Results tagged ‘ Injuries ’
Do You Believe in Magic? …and Not So Much: Reflections on Last Week and a Season of Growth for the Angels
Baseball last week was bittersweet for me. We enjoyed a night at the ballpark Monday! But it was our last night at the ballpark of the season and the Angels lost, sounding the absolute final death knell in their post season hopes. But a little more sweet was added to temper the bitter Wednesday night when we all witnessed pure magic! An evening of baseball so amazing it can only be described with a Yogi Berra quote – it ain’t over, ‘til it’s over. My condolences to Red Sox and Braves fans, it’s not about rooting against your teams, it’s about loving the magic of a come from behind upset to begin with and then witnessing two within breaths of one another. Wow!
So, as for Monday night’s game? Well, it was a heartbreaker of game, an at that point expected heartbreak I quickly recovered from, but still. So many miscues and missed opportunities!
And that is not how I prefer to remember my season, especially when I had so much fun with the Angels for most of it…frequently frustrating fun as I have fully documented on these virtual pages, LOL, but fun even so. So imagine my delight when I reviewed the photos I took that evening and discovered a lot of smiling, fun shots of my favorite ballplayers that I think show off the great personality of the team as a whole. Instantly my goofy brain imagined strange scenarios and back stories for each of the photos because, really, I prefer to remember the season as fun:
All silliness aside, walking back to our car after the game Monday night, Seth and I rehashed the misses and mistakes. What if the Angels had played the first inning smoothly? What if they hadn’t stranded so many runners? What if, what if, what if. Seth declared that ‘what if’ was a metaphor for the whole season, though he said it wistfully and with some affection, not in anger. I agreed with him at the time, but the more I think about, the more I decided that Howie Kendrick’s last at bat was a better metaphor for the season.
Bottom of the 9th, two outs, one on base and the Angels are down by one. Were this the scenario back in 2009, I would have been 75 to 80% certain that whoever was at bat would get a double and the runner would score from first or on the very next at bat and my comeback kid Angels would have pulled it off again. Were this scenario last season, I would have been 75 to 80% certain that whoever was at bat would pop up or strike out, ending the game. Watching it all play out this season, I realized that I had absolutely no idea if Howie would be able to pull it off or not. With the 2011 Angels, you just never knew. And if that was sometimes frustrating, it was also sometimes amazing – a definite improvement over the previous season and an indication of growth in the right direction, giving me hope for 2012.
Look, 2011 was a season where there were darned few easy wins for the Angels. There were numerous contributing factors. Season long questions, first about the five spot in the starting rotation, then the four spot, then the five and back to the four and eventually both. Veteran bats failing at the same time rookie bats were learning. Not getting Kendrys back at first as expected – though in hindsight, they should have planned on that from the start – threw everyone for a loop and although Mark Trumbo became the first baseman for the team and how, there were the to-be-expected growing pains all season especially in April and May. Injuries, several of them to Torii Hunter which contributed in part to the bats situation. Cleanup spot by committee on a team with no natural cleanup spot hitter…which lead to a bunch of guys who are really excellent gap hitters, swinging for the fences and whiffing or popping out. (Trumbo is the cleanup hitter of the future in my opinion, but it was too early this season.) Then there was the bullpen. There was noticeable improvement over 2010 but, still, pick a day. They could be absolutely fantastic or the arson squad part deux. And, of course, the closer situation. From veteran closer gone bad to baby closer with flashes of brilliance amidst growing pains, that was another constant struggle this season.
All in all, the Angels won a lot of games but, for all of the reasons above and more, it was a grind to win almost every single one and I think that, quite simply, by the time we got to September the Angels were tired. Oh, in spirit they were willing and eager enough to get to the post season, witness the string of near comebacks. But I think that physically they were just too tired to take that next leap and carry themselves into the post season. And if they had made to the post season, I don’t think they would have made it past the first round, especially with the news that Mark Trumbo had been playing with a stress fracture in his foot for the last several games and was out. This isn’t a complaint at all, it’s an observation. I think they played their hearts out but, well, teams that are still capable of contending at the end, like the 2011 Rays, dig in harder to win even more when they find out that other teams in the race have lost. Teams that are just too tired to get there, like the 2011 Angels, collapse in relief to catch their breaths when they find out that other teams in the race have lost.
I wish it were different but I have a hard time being anything more than a little disappointed by it. I have watched a lot of So Cal baseball in my life, brilliant seasons, terrible seasons and everything in between, and I have to say that this was not a season that folks should get depressed over. This was a growing season that gives next season some promise. And, now, as we continue enjoying what so far has been a pretty fun post season – as fun as it can be without an Angels presence! – I will conclude this post with a few heartwarming thoughts for next season:
This last photo really struck a chord with me. Taken during the warm-up just before the top of the 9th, immediately after Mike Trout struck out looking, it appears to me that Peter Bourjos is consoling Trout a little bit. Who knows what they were actually saying to one another. For all I know, Trout was making sure his cleats are tied and Bourjos is laughing him or they weren’t even talking at all. But my photo, my interpretation – so consoling it is. And I think, as such, it’s a good message for everyone. Take heart Angels fans, they’ll get ‘em next season!
My husband just got a new job!! Lacking the ability to set off fireworks from my blog, execute a Nastia Liukin worthy tumbling run of joyous flips and whipbacks, or hire John Williams to compose an appropriately uplifting and celebratory musical score just for the occasion, I don’t think I can adequately explain the magnitude of our happiness over this news…so that extra exclamation point will have to suffice. He has a little bit of time in between jobs so to celebrate we headed up the coast for a long weekend at my inlaws’ place in Cambria.
However, just because I decided to take the weekend off from watching baseball games does not mean the Angels were supposed take the weekend off from playing them. Oh yes boys, I may not have been watching, so I missed all of the hit batsmen and other drama and will have to catch up when I return, but I saw those scores and can I just say? Yuck. Ouch. And what the hell was that?! And against a last place team too! Yes, this is baseball and in any given season the underdog pulls through a reasonable number of times but the fact remains that these are games the Angels needed to win. Good thing I am weekending in the land of relaxing views and copious amounts of wine!
Then on Sunday *poof* as if by magic, the bats reappeared (Hel-lo Erick Aybar!), as did the gloves and the arms. The pitching settled down. Our ace took the mound on short rest and, without the Texas heat compounding things, gave the team just what it needed. And ‘lo and behold we had ourselves a contending baseball team that actually played like one.
…which does , of course, raise the question, are the Angels still contending? After this weekend’s performance, salvaged on Sunday or not, do they still have a chance in Hell of making the playoffs? That’s a tough question…
I have a fantastic recipe for a chocolate mousse pie. It’s a deceptively simple recipe, just good bittersweet chocolate, butter, eggs, sugar and cream with splashes of vanilla and dark rum. The secret to the mousse is all technique and chemistry, so external factors like the weather or the temperature of the kitchen can ruin it all too easily. If something goes wrong and the chocolate in the ganache at the base of the mousse begins to seize, all you can do is whisk it for all you’re worth and hope you can get the whipped cream to blend in to make mousse. At this point, failure is almost certain and, chances are, all you will be left with is a sore arm and a lump of chocolate the consistency of greasy play dough sitting in a pool of thinning whipped cream. But every now and then, luck and just quick enough thinking are on your side, and everything whisks into a perfect suspension of chocolate in whipped cream awaiting only the addition of the meringue.
Honestly, I think this is where the Angels are right now. Whisking and hoping. They did a lot of damage this weekend and with only 10 games left in the season…I just don’t know. With Weaver pitching on short rest, we have our best possible pitchers lined up for the final series against Texas but more stars have to align on the way to that series for it to matter. We are 4.5 games out of first. It’s not just a matter of the Angels needing to win at this point, Texas needs to lose. A lot. But I haven’t thrown my cap – yes, the “ugly” one – down in disgust and given up yet. Any chance, no matter how small, is worth rooting for.
So, boys, for this next series against Toronto, did you remember to pack your bats? Gloves? Arms? Clutch? Drive? Best pitching performances? Fantastic! I trust you made a list and checked everything off just to be sure? Wonderful. Hopefully you rearranged your bags so you could bring all of this on as carryon luggage this time. We don’t need those bats or gloves to get lost at the airport again like they apparently did in Baltimore, now do we?
The 2011 Angels can’t score to save their lives and they can’t hit when it counts. Veteran bats have only come alive in alternating streaks all season – much like Torii Hunter’s slumbering bat waking with a vengeance into his current 15-game hitting streak – and the rookies and the gap hitters are pretty much carrying the line-up. The problem with that is that we can get guys on base, but we can’t bring them home, facts I haven’t shied away from mentioning all season.
And yet, the Angels have been in the thick of the division race, winning series and beating top teams all season long pretty much on the strength of their pitching and fielding alone. Two weeks ago, we were a mere game out of first place! So what happens when the pitching inevitably falters for a few games? Last week happens, with the disastrous road trip to Toronto and the Bronx. And if the fielding gets lax too? Well, then you have what could have been a season making series against the Texas Rangers turn into what we’ve seen on the field instead the last few days – something that could very well be season breaking if the Angels don’t pull it together and play their hearts out from tonight on through the rest of the season.
Another end result is that I, consummate baseball optimist, constant cheerleader and the self-proclaimed Pollyanna of Angels baseball actually started to despair for a few minutes Tuesday night. Tuesday was my husband’s birthday and his boss gave him the company seats, the OMG! company seats, on the field, in the first section on the dangerous side of the home plate screens, 10 rows back from the action. Awesome boss, yes? But sitting there, seemingly inches from the field, watching Erick Aybar lazily glance at the second playable line drive in as many innings shoot uncontested into the outfield for extra bases, in a game where our young starter was clearly struggling and needed all the backup he could get, I thought, “Well, that’s it then. If the Angels have just given up, the season is over.”
In fact, I think I waited this long to post our photos from the game, indeed anything about the Rangers series, in the hopes that Wednesday would give me something more cheerful to talk about. No dice. At least the lollygagging fielding was over by Wednesday, but not the gaffs. Balls were being thrown all kinds of places that weren’t anywhere near a glove. Erick Aybar decided to make an effort again for us Wednesday, but alternated between not being able to keep balls in his glove and not being able to get them out in time to actually throw them – which given the throwing situation might, in hindsight, have been a blessing in disguise, I don’t know – all night. Santana pitched a great game, but with the usual insufficient run support, and now with insufficient defense, it’s no surprise we lost.
So, are we done? The commentators all seem to think so. This was an important series, no doubt about it. We could be. If we can pull tonight off, we’re still six games out of first place in mid-August and that’s a tall order. But I did say my moment of despair was brief and, like it’s underlying message, I’m not giving up unless the Angels have given up…and even then I probably won’t give up unless winning becomes a mathematical impossibility, not a mere improbability, an impossibility. I’m stubborn like that. Monday and Tuesday notwithstanding, I don’t think the Angels have given up. Wednesday they still played badly but there were improvements – our pitching was back on track and the defense was at least hustling. And, here’s the thing. We were only one game out of first two weeks ago with only a handful of head to head games against the Rangers under our belt. We have seven more coming up including tonight. So, come on Angels, this division just got a whole lot tougher, but it’s still winnable.
So, tonight and going forward through August and September, we need to see a lot less of this – big bats taking knocking our pitching for extra bases -:
And a lot more of this, namely Angels in scoring position who then actually score and Angels on the base paths who just earned RBIs. And, I know I’m being extra, extra demanding here, but how about in several of the innings leading up to the 9th inning too?:
We need to start hitting pitchers who are hittable, and not right into double plays either. Derek Holland pitched a good game, but he was hittable:
No more injuries please!!! Everyone stay healthy:
It’s unfair to but so much pressure on our starting pitching, but that’s just the way things are this season, especially with the #4 spot in the rotation in such a state of flux, the rest of the rotation needs to be lights out as often as possible. With Garrett Richards unfortunately timed injury, they’re reinstating Joel Pineiro as a starter…oooooh boy. I just don’t know about that one. Prove me wrong, okay Joel? And the bullpen needs to be equally spot on. So why did we send this guy back to AAA?:
And why do we keep putting this guy in, in crucial situations? Tuesday was fine. Fernando Rodney pitches best when we’re already behind and don’t want to fall further behind, but I still don’t like seeing him take the mound:
And the fielding needs to be error free and full of hustle:
Of course, I would have dearly loved to amend Ernie Banks’ famous quote to let’s win two for this post but, alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Not in the double header and not even in the series. Ouch. Seriously, did you see Sunday’s score?! Ouch!
With the Angels entering the All Star Break on such a roll, we didn’t really want to break just then. And then coming back from the break to Peter Bourjos moving from day to day status to the DL until the 23rd and Vernon Wells too ill to start? Suffice to say, it was not a recipe for success. However, it was not a guaranteed disaster either, despite the eventual outcome. No, the Angels old “friends”, lack of RISP and difficulty getting the third out, played a large roll here too. Whatever is going on, the Angels need to get it together by Tuesday, because Texas is coming to town and we can’t lose any more series in our division right now or things just went from hard to really darned difficult in a hurry.
But back to that double header part. Single admission. Double header. On Saturday in Oakland. Who could resist the old fashioned allure of a draw like that? Not this girl. Saturday I was at the Coliseum bright and early with my husband and a good friend from college, ready to continue the Bay Area Baseball Extravaganza with 18 innings of baseball…which turned into 19 by the end. It was a great day at the ballpark indeed. The weather was mild, our seats were excellent and we were seated in good company with just enough red nearby to not feel like we were cheering alone.
First, a note about the A’s ballpark. I heard horror stories before I headed up here and I have to say that’s really not fair. No one is ever going to put the Coliseum on their list of top 10 ballparks. It’s a no frills, mixed use facility, but those are the only problems with it. The park was clean, the seats were comfortable, most seats appear to have a good view of the field and we bought black and tans for only $8.25. Suffice to say no frills was far from uncomfortable. The no frills part does mean there weren’t a lot of unique regional specialities in the food court but we enjoyed polish sausage rolls, corn dogs and nachos – hey, it was a doule header. Nine hours at the ballpark. Don’t judge me. And even though the drawbacks of a mixed use facility are odd shaped seating and fields and still being able to see the lines from the previous week’s soccer match on the field, it’s still a baseball field, the most gorgeous shade of green in the world:
Besides, in Oakland, instances of the wave were blessedly few and far between and no one, seriously no one, bounced stupid beach balls around the stadium. Angels fans, take note. Please! Also, I don’t know what the players think of them, but as a fan I really liked seeing the old fashioned, on the field, open bullpens and dugouts for a change:
I took advantage of those on the field bullpens when I bought our tickets – on the field, 12 rows behind the mound in the Angels’ bullpen. It was a lot of fun to see the bullpen warmups up close:
It was also a lot of fun to have a good vantage for so many of the serious warm-ups, hanging out and general goofing around that goes on before a game. I’ve included more photos of that than game photos this time because, well, they’re fun and I don’t often have the opportunity:
And, of course, the games weren’t without their fair share of derring do. Jered Weaver was, well, Jered Weaver. Ervin Santana was shakey but kept it together. The bullpen was great. We had great hits, notably from Erick Aybar, Mark Trumbo, Vernon Wells and – yay! -from Mike Trout. We made some great plays too. With a few less stranded runners in the second game, who knows?:
If only the Angels had won the second game, it would have been a perfect day…and I’m sorry to say that as good a time as I had, I am not a good enough sport to have left the ballpark in perfectly high spirits after losing the second game. One great win, a near win and an amazing time at a double header should have been enough…but they weren’t quite, not for a perfectly gleeful mood. I still had a lot of fun, mind you. But it’s hard not to feel just a little but deflated even so. The A’s, or better yet the Angels, have to, have to, have to do this again next season. Have to!
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Outside of baseball, coming up to the Bay Area and hanging out with friends from college has a lovely feel of both fun in the here and now and nostalgia to it. I was definitely ready to start the rest of my life and move on from college once it was over, but those were four very fun years. Getting the band back together, as it were, for a few nights of fun however does remind me of a few things I miss, like the ability to spend long periods of time just hanging out…and that wonderful sense of possibility you feel when you know you’re smart and willing to work your butt off and life has yet to hand you any real beat downs…well, that, and the ability to be fully functional after three hours of sleep and 1/3 or so of a 1/5 of something tasty.
Next Post: the Bay Area Baseball Extravaganza concludes with a trip to AT&T Park for a Giants vs. Dodgers game.
The Angels swept the Nationals and, oh yeah, we went to a baseball game on Monday! Work has been plentiful, all consuming, fun and, occasionally, FUn this week – I came home from Monday’s game and moved a project along until 2am, that kind of fun. Between that and the games I suddenly looked up, it’s Thursday already and I haven’t posted my photos. Oh well…
Our seats for Monday night’s game were just to the foul side of the foul pole down the first base line, in the second row. Prime visitor’s section this. And, indeed, we set in front of and behind two families of Nationals fans vacationing in Los Angeles and next to a Phillies fan and his young daughters who were here on one of the middle stops of a larger baseball tour vacation. They had just come from Seattle and were headed out to Arizona then Texas. So jealous! When everyone has the right attitude, visiting fans can be a kick to enjoy the game with and all parties involved in this particular case were really nice and a lot of fun to chat/snark with.
Bobby Abreu leads off of second. Being on the field level, these seats were excellent for catching glimpses of personality on the field, some of which I got on camera. As you can see, Bobby is a talker on the base paths, especially at second base. He always wears a huge smile and gestures broadly with his hands so it is unclear for the most part if he’s goofing around, talking trash, just shooting the breeze or what. Probably a little of columns A, B and C. What little I catch of it on TV is pretty darned funny…and of course he has 13 stolen bases (not bad for one of the few ballplayers left who are older than me ) so perhaps this is all part of his strategy. Get ‘em laughing, then break for third?
Vernon Wells at bat. These seats were not, however, the best for views or photos of the plate. The first base umpire is always in the way. That’s okay. Ssometimes I enjoy having a closer vantage of the outfield and plays at second. Wells is continuing to heat up in June. He hit a single this at bat, which eventually lead to a run and then went four for five on Tuesday with a crucial two-run homerun. And Angels fans are starting to respond. Both developments are very welcome indeed.
Catcher Bobby Wilson and Pitching Coach Mike Butcher meet with Ervin Santana on the mound. Santana got off to an uneven start, giving up homeruns in the 2nd and 4th, but settled into a good rhythm after that. He lasted eight innings and on the Angels, starters don’t pitch in the 9th inning unless they’re pitching a shutout or something equally spectacular, so that’s pretty darned good.
Just a random shot of the Angels bullpens. The bullpens at the Big A are terraced, which is a little unusual. The Angels bullpen on the lowest “step” in the front. And if you look at the photo you can see the Nationals in the visitor’s bullpen one step up and behind the home bullpen. Starting another “step” above the visitor’s bullpen you have the Left Field Pavilion seats. In this bullpen shot you can see Angels relievers Michael Kohn (standing up), Fernando Rodney, Hisanori Takashi’s translator, Hisanori Takashi and Jordan Walden kneeling down and…what? Praying? Vomiting? Spitting sunflower seeds? Catching a few ZZZs? Probably the real answer isn’t nearly as funny so I’m going to go with one of mine.
The Nationals brought the Racing Presidents with them to Anaheim for the series. So was this a) an incredibly stupid idea, b) a fine example of Interleague sharing of baseball cultures and traditions, or c) I really hate Interleague and fail to see how these two comments are mutually exclusive? You make the call. I initially thought the idea was kind of dumb, only because this is the Nationals’ tradition and it’s the Angels ballpark. But it was kind of fun to see and it provided a between innings icebreaker with the Nationals fans around us. I took the opportunity to ask, so, what’s the deal with Teddy? He’s really never won? I mostly knew the answer, but it was fun hearing all about the goofy, fun tradition from fans. We’d been talking a little between innings before that, but talked a lot more often after: relievers we love/who make us cringe, hitters who are starting to do better than their batting average indicates, overinflated contracts…it turns out Angels fans and Nationals fans have a frightening amount in common.
Nationals Catcher Wilson Ramos and Pitching Coach Steve McCatty meet with Pitcher John Lannan on the mound. All was going well for Lannan and the game was tied 2 to 2 until the Angels started hitting in the 6th. The Angels scored their third run shortly after this meeting and then Lannan was pulled. I love the photo because of the facial expressions and body language. I can only imagine the conversation that went with it. McCatty: Alright then, how are we going to get out of this? Lannan: Well, gee I don’t know Coach. I thought maybe I’d throw some strikes and get him out.
Mark Trumbo grows impatient during the meeting on the mound - again, with being able to catch glimpses of personality from these seats. Mark Trumbo is usually as professional in demeanor as a veteran so I was amused to see him visibly impatient at another break in this already lengthy at bat, with his cheeks puffed out like an exasperated little kid. Very cute actually. He ground into a double play this at bat, but was pretty solid at the plate this series. His average is creeping back up again and he is the American League’s rookie homerun leader with 13. Coincidentally, the Nationals’ Danny Espinosa is the Rookie Major League homerun leader.
The Nationals outfielders, Roger Bernardina, Laynce Nix and Jayson Werth meet during the subsequent pitching change. ‘Damn Werth, you have lots of friends over here too. You’re a real popular guy in Anaheim.’ Suffice to say, Angels fans were heckling Werth all night, which isn’t surprising. There are a few folks I see regularly in this section and the left most corner of the right field MVP section (Season ticket holders? Maybe, maybe not.) who heckle pretty much everyone, occasionally even our own players. Whether or not that was the topic of the outfielders’ conversation, I’m sure Werth is used to it by now.
Peter Bourjos and Vernon Wells joke after Peter snags a fly ball to end the inning. The outfield chemistry is shaping up much better as the months role by. This is very helpful, especially with various assorted centerfielders, corner outfielders turned DH and the occasional second baseman flopping roles in the outfield on a regular basis to accommodate injuries, Interleague and random acts of lineup juggling.
Yes that is Torii Hunter right in front of me in right field. The news report prior to Monday’s game was that Torii took batting and fielding practice Monday and looked good enough to return soon, possibly as soon a Wednesday. Imagine our delight when they brought him in as an unexpected substitution in the top of the 8th inning. The whole crowd erupted and we went especially crazy in the seats around right field with our welcome backs.
Jorda Walden takes the mound in the 9th. Unfortunately this would prove to be another blown save for Walden, his third in a row, when he gave up a two-out homerun to Danny Espinosa. The young Nationals fan in front of us turned around and informed me “Blown Save”. Thanks kid, I kind of figured that one out on my own. No liner notes needed. So, am I worried about Walden? No. Not at all. When I started advocating making the rookie our closer, I knew there would be some growing pains. This is a kid who had every intention of being a starter and never thought about the closer’s role until it turned out he had quite the aptitude for it this season. So far, he has 18 saves (including last night’s) which is respectable. And when he does blow it, instead of crumbling, Walden is right back in the game to get the next batter. Monday night when he gave up the homerun, he threw the next pitch for a called strike and then coaxed the batter into a ground out to end the inning. And he was right back in the game on Wednesday night with a 1-0 lead on the line and got the save. That says something to me. We will probably witness a few more growing pains this season, but I have no doubts that Jordan Walden is our closer.
Scott Downs pitches in the 10th as Howie Kendrick (who moved to first base in the 8th when Torii came in to the game) moves into position. I mentioned we were chatting about relievers with the Nationals fans? Well, Scott Downs is one of the few I never worry about. When I look over to the bullpen and see Downs warming up, with that distinctive haircut easily identifiable across the field, I breathe a sigh of relief. Yes, he has an off outing here and there, but by and large he comes in and gets it done and he has five wins for the season, as many as some teams’ starters, to prove it. Monday night and the rest of the Nationals series was no exception.
Brian Bixler stands on second flanked by second baseman Maicer Izturis and third baseman Alberto Callaspo. Bixler reached 2nd on an uncharacteristic fielding error by Maicer. There were an annoying number of Angels fielding errors this series actually, but we recovered from all of them to sweep. I hope the errors are more an indication of tiredness from the epic Four Corners Road Trip than anything more trend setting, shall we say.
Peter Bourjos takes a long lead off third. I think it is safe to say that Bourjos has worked through his slump at the plate. He went four for five on Monday with one RBI and was a crucial component of the 10th inning rally, knocking a ground rules double into the stands mere feet from my seat, that put Callaspo in scoring position for Maicer Izturis’ walk-off single. Yes, when that happened I tapped the young Nationals fan in front of us on the shoulder and informed him “Walk off.” Fair’s fair right? Acutally, everyone was laughing both over the “Blown Save” and the “Walk Off.”
There (and there and there too) and (finally!) Back Again: Final Thoughts on the Marlins Series + Angels Return for Freeway Series
So the Marlins. Well they sure are nice and heating up now, aren’t they? This is just one more service we provide here at the Big A. Blah. But it did make for a pretty good game, really, and in the end the Angels were victorious…victorious and shocked out of their “okay we scored in one early inning, now we’re done for the game” habit so I am pretty happy out here in California. And Wow! Mark Trumbo is a beast, and rapidly becoming a clutch beast at that. I miss Kendrys, but Trumbo’s season is helping to keep me from completely pining away.
There are but two real flies in my ointment. Torii. Oh Torii! Speaking of beasts. If you haven’t seen the highlight reel yet, Torii Hunter made a spectacular Torii Hunter catch against the Marlins right center wall…running as hard as he could into the Marlins right center wall. This wasn’t a situation of Torii forgetting where the wall was. You could tell from his expression as he began his running jump into the wall, that he knew right where it was. But that was what was required to catch the ball. So he caught the ball, slammed into the wall and crumpled to the ground, writhing in pain, all while holding his glove up with the ball displayed so there was no doubt. He even argued with Mike Scioscia to stay in the game. Some nights, Chuck Norris wears Torii Hunter pajamas.
Understandably, Torii is now day to day. The x-rays were negative but he bruised up the same area he bruised going over the wall against the Yankees and took a pick-off attempt throw to in one of the earlier Marlins games. Hey, I know. Maybe we should ban outfield walls and pick-off throws, because players could get serious bruises and stuff… </ sarcasm > The other fly? We have several very consistent reliable arms in our bullpen but have also regained a few inconsistent arms through DL-necessitated player transactions and it’s starting to show. Something to work on. And now it’s back to California to conclude the Four Corners Road Trip against the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium:
I am excited. Freeway Series games have such energy and are a ton of fun. My husband and I are making the trek out the 5 freeway for Saturday’s game. Tyler Chatwood will take the mound for the Angels and Hiroki Kuroda will take the mound for the Dodgers and I will take a ton of photos. Hmmm, two pitchers with chronic lack of run support. This could get interesting. We’re even supposed to meet fellow blogger Emma from Crzblue’s Dodger Blue World, so much fun is in store…provided my sore throat gets the message that it is on serious notice and at least improves. I see my future and it involves more black tea, honey and lemon juice. It is a truly vile, syrupy, acidic concoction whose vileness, alas, is only exceeded by its effectiveness…and did I mention that it makes me whine?
Fan Hide and Seek Night at the Sun Life Stadium
For the last several seasons, I have been hearing how low attendance is at Marlins games, but I had to see it for myself to really understand it. I realize that it was a weeknight and they had recently lost 11 in a row, but I swear there were more fans in the field box sections bordering the infield alone, at Fenway Park at 2am near the end of that marathon, extra innings, multiple rain delayed game we played in Boston in early May. I was flabbergasted.
And I mean this in no way as mockery of Marlins fans. The Marlins fans that were at the game were loud and passionate sounding…and you could hear every word each individual fan was saying, the stadium was so empty. And I am sure there were many more Marlins fans watching the game on TV. No, this is just my way of saying, wow. That visual, as much as the years-long abandoned construction projects, blocks with multiple foreclosure vacancies and acquaintances in the double digits who have been unemployed for a year or more, reminded me that while we are seeing signs of economic improvement, we are still stuck in this thing and we are going to be for a long, long time.
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.
The Angels announced their initial 25-man roster late this evening, following a 5 – 1 win over the Dodgers in their final preseason game. I say initial because, of course, there will be considerable roster shifting in April and possibly into early May as Scott Downs, Kendrys Morales, Joel Pineiro and Reggie Willits come off of the 15-day DL. So, for now, the 2011 Angels are:
Jered Weaver (RHP)
Dan Haren (RHP)
Ervin Santana (RHP)
Scott Kazmir (LHP)
Jason Bulger (RHP)
Kevin Jepsen (RHP)
Michael Kohn (RHP)
Fernando Rodney (RHP)
Hisanori Takahashi (LHP)
Rich Thompson (RHP)
Jordan Walden (RHP)
Trevor Bell (RHP), Matt Palmer (RHP), Francisco Rodriguez (RHP), and infielder Andrew Romine were optioned back to AAA Salt Lake.
Not a whole lot of surprises there. Okay, I was a little surprised to see Hank Conger stay on the roster. I figured he would stay in AAA so he could get work in every day. But I don’t know who I would have kept up instead, this may change when they need roster space for guys coming off the DL and, besides, carrying three catchers is becoming a Mike Scioscia tradition. Given his hot streak since the surgery, I wish they found a way to keep Palmer up. I know Bulger is out of options, but he didn’t have a very good spring, or late summer for that matter… I’m pleased to see Chris Pettit getting another shot after missing all of 2010 due to shoulder surgery. I don’t know how long that experiment will last once guys start coming off the DL but we’ll see.
I’m excited! Yes, I pretty much knew who would make the cut, especially given the limiting injuries. Even so, just seeing the official roster really drives home the fact that Opening Day is Thursday! And I’m hopeful. We may have platoons at both of our infield corners indefinitely, but today it doesn’t bother me. So far it seems to be working, better than I expected. And if Trumbo’s bat holds up during the regular season, I think the first base platoon will be resolved quickly, even if Kendrys isn’t able to come back full time any time soon.
I’m so ready for Thursday. We have Weaver on the mound, the triple centerfield patrolling the outfield and a couple of guys whose bats really, really love Kauffman Stadium. Bring on the Royals. Play ball!!
The Angels continue to hit in spectacular fashion, both those you would expect and those you would not expect. 39 hits and 31 RBIs in the last three games, even with the loss to Milwaukee? Whooooo hooooo! Granted, batting averages don’t really count for much in Spring Training because the pitching takes so long to get into season shape and the number of minor league pitchers each batter sees. However, the bats seem to be warming up more as the pitching warms up and this I will take as a hopeful sign for the season.
Starting rotation issues, however, are giving me concerns where I did not expect to have any just two weeks ago. Now it sounds like Joel Pineiro will spend a few days on the DL at the beginning for the season. I understand. I want him to pitch strong for as much of the season as he can and back precautionary decisions especially now before the season starts. So much for the 4th rotation spot, for now…though after Scott Kazmir’s last start, who knows?
Which brings us to our 5th starting rotation spot…well…How do you solve a problem like Scott Kazmir? And, yes, that did emerge from my head set to a Rodgers and Hammerstein approved tune. Thanks – or blame, depending on your point of view – to Red State Blue State. I wanted Kaz to regain his old form. I was really pulling for him. There were hopefully signs in several of his Spring Training starts – more control in one game, more strikes thrown in another, more consistency, etc. But it never all came together in one game, which in and of itself already has overtones of 2010. Then, on Thursday against the Brewers, he incurred eight hits and ten runs in five innings pitched. Owwwww-ch. And yet it still sounds like Kaz is our 5th starter. Which leaves us where exactly? Praying for rain every 5th start? That would be one baseball tradition I would prefer not to embrace.
Matt Palmer did pretty well today, pitching to contact with the infield and outfield living up to their capabilities. Hmmm…is he an alternative plan or is he bullpen bound, no ifs, ands or buts? Oh well, I guess we’ll find out on Tuesday after the game, when Mike Scioscia has promised he will announce the starting rotation, the 25 man roster and the opening day starters…because waiting for Wednesday evening would have been too last minute, she says with extreme affection.
In other news, preparing to buy tickets for a few games in Northern California has given me a renewed appreciation for buying Angels tickets down here in Southern California. On Stubhub you pay more than full price for even generic Giants and A’s tickets. Even now before the season has started. It is actually better to go through Ticketmaster for Giants and A’s tickets. The horror!! The Big A is so large and enough of our season ticket holders so unable to attend every game, that I can usually grab tickets at season ticket prices or even cheaper now or the week of the game off Stubhub or Craig’s list. Games against the Yankees, Red Sox and Dodgers are notable exceptions to this rule. But even so, wow. I had no idea I was so spoiled, but I’ll take it!
Last week the Major League Giants beat up on the baby Angels, but this week the Major League Angels beat up on the Major League Giants – make that, the Major League, World Champion Giants – and shut them out 8 to 0. It was pretty exciting, almost exciting enough to get me excited about Spring Training again…almost. I was thrilled to see that Santana had both his nasty stuff and control. That Mark Trumbo hit a nice solid double off a tough major league pitcher – Matt Cain no less. That Bobby homered, Torii successfully stole a base (just not third Torii, no more trying for third please) and that last season’s weaker bats are continuing to swing strong through March. But, I want to see all of this for real!
Yeah, I know. I was so excited when Spring Training started – It’s live baseball! and all that. What happened? Well…and, yes, I already made this analogy on Jane Heller’s blog, but I like it…Spring Training was fantastic when it was our first taste of baseball after the winter, rather like how delicious a plain chicken soup might taste after you’ve been sick for a long time. But eventually you’re feeling even better, tire of the chicken soup and start craving something more substantial. Bring on the meat and potatoes of the regular season!!
Enough match-ups that don’t count and often aren’t real major league match-ups. Enough of the regular players departing after the 4th inning. Enough of having a new pitcher every inning or three. The whole 100 pitch count, no more than 7 innings thing annoys me as it is. Spring Training pitch counts drive me absolutely batty. And enough with the day games already! I agree that day game baseball is baseball as it’s meant to b watched, but it’s also baseball at it most unwatchable if you have a job with traditional-ish hours. I want to be able to watch a game live on more than just the weekends again. Spring Training was a great tide me over until the season started, but enough…yeah, okay, enough whining already. Opening Day is only a week away. Now that’s something to get excited about.
Other exciting things? It sounds like Joel Piniero won’t miss any regular season starts over the back pain that took him out of a game on Sunday. This is great news and I hope it continues to be true. That DL was getting more than a little crowded. Oh, and there is rain pounding my roof right now! Why is this a good thing – other than for strategic water table purposes, of course? The rain was supposed to hit us in three separate storms every other day from today through Sunday, Fanfest day. Now it looks like the three separate storms are bunching in to one longer rainy period ending Friday evening. This is good because, while I was going to Fanfest no matter what, few things smell worse than wet Rally Monkey. This also means that I will see live baseball before my very own eyes on Sunday as well. Yes, it’s another Spring Training-ish game, the exhibition game against the Padres, but I think I can muster up some excitement for this one. Being at the ballpark never fails to do that to me.