It took a little longer than I expected, but were finally alone atop the AL West.
We’ve overcome several obsatcles:
1. The death of Nick Adenhart
2. Injuries to Vlad, Santana, Lackey, Shields, Moseley
3. The pitching of Kevin Jepsen (oppenents are batting .434 against him)
But here we are, 73 games into the season and finally play some consistent ball. Last year’s regular season was a cakewalk, we had the division won halfway through the season and then flammed out in the playoffs once we face some real adversity. This year we’ve gone through so much that the players find the field as one of the few places they can relax and remain focused.
Despite the fact that the NL West (minus the Dodgers) might be barely a step above Triple A, we did our job and dominated interleague play, leading the Majors with a 14-4 record.
We won games with pitching….In his Major League debut Sean O’Sullivan went 7 innings, giving up only 5 hits and 1 run
We won games with hitting…Abreu, Rivera, Rodriguez, and Quinlan all hit homeruns against the Giants in a 9-7 victory on June 15th
And we won games with baserunning…we stole a game in Arizona with Erick Aybar’s miraculous four-base bunt (thank the Diamondback’s shoddy defense for that one) and the yesterday Gary Matthews Jr. stole home and scored in a 12-8 victory
So now were off to Texas, in what is the biggest series of the season thus far, all alone in first place finally playing up to our potential. With Escobar, Moseley and Santana both about to return to the team again, we’ll finally field a team that has enough potential to win the World Series.
Have you ever seen the movie Scanners? It’s an early 80’s movie about a group of people who have telekinetic powers and can explode heads at will…..
Our bullpen has sort of the same effect on me. Everytime Scioscia makes a call to the bullpen, the buzzing starts, followed by a headache, and by the time Kevin Jepsen or Jose Arredondo have giving up 4 runs I feel like my head is gonna explode.
So whats the best remedy for our bullpen…SCORE MORE RUNS!!!!!
As a result, interleague play couldnt have came at a better time. We took 2 of 3 from the Dodgers early in the season and last weekend we played the Padres, followed by series against the Giants, Dodgers (at home), Rockies and the Diamondbacks. And since it began we have the best interleague record of any team.
The Padres series was evidence of how dominant we are against the National League, outscoring San Diego 27-6 in the three games and hitting 9 home runs, highlighted by Torii Hunter’s hat trick on Saturday night. Can we just hand him the AL MVP right now?
Almost as impressive, Jered Weaver closed out the series with his first career shutout and third complete game of the season (9 innings, 0 runs, 5 K). Despite the strong start of Zack Greinke, Weaver has become the most dominant pitcher in the AL the last month or so and is definitely a Cy Young contender.
So with this nice little 4-game winning streak we find ourselves only 2 games out of first place and with plenty of time to catch up. However, the Angels MO this season has been inconsistency so I remain guardedly optimistic, but with Lackey and Santana back and a hot offense, this is the perfect time to make a move and reclaim first place,
Two steps forward, two steps back….
Everytime we seem to be taking off and playing good baseball (the recent Toronto series), we immediately follow up with a dismal performance (the Detroit series) and fine ourselves in the same position as before.
The only thing consistent about our team is our inconsistency. Our hitters are hot and cold, our starting pitching remains strong but doesnt get any help from the worst bullpen in baseball (at this point, I’d sign Mitch Williams and his mullet).
I’ve always been a big fan of Scioscia, but he’s too loyal and stubborn to a fault. Unlike Steinbrenner, who always made big moves at the first sight of despair, Scioscia tends to try and weather the storm. Unfortunately, this year’s team is simply average and if we expect to make the playofffs some changes need to be made.
First off, with Kelvim Escobar back and looking good in his first start (5 innings, 2 runs), he would be more useful to us in the bullpen, allowing Matt Palmer to keep his spot in the rotation.
Secondly, I would turn Vlad into a bench player and play Rivera and Napoli full-time. Both players have shown that with consistent playing time they can both hit at least .280 and belt 25-30 home runs. With Vlad still a little hurt and getting older he’s clearly not the same player he was a few years ago.
I still cant believe I would want someone with hair like this to play full-time (if you can’t tell his tips are frosted)
With the completion of the 3-game series against the Dodgers, the Angels showed that they are still one of the premier teams in the league. Heading into the series, the Dodgers had MLB’s best home and overall record so it was quite a feat for the Angels to take 2 out of 3:
Friday night the Angels won 3-1 behind solid pitching from Weaver (6 innings, 1 run allowed) and the bullpen. At the plate, Chone Figgins came through with a clutch 2-RBI single in the 8th inning and on defense both Figgins and Hunter made amazing run-saving plays…
Despite holding a 4-1 lead in the game, the Angels couldnt hold on Saturday night and lost 5-4 in 10 innings. In his third start of the season, John Lackey had a solid outing (7 innings, 3 runs allowed) but the bullpen could hold the lead as Shields blew his third save and Arredondo gave up a game-winning, bases-laoded walk in the 10th. However, Torii Hunter continued to lead this offensively with a 3-run homer.
In the rubber-match the Angels offense exploded for 10 runs and the pitching was good enough to get preserve a 10-7 victory. Matt Palmer, who entered the game 5-0, was roughed up for four runs in four innings and left the game without the chance to gain the victory. Despite the strugglinh pitching, the Angels offense found success against the Dodgers’ ace, Chad Billingsley, as Hunter, Morales and Rivera drove in 7 runs between each other.
Despite the recent success of the Dodgers, the Angels showed that they are still the premier team in the Southern California. The series’ best performer was Torii Hunter, who made several jaw-dropping catches and in the three games was 5-12 with 6 RBI
Angels v Dodgers!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
What could be better?
Unlike the grumblings of baseball purists, I’ve been a big fan of interleague play ever since it was introduced in 1997. Interleague allows fans to see matchups between teams that would never face each other outside of the World Series…why anyone would be against that is beyond me. Furthermore, its led to the creation of several “freeway series,” Angels-Dodgers, A’s-Giants, Yankees-Mets, White Sox-Cubs. With a season of 162 games its important to mix in some variety rather than see the same games season after season. The NBA, NFL and NHL all play regular season interleague games. It’s time for all baseball fans to embrace interleague.
On to the main subject, the Angels begin a three game series against the Dodger in Chavez Ravine this weekend. Each game has a very interesting pitching matchup:
Friday: Clayton Kershaw v Jered Weaver
Saturday: Randy Wolf v John Lackey
Sunday: Chad Billingsley v Matt Palmer
Last year, we split the season series three games apiece as each team won 2 of 3 on their home field. I went to two of the games at Angel Stadium and got to see us win both times and also attended a game at Dodger Stadium and got to see history be made. At the game the Dodgers won 1-0 despite being held hitless as Jered Weaver and Jose Arredondo combined for the no-hitter.
In the 5th inning, Matt Kemp hit a weak grounder back to the pitcher but was safe on the throwing error by Weaver. Kemp then stole second and advanced to third on another error by Jeff Mathis. He would eventually score on a sacrifice fly.
Leaving the stadium I was heckled unmercifully by Dodger fans who couldnt believe the won without a hit and as bad as I wanted to respond to their comments I relented for fear of being stabbed (yeah, thats a cheap shot).
Were coming into the series struggling this season, but with our team finally getting healthy were poised to make a run a take over first place in the AL West. The Dodgers on the other hand own the best record in baseball and, despite struggling early, have been playing great without Manny.
However, I am confident that we can win in Dodger Stadium and prove that despite the record we are the better team…..GO ANGELS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
For all the good that came from the Boston series, we took another step back by getting swept by Texas. We could have taken over first place in that series but looked flat the entire series. The return of John Lackey was marred when he got thrown out of the first game after only two pitchers. I seriously cant believe that the umpire thought he was throwing at the batter on purpose….THE GUY HASNT PITCHED IN 6 MONTHS!!!!
Outside of the 9th inning of the first game (where we scored 5 runs) our offense only scored 6 runs in the other 26 innings in the series, including our first shutout of the season.
Starting the season Texas was the team that I was most fearful of in our division. Oakland and Seattle both have a mediocre lineup and pitching staff so I never thought they would stay in the race the entire season. However, Texas has one of the best lineups in baseball with: Kinsler, Hamilton, Young, and Blalock; but their problem has been having one of the worst pitching staffs in baseball. So far this season their pitching has been good enough to allow the offense to win the games. Im hoping that as the season goes on their pitching will struggle and allow us to get back in the division.
But with the return of Lackey (who got his first win Monday night) and Santana (who gave up 3 runs in 5 innings against Boston) our pitcing staff is starting to finally be at full strength. Furthermore, Vlad Guerrero is expected to return to the team the beginning of next which will be a big boost to our team. With about a quarter of the season complete, were finally gonna have a full team and can now make a run at the division.