Posts Tagged ‘Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim’

I guess you could say that last night’s game was a pitcher’s duel.  Lackey brought his A-game, as he is lately wont to do, but we just didn’t back him up.  And without backup, ultimately it doesn’t matter how well you pitch; eventually, you are going to lose.  That’s actually literally true.  Because if the hitters don’t score any runs at all at any point during the game, then even if the starter is pitching a perfect game, eventually the game will go into extra innings and a pitching change will have to be made.  And even if the hitters don’t score any runs in extras, it is entirely possible that the opposition will after a while.  I mean, you could say the same about us, of course, but the point is that you have to have run support to win.  Without it, you basically just have half a great game.

Lackey gave up a solo shot in the first and a solo shot in the fifth.  Other than that, he was solid gold.  He had one-two-three innings in the second, fourth and seventh.  And all his other innings weren’t so bad either.  If by not-so-bad, I mean phenomenal.  Which, of course, I do.  Because he was.  Seriously.  Seven innings, two runs, five hits, one walk, nine K’s.  The man was on.

If only he received even a modicum of the run support that he deserved.  For the sake of our dignity, it would have been nice not to have been shut out, but for the shutout, we have no one to blame but ourselves.  We had some scoring opportunities here and there, but even if we had had a huge opportunity, ultimately it wouldn’t have mattered unless we managed to make good on it.  Which we didn’t.

Tazawa pitched the ninth and gave up a triple that turned into a run thanks to a sac fly.  After issuing a walk, Tazawa was replaced by Aceves, who gave up a double but also secured the inning’s final outs.  And we lost, three-zip.

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Congratulations to Papi, Pedroia, and Buchholz, who are all going to the All-Star Game! Obviously they’ve earned it.  I know they’ll do what they can to help the American League bring it home this year.  And I hope that we’ll be the ones reaping the benefits in several months.  And I hope that we’ll pitch better than we did last night so we can get there.  Specifically, I hope the relief corps doesn’t make a habit of blowing four-run leads.

Ellsbury singled on the second pitch of the game and proceeded to lay out a textbook example of what manufacturing a run means.  Two outs later, he moved to second on a single by Papi and then stole third, thereby inducing a throwing error that allowed him to score.  Jacoby Ellsbury is the quintessential baserunner: smart, adaptive, quick-thinking, attentive, and of course as fast as it gets.  Nava singled to lead off the second and scored on a sac fly by Brock Holt.

Dempster tied the game at two in the second.  He gave up a solo shot to lead it off and then induced a flyout.  But then he gave up a single that he turned into a double by making a throwing error, and then let it turn into a run on another single.  He gave up another solo shot to lead off the third.

But fortunately we had an answer to that.  Make that a tying answer, a go-ahead answer, and an answer to spare.  Napoli walked to lead off the inning, Nava doubled, and Salty cleared the bases with a double.  Holt reached on a fielder’s choice to put runners at the corners, and Salty scored on a single by Iglesias.  With one out in the sixth, Ellsbury tripled and scored on a single by Pedroia.  And Pedroia led off the eighth with a single and scored on a double by Nava.

Heading into the ninth inning, the score was 7-3.  Dempster had given up just the three runs and was replaced by Miller a walk and a strikeout into the seventh.  Miller gave up a single and was replaced by Bailey, who actually induced a double play and managed to get through the eighth inning without incident.  Ironically, the trouble with the relief corps started only after Bailey was taken out.

Wilson was put on for the ninth.  He got the first out with a strikeout, gave up a single, got the second out with a flyout, gave up another single, and hit a batter to load the bases.  Uehara came on, and obviously what we needed in that situation was an out.  We would have done well with an out of any kind.  The bases were loaded, but there were already two out.  All we needed was one more.

Eventually, Uehara did strike out a batter to end the inning.  But not before he allowed multiple scoring plays.  He gave up two consecutive singles that scored a combined total of three runs.  Then Snyder made a throwing error on a force attempt, which let the tying run score.  So I guess technically if the damage had stopped with those two RBI singles, we still could have won the game within nine innings by one run.

We ended up playing eleven and didn’t have much of a fight to show for it.  We went down in order in the tenth with three strikeouts and the eleventh with two groundouts and a popout.  Breslow pitched a solid tenth, but after securing the first out in the eleventh, he gave up a single followed by a home run.  It was the first and last pitch of the at-bat, a bad slider.  So after all that baseball, which started late to begin with, the Angels won, 9-7.

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This was a good, old-fashioned, keep-your-head down, grind-it-out win.  It didn’t come easily.  And we spent a good amount of time tied at two.  But it doesn’t matter where you win or how you win as long as you win in the end.  And if that’s your attitude, it allows you to do things like turn on the power late in the game and string some small ball together to score more runs.  Games like this prove that we have the ability to win in every way.

Napoli and Synder both flied out in the second, but en route, Gomes walked, Nava singled, and both scored on a single by Salty with a little help from a fielding error.

We didn’t score again until the seventh inning, and by that time, the Angels had already tied it up at two.  Doubront gave up a triple to lead off the third, and that triple turned into a run on a double play.  Admittedly, if you have to allow a run, that’s the way to do it.  The same obviously can not be said for giving up a solo shot to lead off the fourth.

That was the last time the Angels were on an even footing with us.  Victorino singled to lead off the seventh and scored two outs later thanks to another fielding error.  Nava doubled to lead off the eighth, and Papi came in to pinch-hit for Snyder.  This is a classic example of illustrating why the phenomenon of the pinch-hitter exists.  Sometimes you don’t see it because, in the end, it doesn’t make that much of a difference.  But you really never know.  Papi took a fastball for a strike but got a splitter that missed.  Obviously we couldn’t have known that the splitter would miss.  But we knew that, if it did, we wanted someone in there who would really take the most advantage possible of the opportunity.  And that’s basically what a two-run shot to right field did.

Breslow had been replaced two outs and one double into the seventh by Breslow, who pitched through the last out of the seventh and the first out of the eighth, when he was replaced by Tazawa.  Tazawa finished the eighth, and Uehara pitched the ninth.

Speaking of which, two outs into the ninth, we weren’t done.  At least Napoli wasn’t done.  He was fed a steady diet of ninety-five mile-per-hour four-seam fastballs but wanted some power action and hit a solo shot all the way out to center.

We picked up thirteen hits to their seven and six runs to their two.  It wasn’t one of those wins that came easily.  We had to fight for this one.  But fight we did, and we earned it.

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Now that was fun.  We buried the Angels.  We literally scored twice as many runs as they did.  I mean, if the Angels had only scored one run, then I could have said that we scored ten times as many runs as they did.  But double will work too.

More importantly than the margin by which we won is the fact that we won.  And we couldn’t have won without solid performances from both the pitching staff and the hitting staff.  The Angels were batting first, so as our starter, Dempster was the one who would set the tone.  In the end, he tossed a quality start; he gave up three runs on six hits while walking two and striking out six over the course of six innings.  In addition to giving up two solo shots (one in the first with two out and the other in the fourth with nobody out), he gave up a run thanks to a double-single combination in the fifth.

It was just really wonderful to see him get such strong run support and be able to walk away with the win.  He earned it.  He really, really earned it, and it was great to see that kind of performance from him.

Breslow pitched the seventh, and Uehara came out for the eighth.  While recording the inning’s first two outs, he got wild; he hit a batter and issued two walks.  One single later, the Angels’ run total stood at five.  Miller finished the inning and pitched the ninth.

But as I said, it’s not enough to have strong pitching.  To win a ballgame, one must have strong, or at the very least, sufficiently present hitting.  Our hitters were both strong and sufficiently present.

Iglesias led off the third with a single but was out in a force by Ellsbury, who stole second and scored on a single by Nava.  Then Pedroia singled, and it was the Angels’ turn to make a mistake.  In this particular case, it was a changeup that missed.  To Big Papi.  I mean, few hitters would have missed that opportunity.  But Big Papi? Please.  That ball stood absolutely no chance of remaining inside the ballpark.

Carp began the fourth by reaching on a throwing error; he moved to third on a wild pitch and scored two outs later on a triple by Ellsbury.  And then the sixth began.  And to start with, you had to do a double-take just to make sure you weren’t looking at a replay of a home run.  But that was nothing compared to the fact that, on a combined total of four pitches, Salty and Carp smacked back-to-back jacks.  It was epic.

One out into the seventh, Papi and Napoli worked back-to-back walks, and Salty had himself a multi-homer game! That, my friends, was most definitely not a replay.

And that’s how we beat the Angels, 10-5, in all our slugging glory.

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The inclement weather gave us a spontaneous day off, although the game was postponed, so we’ll have to make it up later.  Speaking of which, that is also what we did today.  It turns out that the extra off day was right on time; making up a game previously rescheduled, we had a twin bill.

We lost the opener.  Doubront took the loss but Morales didn’t help any.  Doubront gave up only three runs in six innings of work; that’s a quality start.  None of the runs scored via the long ball, which means that they were not the products of isolated mistakes.  However, Doubront by no means had a bad day.  He actually looked pretty good.  And if the Angels had been held to three runs, then all else being equal, we would have walked away the victors.

Morales, however, gave up four runs in the seventh inning alone.  Not counting the outs, he gave up a double, an intentional walk, an RBI double, another walk that loaded the bases, and two consecutive walks that both walked in runs and re-loaded the bases each time.  Then he was lifted for Mortensen, who gave up a single that allowed one of his inherited runners to score.  It was awful.  Morales could not find the strike zone at any time.  His terrible performance made the two outs that he managed to record look like accidents.  Mortensen pitched until he allowed two singles and a popup in the ninth, when Miller took over.  Miller gave up a walk to load the bases, which was obviously the theme of our relief corps’s performance.  One force out later, he walked in a run of his own, and a fielding error by Napoli resulted in the Angels’ last run of the morning.

Carp hit a solo shot to lead off the fourth for our first run of the day.  Two outs later, Ellsbury walked, stole second, and scored on a single by Nava.  We were still fighting even in the ninth inning; we hit three straight singles with two out plus a double that scored a total of two runs.  But it wasn’t enough, and we lost, 9-5.

The nightcap got off to an auspicious start.  Victorino singled to lead off the first and scored on a double by Gomes, who scored on a double by Pedroia.  The next inning, Gomes singled and scored on a double by Papi.  The nightcap then continued just as auspiciously; Iglesias led off the sixth with a single and scored two outs later on a single by Pedroia.  And it all cleared when Papi homered for two more runs.

Buchholz gave up his first run in the third thanks to a double-single combination.  He gave up his second run in the sixth thanks to a double and a sac fly.  And that was it for him.  Breslow and Tazawa finished the game, and the final score was 7-2.  So we split.  I would have preferred we sweep, but we’ll take what we can get.

Now that’s what I call quick work.  The Penguins never saw it coming.  It was a clean sweep, culminating in a one-zip win.  That would be twenty-six saves for Tuuka Rask and some timely heroics by Adam McQuaid.  The Eastern Conference is now officially in the bag.

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That was extremely satisfying.  Winning is always satisfying, but doing it against a team that’s had the better of you in a bad way recently is really quite a thrill.  Now it’s us who has the lopsided slugfest under our belts.  Revenge is a dish best served cold, but I’m pretty sure I’ll take this win any day.

Especially if Lackey is the one who got the W in the end.  I mean, a win is a win no matter who gets it, but it’s just so nice and so refreshing to see him in vintage form.  This is basically what he was like when he was with the Angels.  This is the John Lackey we signed.  Now, this is the John Lackey we get to see.

The fact that we went down in order in first provided considerable false hope for the Tribe, I’m sure.  The second, in which Papi walked, Napoli singled, and Carp homered to right on a slider was much more like it.  It was awesome.  Carp has shown that he can bring the power, and he did yesterday for sure.  We went down in order in the next three innings.  We had a beautiful opportunity in the sixth; with one out, thanks to a hit batsman and two back-to-back singles, we had the bases loaded.  And we had only one run score on Napoli’s force out.

But we blew the game open in the seventh, when we went through the lineup in its entirety.  Salty doubled to lead it off.  Gomes came in for Carp and got hit.  Drew struck out, Iglesias singled to load the bases, and Ellsbury singled in two runs.  Nava popped out, Ellsbury stole second, and Pedroia’s single cleared the bases for another two runs.  And we went down in order in the eighth.

Lackey went up against who but Justin Masterson.  Obviously Lackey carried the day.  But that would have been true no matter who he happened to pitch against yesterday, all else being equal.  He mowed right through the Tribe, pitching like it was the easiest thing in the world to just stand there and completely befuddle all the hitters he faced.  He had a one-two-three first and second.  His only blemish occurred in the third; he gave up two consecutive singles, recorded two consecutive outs, and absorbed the one run’s worth of damage wrought by Salty’s throwing error.  It was bad in every conceivable way.  Not only was the throw way off target, sending the ball into the outfield, but it came on a double steal attempt.

He had a one-two-three fourth and fifth; the only inning during which he did not face the minimum besides the third was the sixth, during which he issued a walk without also inducing a double play.

Uehara and Aceves pitched the eighth and ninth, respectively.

So the offense was huge, and so was Lackey’s start.  He pitched seven innings of one-run ball, and that run wasn’t even earned.  He gave up two hits, walked three, and struck out eighth.  The final score was a fantastic 8-1.

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Finally! Okay, now we’re in business.  I don’t want to necessarily say that the news is big news; I think a year or two ago it would have been really big news, but players age year to year, and last year’s phenom is this year’s solid, all-around acquisition who’s good but doesn’t necessarily have that wow factor anymore.  But given our needs and our situation, I’d say Ben’s moves during and after the Winter Meetings were good and much-needed ones.  He’s putting together a stable team while maintaining a healthy amount of financial flexibility, and John Farrell is happy with the developments.  All in all, I’d say we’re definitely going in a great direction.

Anyway, let’s get down to it.  We’ve signed Mike Napoli to a three-year contract worth thirty-nine million dollars.  Don’t let last season’s aggregate stats fool you.  He batted .227 with twenty-four home runs and fifty-six RBIs with an on-base percentage of .343, but look at his numbers in his new home: .307 batting average, nine home runs, twenty RBIs, and a 1.14 OBP.  Admittedly, the sample size of seventy-five at-bats is small, but numbers aside, he’s known for pulling the ball, and his swing will thrive in Fenway.  As for defense, he’s a catcher by trade, but don’t expect to see him behind the plate.  He’ll probably end up at first.

Our next name is Shane Victorino, the Flyin’ Hawaiian.  It’s another three-year, thirty-nine-million-dollar deal.  Last year, he batted .255 with eleven homers, fifty-five RBIs, and a .321 OBP.  Don’t forget that he bats switch, though, and while he batted .229 as a leftie, he batted .320 as a rightie.  But he had vastly more at-bats from the left than the right, so again, the sample size must be considered.  Still, versatility has never been frowned upon in our organization.  As for defense, like Napoli, Victorino will not field in familiar territory.  All trade rumors concerning Ellsbury are patently false, and Victorino will not be playing center.  He’ll be playing right for sure.  And it’ll be a welcome relief.  Fenway’s right field can break any veteran, but Shane has the stuff to handle it.  He has three Gold Gloves and a center fielder’s speed and arm, and that combination in right, once he learns the fatal angles out there, will be formidable.  It’ll be nice breathing easy with a steady patrol out there.

It’s worth noting that Ben and John met in person with Josh Hamilton, but don’t get too excited.  We already have Ellsbury, and Hamilton wants either Texas or a long-term deal, neither of which we will provide.

And we signed Ryan Dempster to a two-year deal worth $26.5 million.  Granted, he has spent almost all of his time in the National League aside from a few handfuls of games last season, which he started for Texas.  But his ERA was 3.38 last season, and his WHIP was 1.20; not too shabby.  Just as important, if not more important, to why we were interested in him in the first place is the fact that, before last season, his last for seasons totaled at least two hundred innings, and last season he clocked 173 innings which isn’t too far behind.  That means three things: durability, durability, durability.  On the other hand, durability doesn’t mean much unless you’re good, and his brief stint in the American League didn’t go well at all, so I’m concerned as to how he’ll make out in the AL East, which, as we all know, is the toughest division there is, basically.  So I’d say we can approach this one with cautious expectations.  But at least we got some sort of starting pitcher, which is a step in the right direction.  We also added Koji Uehara, who signed a one-year deal.  In thirty-six innings last year, he posted a 1.75 ERA and an 0.64 WHIP.  That means good late-inning work for us.

We finished the Zach Stewart trade by acquiring Kyle Kaminska from the Pirates and assigned him to the PawSox.  We also claimed Sandy Rosario from the A’s, and he has since been claimed by the Cubs.  Gary DiSarcina, formerly the Angels’ minor league field coordinator, is now the PawSox manager.

So we had gaps and voids, we identified them, and we set about filling them with solid, stable choices who will fit in both on the field and in the clubhouse.  We now have some powerful hitters and defenders in the lineup whose numbers admittedly were not great last year but who stand, given the right circumstances, to do great things, and we have some great additions to the clubhouse as well.  We also have a starter who’s spent hardly any time in the AL and whose time he did spend in the AL was nothing to write home about but who has considerable potential.  We still have a lot of work to do; we need more and better starting pitching, for one thing.  That’s a big one.  But slowly but surely we’re getting it done.  We don’t need to make the world’s biggest splash to put a team together that can go the distance.

In other news, the Pats beat the Dophins, 23-16, and the Texans, 42-14.

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