Results tagged ‘ Howie Kendrick ’

The Angels’ Crazy Four Corners Interleague-ean Baseball Odyssey Begins

While the Angels grounds crew plows up the entire diamond for a series of U2 concerts and then puts everything back the way it was again, the Angels will spend two weeks circling the country in pursuit of truth, justice and the baseball way…Okay, really just in pursuit of a whole lot of Ws, but didn’t it sound more poetic the other way? Anyway back to the travel part. Affectionately – by which I mean sarcastically and with no small amount of annoyance – dubbed the Four Corners Trip by Mike Scioscia and crew, this road trip will take the Angels to the four corners of the continental United States, more or less. Once they conclude their current series in Seattle, the Angels will fly to New York to play the Mets, after which they will fly to Florida to play the Marlins and then right back home again to play the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. That’s a journey of just over 8,000 miles.

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...

Now the length of the road trip does come courtesy of the U2 concert. But the craziness of the broad spectrum of destinations comes courtesy of Major League baseball. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to just fly out the East Coast and play more Eastern Division teams while the Angels were already out there than flying all over hell and gone? Perhaps they could have played the Yankees and the Rays on either side of the Interleague match-ups? Or maybe this would have been a better time to head for Boston or Baltimore. Heck, even stopping in Kansas City on the way out to the east coast, rather than having the Royals fly to California would have made more sense.

And this isn’t even the only crazy road trip the Angels have scheduled in 2011. In Oakland right after the All-Star break for three days, Monday off, just three days at home to play the Rangers and then out to Baltimore with no day off to play the Orioles before heading back home by way of Detroit to play the Twins in Anaheim, anyone? The Four Corners Trip is merely the craziest of the bunch.

I realize that every team has crazy schedule situations this season and if by some miracle a team escapes such oddities, don’t worry, MLB will get to you next year. I also realize that there is a certain amount of scheduling craziness inherent in being a Western Division team, where no two in-league opponents exist within the same 100 mile radius. Florida teams have a similar problem.  And no amount of proper prior planning is going to completely fix that.

Angels Manager Mike Scioscia is one of the proponents of expanding the post season to include two wild card teams in each league. I myself am not a fan of the idea. However, Scioscia keeps talking about making the post season extension feasible without pushing play back out into November by scheduling the regular season more efficiently. Avoiding having so many bizarre road trip situations, like the one described above, which Scioscia said looked like Kindergarteners designed it, would allow MLB to shave off a few rest days here and there, shortening the regular season in a sane fashion without actually cutting out any games. If MLB makes an effort to take some of the stupid end of the crazy spectrum out of the away schedules, I would like that _so_ much that I might find it in my heart to tolerate additional wild card teams…eventually. Just no more of this 15 teams in both leagues realignment talk, okay. Now _that’s_crazy…not to mention contrary to having moved the Brewers to the National League in the first place. 

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The Angels’ Crazy Four Corners Interleague-ean Baseball Odyssey, Stop #1: Seattle. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Two Ws in Seattle

However, as much as I am griping about the travel involved in the Four Corners trip, I have no complaints about the trip itself. So far the Angels are wearing it very well. They took two against Seattle including Jered Weavers’ complete game shutout this evening. Wins for Weaver and Dan Haren in the same spin through the rotation. Angels bats striking early and often, including multiple hits for Bobby Abreu and Howie Kendrick whose bats are on fire and two homeruns by Vernon Wells in Monday’s game. Spot on fielding. Heads up base running. A clutch bullpen. Oh yeah! Sure there are still a few things to work on, but keep it up boys. You’re playing like Angels!

And with those two wins, the Angels gain two games on Seattle, of course, but also one on Texas to whom those nice, helpful Yankee boys administered a beating this evening. Well, nice and helpful this evening anyway. What’s not to like?!

The Continuing Saga of Kaz

Scott Kazmir had yet another rough start in Salt Lake City this evening. He lasted 1.2 innings and is on the hook for six earned runs on five hits, three walks and one hit batsman. I don’t report this gleefully. I am sorry he hasn’t made any improvements at all and seems to be backsliding even further after such a solid career with the Rays. However this evening current Angels GM Tony Reagins and former Angels GM Bill Stoneman were in attendance at the Bees game, taking stock of Kaz’ performance. I expect we will hear a final decision soon. It’s more than time to stop prolonging the agony.

Scott Kazmir one year ago this week, warming up in the visitors’ bullpen at Dodgers Stadium. I am sorry to say that this is one of the last games where I remember him pitching well. Photo by This is a very simple game…(Seth)

Angels vs. Royals: More Blah, but Then Victory!

Friday’s Angels looked much like Monday through Thursday’s Angels, only with much better fielding than on several of the previous days. While this was an improvement, it was not enough to yield a different result and they lost four to two. The Angels aren’t exactly getting killed on the field this season. Most of the losses have been close. But it does go to show that if you aren’t scoring many runs, then your pitching and fielding have to be absolute perfection game in and game out in order to compensate for it, and that just isn’t feasible for any team.

So, cut to last night’s seven to five victory over the Royals. What changed? Several very important things as it turns out:

The veteran bats came alive. I admit it. I was less than pleased when I saw Vernon Wells batting cleanup last night. But he waled on the ball, going three for four with nice solid base hits that moved runners around the bases and lead to Wells scoring a run each time he made it on base. Howie Kendrick also went three for four, with two RBIs. Bobby Abreu had a key hit and he and Torii Hunter worked counts into walks for needed bodies on base. I cannot tell you how nice it was to see all of them on in one game!

We put runners on base and scored runs in multiple innings. If you look at the typical 2011 Angels box score, the one to three runs scored by our heroes usually occur all in one inning, often early in the game and then they don’t score again. This has not been an effective strategy. Last night, the Angels scored four runs in the second – more than their game average already – added a fifth run in the third and then game back to put two runs on the board and regain the lead in the 8th.

Our fielding was stellar. The Angels fielding has been good for most of 2011, but last night it was just on fire and it was equally on fire all around the diamond. Double plays. Two beautiful plays at the plate, including one highlight reel play on a perfect throw from Torii in right. Great catches all over the field and heads up back up. 

We stole four bases! Stolen bases is one of many areas where sabermetrics and I have to agree to disagree. A team doesn’t have to be loaded with power hitters to win as long as they know how to consistently manufacture runs. The Angels know how to manufacture runs. This is one of Mike Sciocia’s specialties as a manager. They just haven’t been doing it consistently. Last night, the final two runs were the result of situational hitting, stolen bases and smartly taking advantage of a few Royals mistakes. This is a great sign and hopefully the beginning of a re-emerging trend. Now let’s just hope Alberto Callaspo, who pulled a hamstring during a successful double steal, is able to move from being day to day back to an everday player soon. This injuries trend is one that can stop any day now.

Looking at the season strictly from a numbers standpoint, one win by no means offsets six straight losses, even when the rest of the division helpfully loses again. But I never think numbers tell the whole story, especially in early June. They’re more like a guideline, actually. ;) This was a good solid win, a pretty win if you will, the end result of several missing pieces coming together for the Angels all at once while other team strengths continued. If the Angels can capitalize on the momentum from this game heading into interleague, I think they can start putting together enough wins for significance from any standpoint!

Friday (and Saturday!) Gourmet, Wine & Angels 

This week’s Friday Night Ritual (wine, “gourmet” dinner and the Angels game) spread? Well, the chefs – read, Seth and I – were tired after a long week and indulged in a bit of lazy cooking: grilled turkey and cheese sandwiches with bacon and TJ’s guacamole (hence the lazy). Quick and dirty, but tasty. And the wine was amazing – Mitchella’s 2007 Cabernet which tastes of black currants and dark chocolate. Yum!

We were better rested on Saturday and grilled up a feast for the evening game. Tri-tip, rubbed with olive oil, crushed garlic, cracked black pepper and kosher salt, which my husband grilled to that perfect state where the meat has an amazing crust, but is a gorgeous medium to medium rare throughout when you slice into it. Tri-tip is an absolutely glorious cut of beef that I am sorry to say we Californians have not shared much with the rest of the country. Trust me, you are very sad. You just don’t know it. ;) We served it with black beans, fresh tortillas and queso fresco and squash lightly sautéed with garlic and black pepper. Paired with Dead Nuts, Chronic Cellars luscious Zinfandel, Petite Sirah blend, it was a fantastic meal…and the Angels won, so if I were inclined to superstitions on that front I would say they prefer us to make more of an effort for the game, LOL.

What Did Cinderella Do When She Got to the Ball? …Angels Swept by the Rays

Which is the most heartbreaking, the win you were never going to get from inning one, the win you almost had all game long, or the near comeback you give right back to the opposing team? Okay, so they’re all pretty bad. And I don’t know what a player might say. But, for my money, Wednesday’s choked comeback felt pretty terrible. Leaving the game with a throat sore from cheering, yet choked up with loss and disappointment? Granted, any night at the ballpark is a good night but…well…it took me until this evening to post about it. Enough said.

B.J. Upton caught stealing. Howie Kendrick looks pleased in the aftermath and Upton prepares to dust himself off and head for the dugout. Fielding was hit and miss this evening, but there were a few serious highlights. For example, Jered Weaver picking off B.J. Upton at 2nd. Weaver is a 6′ 7″ cross body pitcher. His pickoff move is, understandably, okay but not phenomenal. But every now and then, You’re out!

Howie Kendrick looks pleased after B.J. Upton got caught stealing. Angels vs. Rays, June 8, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...(Seth)

Vernon Wells dives back to first. Wells was 0-3 with this one walk to get on base. My until now infinite patience is wearing pretty thin at this point and continues only because he just got back from the DL. I won’t boo the man, because I don’t boo my own team. Can’t do it. But come on Vernon. Have you ever hit this badly in your life? Figure it out and get it done.

Vernon Wells dives back to first, avoiding Casey Kotchman's tag. Angels vs. Rays, June 8, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Peter Bourjos bunts his way on. Bourjos, on the other hand, had a great game. Fleet Pete was 2 for 4 at the plate, including this sacrifice bunt turned hit and had two highlight reel catches in center.

Peter Bourjos bunts his way on base. Kelly Shoppach is shown catching. Angels vs. Rays, June 8, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

The Angels bullpen. Hisanori Takahashi, Fernando Rodney and Jordan Walden hang out with the bullpen catcher and other staff early in the game.

Hisanori Takahashi, Fernando Rodney and Jordan Walden inthe Angels bullpen. Angels vs. Rays, June 8, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

The Rays Bullpen. Hey, equal time and all that. Besides, I was hoping to catch them at some of their famously funny shenanigans but, apparently, they are on their best, or at least, their least prank-ish behavior in visitor’s dugouts.

The Rays bullpen pitchers relax during the game. Angels vs. Rays, June 8, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Angels meeting on the mound. Jered Weaver asks, So, if I hold them for another inning or two do you think you guys can actually score me some runs? I’m totally kidding, of course. From everything I’ve heard, I can’t imagine him copping an attitude like that, but it’s certainly what I, as a fan, was wondering. This was not Weaver’s best outing. Three of the four earned runs were his. But, given a present offense, he did pitch well enough to win.

Jered Weaver and the Angels infield have a meeting on the mound. Angels vs. Rays, June 8, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Scott Downs warms up in the bullpen. Scott Downs had another solid outing, coming in to strike out Matt Joyce in the 8th and end the inning. In fact, I wish we’d brought him back in the 9th as I shall explain in a moment.

Scott Downs warms up in the bullpen. Angels vs. Rays, June 8, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Howie Kendrick and Mark Trumbo chat during the pitching change. As usual, I can’t help putting my own spin on what they might be saying. Hey, Trumbo. See that second base there behind me? We’ve got to figure out a way to get our guys past that.

Howie Kendrick and Mark Trumbo chat during a pitching changes in the 8th. Angels vs. Rays, June 8, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Alberto Callaspo and Maicer Izturis also chat during the pitching change. “Now you see Alberto, when the ball is coming at you, you’re supposed to try and keep it from going into the outfield.” “Keep talking Izzy. What exactly was that you did at short in the 2nd?” As previously mentioned, our fielding left something to be desired this game. Though both are Izturis and Callaspo are usually more than dependable, neither had a very good game defensively.

Alberto Callaspo and Maicer Izturis chat during a pitching change. Angels vs. Rays, June 8, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Joe Maddon says good game and takes the ball from James Shields. Seriously, I can say it. Hats off to Shields. He pitched a hell of a game and was certainly a factor in our offensive woes.

Joe Maddon comes out the mound and James Shields is done for the evening, having pitched a very good game. Angels vs. Rays, June 8, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Bobby Abreu hits a bases clearing double. Maicer started the 8th inning rally. Torii Hunter, batting in the 2 spot for the first time this season, continued it. Callaspo walked to load the bases. And then, Bobby Abreu, batting clean-up, became the Angels sole offensive highlight of game. With one ringing double, he cleared the bases and tied the game 3 to 3.

Bobby Abreu hits a bases clearing double in the 8th to tie the game. Angels vs. Rays, June 8, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Closer Jordan Walden takes the mound. Hey, I finally managed to catch him mid-pitch without his arm blurred – no mean feat, really. Walden also pitched well. But, once Bobby tied up the game, I wish we’d brought Downs back out in the 9th and saved Walden for the 10th or brought Walden back out in the 10th because the minute I saw Fernando Rodney striding out to the mound in the 10th, I has a Star Wars worthy bad feeling about this…

Closer Jordn Walden takes the mound in the 9th. Angels vs. Rays, June 8, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

…Why, why, why did we turn the game over to Rodney in the 10th? Because he’s been really clutch for us in crucial situations this season? Because he rarely walks batters and if he does start walking them he never, ever gets rattled by it? Because he’s still our #1 closer? Because he’s so…no…can’t type…any…more…must stop…laughing…hysterical laughter… Okay. I’m better now. You all saw the “highlight” reels, I’m sure. You know what happened in the 10th. Did Rodney lose the game all by himself? Of course not. Our offense bears at least half of the blame. We hit the ball but failed to score until the 8th inning. Even with runners at 2nd and 3rd with no outs in the 2nd. Even with runners on 1st and 2nd with no outs in the 5th.

Besides, I blame the guy who decided to put Rodney in more than Rodney. Rodney just did what he’s been doing more often than not all year. The guy who decided to put him in on the other hand…anyway. Suffice to say, by the time it was over I sympathized with the over-tired toddlers who were sobbing on their way out of the stadium. I’m pretty far from giving up still but, seriously, tantrums are wasted on the young.

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.

Sometimes You Win. Sometimes You Lose to the Yankees. Sometimes it Rains…All in One Weekend

Well, if the Angels had to lose two close games to the Yankees, at least it happened while I was out of town. It’s so much easier to stay detached you only check in with one of the games on your phone from time to time. You’re a lot less invested and barely notice all of the runners stranded in scoring position when you’re merely regaling your husband with your own rendition of the game day play by play ob the way back down the coast.

Seriously, when you can’t watch the game on TV, or hear your announcers’ commentary on the radio, you really only notice the good stuff – Bobby’s hitting streak, Trumbo’s homerun, Fleet Pete doing his thing, the fact that Howie’s back. All of the bad stuff – the missed scoring opportunities, the botched plays, the Yankees homeruns – barely even registers.  …You know, except for the part where I’m totally lying. April or September, squeaker or blow out, glued to the action before you on the field from the first pitch or just catching the score the next morning, losses always sting…especially when they seem to be coming in streaks.

It’s a marathon not a sprint. It’s only June. It’s just two losses. And all of the other clichés which, of course, are clichés for a reason. Yes, we’re only four games out of first and it’s just the beginning of June. Anything is still possible and I believe that this team can turn things around but it’s disheartening to be back under .500 on June 5th…and to have the AL West standings finally spread out by more than two games and be in third place and four games out. Absolutely fixable, but completely frustrating even so.

Anyway. Me? Out of town again? So soon? Well, that at least that’s more fun to write about than griping about the Angels. This weekend is the reason I was not going to go up to the wine festival last weekend until the Am Gen Tour was coming through and I decided that practicality and responsibility are really terribly overrated concepts. So this weekend, we were back up in Paso Robles for the Seafood and Sangria Summer Kickoff Party at Rio Seco, the baseball winery.

It was pouring rain for much of the weekend so the summer kickoff took place indoors, but the evening was a lot of fun. The Hinkle family were gracious hosts as always. This was a mostly locals crowd but they made sure we felt right at home – the older daughter who we usually chat with in the tasting room even asked how the Angels were doing. They remember their baseball and baseball fans here. The food was excellent. I now have several great ideas for sangria later in the summer, including one with the MVP reserve, apples and berries. More please! And the party favors were half cases of wine – the Grand Slam Cab/Syrah blend no less, ensuring that the party will continue at several Friday Gourmet, Wine and Angels evenings at our house later this summer. We had a nice time hearing some of the local gossip and all about the Giants – central coast California is absolutely not Angels country. They’re disappointed about Buster Posey but not exactly calling for Scott Cousins’ head or any rule changes in Paso Robles. Bruce Bochy take note…and a lesson or four.

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!

*     *     *     *     * 

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 Never Say Die; What the Royals Say Is Probably Not Printable

 

Mark Trumbo hit a homerun into the top tier of the K’s waterfall. Following almost immediately on his heels, Peter Bourjos hit a homerun. Torii Hunter smacked two homeruns into the stands and went three for five! Bobby Abreu hit two doubles (he went four for five!) and Hank Conger hit one. Alberto Callaspo was a clutch singles machine and Russel Branyan contributed as well for a total of 15 Angels hits. Hel-lo offense! Of course, after Ervin Santana gave up two homeruns in the first inning and six runs in the first two innings, the Angels needed every single ounce of that offensive effort to pull off today’s 10 to 8 victory over the Kansas City Royals. 

Even though Santana had a bad start, I can’t say enough good things about today’s come from behind victory. The team really pulled together with today’s areas of strength working overtime to pick up the slack from today’s areas of weakness. Santana was able to focus and pull himself together after the initial beating from the Royals offense and give the team four good, scoreless innings after that. Rich Thompson had an uncharacteristically shaky outing but Kevin Jepsen was able to come in strong and set the Royals down with more heat than we’ve seen from him in a while. Fernando Rodney gave us a few heart palpitations with his pitch counts but still went one, two, three to finish the game, Jordan Walden having thrown too many pitches Sunday to close. And behind it all was the fielding and offense picking everyone up where they needed it. 

I’m sure some folks are going to focus on the things the Angels did wrong today, and there is a fair bit to focus on there. But I would rather focus on everything they did right and the fact that together, as a team, they did not give up for one second. Every time the Royals added more runs to the scoreboard  – and they were hot, hot, hot, playing excellent baseball for most of the day – the Angels rallied and pressed even harder to catch up. Well done and light that baby up!

 

Tales from the DL

Is it just me or does nearly every team have way too many DL woes this season? I know we do. But from all reports Howie Kendrick should return from the DL for this weekend’s homestand against the Yankees, which can only mean good things for the offense, not to mention our current Franken-arrangements in the infield and outfield. Vernon Wells is tentatively scheduled to return the following homestand. I am glad because the Franken-arrangements can only last for so long before we have tired ballplayers and no good options to spell them, that and I think he was starting to turn the page at the plate.

Scott Kazmir, on the other hand, continues getting beaten to a bloody pulp by the opposing teams’ offense in his AAA rehab assignment. His AAA E.R.A. is 36.00 and that’s with lasting roughly only three innings per outing. I was rooting for him to get better. But I thought that ship might have sailed after his first two starts back in April. Now, sadly, I am sure of it.

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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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!!:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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.

Angels Tame Hot Streaking Tribe Winning 2 Out of 3

The Angels took two out of three against the first-place Cleveland Indians and gave Mike Scioscia his 1,000th win as a manager, while all of Major League Baseball donned the now traditional pink accessories for Mothers’ Day in support of Breast Cancer. Not a bad weekend, eh? Outside of baseball, it’s actually been a weird weekend for me. I brought a lot of work home, we had my in-laws over for Mothers’ Day and we got to go to the game last night (Yay!), so there wasn’t a whole lot of time for extras including, sadly, blogging. We didn’t even do our usual Friday Gourmet, Wine and Angels. We watched the game, but it was more of a Friday leftover (but still delicious) taco salad, Kristen building PDF forms for work and Angels kind of affair…though we did enjoy Pasoport’s lovely Ruby port for an extra innings dessert.

I remembered to bring an actual camera to Saturday’s game instead of just my Droid, so I figured in lieu of a more detailed write-up of the games, I’d just share some of the photos I took. It was mostly a good game with lots of scuffling back and forth, and right up until Maicer Izturis’ uncharacteristically terrible decision to run to third in the 8th, I thought the guys might pull this one off. Unfortunately no, so I was greeted with this very sad, very unlit Halo when we 20110507 Angels vs Indians - Sad Halo - for blog.jpg left the stadium. I mention the Halo a lot but it occurs to me that you might not all know what I’m talking about. The Giant A you see before you is the Big A’s namesake and was the stadium’s original scoreboard. It was moved to the parking lot and transformed into an electronic marquee when the stadium was renovated in the late 1970’s to accommodate the Rams. When the Angels win, the Halo around the top lights up, which is why so many Angels fans great a win with loud variations on Light that baby up!

We had the exact same seats we had for the last game against the Indians, oddly enough. First row of the top level, two sections behind third base. What a difference a few megapixels and a real zoom makes! This is Maicer Izturis and Erick Aybar stretching and goofing around with, I believe, Orlando Cabrera before the game. I know old school rules outlaw fraternization between opposing players, but I actually like seeing the players hang out together before the game, then put their game faces on try to outdo their buddies:

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I was pleased to capture this shot because you can the first long stride of Jered Weavers delivery (the right foot then lands right at the base of the mound or slightly off of it and angling towards first during his release, pretty cool stuff) and Mark Trumbo and Izturis moving into position at first and third. Weaver looked a little off all night, like he had to work for each pitch. I think he is still recovering from the weakening effects of his stomach ailment last weekend. I have no doubt he’ll be back on top again soon:

20110507 Angels vs Indians - Weaver Infield View - for blog.jpg

Angels players hang out on the bar of the dugout in the bottom of the first. I believe that is Tyler Chatwood to the left of Bobby Wilson (#46). Chatwood pitched a great game Friday night, but was unable to earn the win – he needs to work on his walk to strike ratio. Fernando Rodney was lights out on Friday and definitely earned the win…and then he almost blew it for the Angels on Sunday. I wish he could figure things out.

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Mark Trumbo (in the on deck circle) and Howie Kendrick (the RBI) congratulate Vernon Wells on his two-run homerun. He’s coming around. It’s taking a little while, but he’s coming around:

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Bobby Abreu takes a swing. It seems like such an obvious thing to say but, looking at the last several games’ stats, when we hit the ball with runners in scoring position we win. When we don’t we don’t. The Angels had 8 hits in Saturday’s losing effort compared to 6 in Sunday’s winning one. Its not the hits, it’s the hitting when it counts:

20110507 Angels vs Indians - Bobby Swings - For Blog.jpg

Mark Trumbo shown in one of what would be the many attempts to pick off Grady Sizemore at fist. Our fielding this game, and indeed in the rest of the series, was very good with the Angels committing 0 errors:

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The photo I wish I had? The Kiss Cam focusing on the Indians Bullpen! Basically, in the middle of the 6th inning, the cameramen focus on couples throughout the stadium, showing them on the Jumbotron in a heart- shaped frame and any couple who finds themselves in said predicament is supposed to kiss. 90% of the time, I think it’s annoying. I generally do not like any of the gimmacks geared towards the fan with no attention span. Watch the game, okay. But every now and then something funny happens with the Kiss Cam. At the Angels vs. Indians game I attended in April, the Kiss Cam panned into the Indians bullpen for the final shot, focusing tightly on two relievers (and I wish I could tell you who) who were in a deep discussion that took on overtones of “A Talk” with the Kiss Cam added context. The fans laughed uproariously and the relievers didn’t even seem to notice until the last second when they just looked surprised before the Kiss Cam faded to black. This game, the Kiss Cam again panned to the Indians Bullpen (I have no idea what the story is, they don’t do this with any other team). But this time the relievers (I assume the same ones) were ready for this treatment and one of them pretended to slap the other one, who jumped back and pretended to cry while the first reliever pretended to look huffy. Well played gentlemen! You are excellent sports!

So, all in all, a few things to work on in coming games, but still another great series! Congratulations to Scioscia on his 1,000th win as a manager! I wish I had been there to see it. I am looking forward to the coming series against the White Sox. They’re coming into Anaheim on a few wins, so we should see some good baseball…and I have tickets to Tuesday’s game. Can’t wait!

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. ;)

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