not look possible…until he did it. Hank Conger had a great night behind the plate and Peter Bourjos (okay, technically no longer a rookie, but only just barely) was able to put those quick feet to use yet again in center and on the base paths, with one hit, one hit by pitch and two runs scored.

The veterans were not left out of the fun either. Torii Hunter, Alberto Callaspo, Erick Aybar and Bobby Abreu all had hits. Torii had a great night in right field and even managed to make fun of his own blunder against the Mariners. He pretended, quite convincingly, to lose the ball in the twilight on a routine pop-up before catching it effortlessly, but not before frightening Santana, Bourjos and Mike Scioscia. Well played Torii! We were cracking up over here.

 Oh, and I have decided that Ervin Santana is Hobbes. Outside of the game, he is charming, funny and downright sweet seeming in interviews. The term affable comes to mind. Much like the warm fuzzy side of Calvin’s imaginary companion. On the mound with his game face on, however, Santana’s face settles into an intense predatory smile and, though his eyes are completely hidden in the shadow of his cap, I always expect them to glow from underneath, like Hobbes in pouncing mode with the opposing team’s batters in the role of the unsuspecting Calvin just home from school. I love it!

So, this week’s Friday Night Ritual (wine, “gourmet” dinner and the Angels game) spread: grilled turkey and brie sandwiches topped with apples, pickled red onions and baby greens tossed with homemade balsamic vinaigrette and accompanied by Rio Seco’s (the baseball winery) MVP reserve, a flavorful Cabernet, Cab Franc and Merlot blend perfectly themed for the evening. It was delicious but, even better, it was a great game! Keep it up gentlemen, this could be the beginning of a wonderful trend!

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I realize that I am in the minority on MLBlogs, but I actually like Interleague play…and not just because the Angels usually rock it. I understand it’s not traditional. I understand that many of the rivalries are manufactured. I understand it can lead to uneven match-ups across a given division, but I don’t care. It’s just plain fun to watch the kind of crazy scenarios we played out as kids – the Angels catching balls against the backdrop of Wrigley’s ivy, the Dodgers dealing with the green monster – come to life.

Part of my attitude may come from the fact that Interleague play developed during the period of my baseball discontent and self-imposed exile from the sport. I didn’t watch it develop like the rest of you. I just checked back into the game in 2004 and *poof* we have Interleague play now. I am enough of a purist that, when I came back to baseball, I hated the new three division league structure, I hated the addition of wild card teams to the playoffs and I hated the whole stupid pitch count thing, but I enjoyed Interleague play. Go figure. Incidentally, I have come to accept three divisions and wild card teams, though it happened slowly and grudgingly, but I still do not like pitch counts and overspecialization among pitchers at all.

Tuesday’s Angels Beat White Sox & Fans Rock Their Inner Strongbad

20110510 Angels vs WhSox - Lit Halo - for blog.JPGYay, the lit Halo enveloped in a haze of fireworks returns to my blog, meaning the Angels won last night and I was there to see it! I was a little concerned after Monday. To re-cap: these May White Sox? They are not the April White Sox. They are actually the White Sox which means that if you make mistakes, they will make you pay. Unfortunately, Monday’s Angels were not the 2011 Angels, I swear they were some AA team that swiped our uniforms – which is bound to happen now and then over the course of a season…or, like, again tonight in the 8th inning. Wily AA teams. So, anyway, Monday poor Ervin Santana was dealing for an inning and then he just fell apart. Was he “inspired” by Alberto Callaspo’s poor running decision? By our complete inability to cash in on an amazing scoring opportunity in the second inning…or the fourth…or the…well, you get the general idea? The pitchers couldn’t keep the ball in the park, the batters couldn’t hit when it counted, there were a few questionable plays in the field, Jeff Mathis became a pinch hitter (?!?) and Vernon Wells left for the 15 Day DL with a pulled groin muscle. I think he may actually be on the DL longer than that. Watching the replay of the swing where he injured himself will make you cringe, especially if you yourself have ever known the “joy” of a pulled groin. In short, it was Not A Good Game.

But back to last night. It was still the May White Sox taking the field but, fortunately, I think the Angels went to bed angry last night because they showed up on a mission to redeem themselves. They started smacking the ball right away, took the lead in the first inning and never gave it up, though the White Sox threatened at times. It was A Great Game! And here are my photos to help take you all there with me.

For this game, Seth and I entered foul ball territory. This is my view of the field without any zoom, sitting immediately behind the blue sleeved lady in the front row. (Yes, the Angels’ Dodger fan siblings often come to visit when the Dodgers are out of town and we gladly return the favor. It’s a lot of fun living in a two team town – for large, dual county definitions of town.) And these seats were a better price than even our last seats. The moral of my story? Angels fans are a panicky lot, especially after last season. When the Red Sox sweep the Angels at home, go to a resale site and buy cheap tickets. It will ease your pain:

20110510 Angels vs WhSox - Field Seats - for blog.JPG

Howie Kendrick runs to second for an eventual double in the 3rd as Gordon Beckham waits for the throw from Juan Pierre. I have to say, of all the outfield permutations I thought of for the evening with Wells on the DL, Howie in Left was not one of them. But watching him move out there and knowing how much I like his glove and his arm, I think it could work – he looks good tonight! Left field was really quiet for most of the game however, so rather than a fascinating Howie just standing there shot, I give you this photo (taken by Seth) instead:

20110510 Angels vs WhSox - Howie Running to 2nd - for blog.JPG

Joel Pineiro stares down a runner at 2nd base as Callaspo (3rd base) switches into position. Pineiro had another excellent start, going 7 2/3 innings with five strike outs and one walk. And what he was throwing for strikes? Nice. He did give up one homerun, so the White Sox smacked some of the pretty off of his E.R.A. But it all worked out in the end and I am just glad to see Pineiro back on the mound and in the same great form he showed us last season…though I wish I could find the Angels Luchador Mask video ad he filmed with Santana somewhere online to share with you all. Pretty funny stuff:

20110510 Angels vs WhSox - Pineiro Staring Down LaPierre - for blog.JPG

Angels fans say, ‘Oh no, it’s just that they’re terribly comfortable. I think everyone will be wearing them in the future.’ Because, of course, last night was also the much hyped Angels Luchador Mask night. This promotion had equal potential for being really stupid or a heck of a lot of fun and it was decidedly the latter. It didn’t tread on watching the game much, if at all – which would have annoyed me – and fans had a blast. We donned the so-silly-they’re-actually-pretty-darned-cool-looking-things at the top of the 5th for 10 minutes to set the record, though many wore them for most of the game. As the season progresses, I expect these masks to take on Rally Monkey-esque significance…or at least Angels Gnome-esque significance:

20110510 Angels vs WhSox - Masks - for blog.JPG

Some fans went all out for the occasion, donning actual Luchador regalia or, in the case of these two super Angels fans below, constructing entire Luchador costumes out of previous Angels giveaways. I thought they looked so creative and fantastic that we had to snap a photo. Well done guys!!:

20110510 Angels vs WhSox - Lucho Libres - larger for blog.JPG

Torii Hunter takes a strong swing. This at bat would turn into a single in the 5th. The Angels bats were nice and busy Tuesday night with 12 hits in all, including a homerun from Maicer Izturis…yes, Maicer. Whooo. Hooo:

20110510 Angels vs WhSox - Torii at Bat - for blog.JPG

Erick Aybar slides back into first to avoid a pickoff attempt as Paul Konerko catches the ball. Aybar is currently leading the team in stolen bases with 9. This thrills me to no end because it’s one more sign that the Angels are back to playing Angels baseball and all is once more right with my world:

20110510 Angels vs WhSox - Aybar pick off attempt - for blog.JPG

Aybar (short stop) and Mark Trumbo (first base) move with the pitch as A.J. Pierzynski, having doubled in the 7th, takes a lead off second base. Even if it was mostly so John Denks could get to Mathis, it was really funny to watch him pitch around Trumbo twice. It’s enough to give a lesser rookie a big head, I’m sure:

20110510 Angels vs WhSox - Aybar Trumbo Piersinsky - for blog.JPG

While Fernando Rodney warms up for the last out of the 8th inning, Peter Bourjos, Torii and Reggie Willits (replacing Howie in left) chat and stretch in centerfield. Could Peter and Reggie be trying to talk Torii into long socks? Reggie in left is another outfield permutation we’re likely to see a lot of while Wells is on the DL. I think this will work as a stop gap measure. I like his glove and his speed. I just hope we don’t see too steep a learning curve as Willits and Bourjos adapt to one another. I should also note that, although I cringed when I saw Rodney striding out from the Bullpen (but cheered him on robustly as he passed our seats), he did really well:

20110510 Angels vs WhSox - Willits Bourjos Torii - for blog.JPG

Scott Downs winds up while Callaspo moves into position. Downs took over the closer role for the evening as this was technically a non-close situation. He sure pitched like a closer though, sitting them down one, two, three. Well. Okay. Maybe that was more like one, twwwwooooo, three. Pierzynski, who was less impressed than I, fouled off many pitches before grounding out. A note on Callaspo. Everything I wrote in the offseason about our hole at third base? I am pleased to say I no longer think we have one. Whether it’s Maicer or Callaspo, I think third base is looking pretty darned good these days:

20110510 Angels vs WhSox - Downs Wind Up - for blog.JPG

And that was the game. I had an absolute blast. I wanted to come home and immediately buy tickets for the rubber match, or at least post these photos, but I had to finish my meeting prep for today instead. Then today was such that…well…I got home at 8 and am posting about game 2 as game 3 heads into unecessary extra innings and the bullpen is making me ill. I tell you, this working for a living thing…well, it beats the alternative with a caber sized stick, I can tell you that much, LOL!

Game 3 Edit/Addendum – Wednesday’s Angels, on the Other Hand:

Yuck! Did that just really happen? With the blown save and the self-destructing bullpen and the run. Scoring. On. An. Intentional. Walk. Wild. Pitch!? I realize it’s part of the necessary learning process but Jordan Walden needs to stop working on the change-up when it’s just not happening and the game is on the line. Ever since he started working on it, things have been…interesting, occasionally for Hoban Washburne definitions of interesting. He’ll get it down. I’m sure of it. But in the mean time? And Kevin Jepsen? Well, are we already back to last season’s two out of three rock but that third outing will kill you every time? Also, I do not like uber-specialized pitching to begin with, and I really do not like our very recent – as in, since Tampa Bay recent – moves to bring star relievers in for just one or two batters in an inning. Wouldn’t it have been nice to have either Scott Downs or Rich Thompson available later in the game?

Tyler Chatwood pitched well enough to win. It’s a pity the Bullpen decided to have an early April relapse. It’s just one game. It’s only the third series we’ve lost so far this season. And amateur hour is going to happen for the best of teams from time to time. I understand it. But I don’t like it and I really hope my 2011 Angels show up in Texas, not this strange AA team that occasionally puts on their uniforms.

Hmmm…maybe I should go check out those ticket prices online tomorrow morning.

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