Biggest Road Trip of Season Awaits Angels

A desire from many players on the Angels and furthermore from around major league baseball players in general, is to play meaningful baseball in September.  Well, for the 25 guys who wear the Angels uniform, this road trip is as good as it gets.

The Halos hit the road to take on the other top 3 teams in the AL, for what will be the ultimate test for them.  The Angels first head to New York for a make up game before shooting to Boston and Texas for 3 games apiece before finally coming home and getting to face the Yankees for 3 more.  I think it’s safe to say, that the next 10 games, with an extra emphasis on these first 7 on the road, will make or break the Angels season.   

Having a 6 game lead on the division is definitely nice, especially at a time like this.  The first game pits the Angels best starting pitcher so far this year, Jered Weaver, against the much over rated Joba Chamberlain.  Weaver will be looking for his 16th win and, to put his name in discussions for a possible Cy Young award. 

The Angels last homestand concluded yesterday with a 3-2 win over the visiting White Sox.  The Angels went 5-1 on the homestand, which also saw them sweep 3 from the Mariners.  The Halos once white hot offense has cooled of late, but excellent starting pitching and continued solid bullpen work has translated into wins for the club.  I think not only for the playoffs, but even this time of the year, the club would rather see it’s starting pitcher where it’s at, compared to how it had been for the majority of the year.  The addition of Scott Kazmir, along with a healthy Joe Saunders and Ervin Santana have made all the difference.  Kevin Jepsen, who many would say should get team MVP honors, has been amazing in filling in for the injured Scot Shields.

The Angels offense, on the otherhand, could really use a wake up call.  Ever since Vladimir Guerrero came off of the DL and occupied the clean up spot in the lineup, the offense hasn’t been the same.  At it’s most lethal, the lineup was patient and didn’t swing at bad pitches.  That’s exactly the opposite of Guerrero, who just can’t get away with being that type of player anymore.  The bad balls he used to hit for doubles and home runs, are now lazy pop ups and fly balls.  Mike Scioscia should really consider relegating him to part time duty, and bumping up Kendre Morales to the 4th spot, and getting Mike Napoli more consistent playing time. 

Fasten your seatbelts Angels fans, the next 10 games should all be great.  I see the Angels jumping all over Joba tonight.

Until next time Angel fans. 

 

Advertisements

Lackey vs. Greinke

It’s safe to say that more often than not, most anticipated pitcher’s duels end up being anything but.  However, on Saturday night in Kansas City, John Lackey and Zack Greinke rolled up their sleeves and squared off in front of a packed house.  And, they didn’t disappoint, not even in the slightest. 

Greinke went 8 masterful innings, striking out 8, keeping the Angels tied in knots all night long.  Greinke left the game after having tossed 125 pitches.  Lackey though, was better, going 9 even more impressive innings, and throwing 106 pitches of his own.  Yes, Lackey only struck out 4, but those extra pitches he didn’t throw let him go that extra inning that Greinke didn’t.  This was the John Lackey that we all know and love, the staff ace that goes out and gets the job done no matter what.  The Halos managed to tie the game at 1 when Torii Hunter lashed a two out, two strike single off of Greinke in the 8th.  Big John also managed to do this in front of a crowd that would give Greinke a standing ovation on nearly every strike he threw.  I mean, the guy would spit a solid loogie and you would hear the applause from various parts of the ballpark.

Lackey did everything possible to keep the team in the game.  Combined with the Angels ineffective offense of late (granted they’ve been facing some pretty solid pitching) only magnifies the brilliance of Lackey’s start.  The Halos took the field in this game already knowing that the Rangers had lost, briefly pushing the club’s lead in the division to 4 games.  With 7 games left against the Rangers, especially considering how much the Angels struggle against the Rangers, at this point of the season, they need to get every game in the standings that they can. 

Lackey also continued the Angels awesome starting pitching of late.  With the addition of Scott Kazmir, who was more than solid in his club debut in Seattle despite losing along with solid Jered Weaver, Joe Saunders, and Ervin Santana, the rotation as a whole finally appears to be in line.  Trusting that the club can hold on and make the playoffs, this rotation, combined with a strong bullpen and torrid offense, this team really does have a chance at making it deep.

As I write this, the game just turned to the bottom of the 10th, still tied at 1.  Hopefully Lackey’s efforts weren’t made in vain tonight. 

Until next time Angel fans. 

Angels Hit the Road With Lots to Prove

The Angels just completed one of their most disappointing homestands of the year, but despite the poor showing, we learned a little bit more about the team.  The halos finished the homestand 3-4, and, only managed to split a 4 game series against last place Oakland.  The series against Oakland again highlighted the fact that the Angels have been flat out horrible against the AL West this year.  However, not is all lost Angel fans.  A lot happened during the past week.  Most importantly, the club managed to snag Rays lefty starting pitcher Scott Kazmir, who the club had been keeping their eyes on for a couple years now.  The move, coming at only the expense of 2 minor leaguers and a player to be named, allows the club to keep the nucleus of big leaguers on the roster, and adding that much needed starting pitcher the club had been looking for.  Now, a rotation of Lackey, Weaver, Santana, Saunders and Kazmir, looks mightily impressive.  However, it remains to be seen if this will translate into success on the field, as the Angels starting pitching has been the weak link of the team this year.  Kazmir has battled injury this year, but appears healthy and has been throwing well of late. Also, Kazmir is under contract for the next 2 years, and if the team can manage to resign John Lackey in the offseason, they would have one of the best rotations in baseball.  Speaking of Lackey, on Sunday he picked up his 100th career victory as an Angel.  Also on the homestand, Kendry Morales hit his club leading 30th home run of the season, and also set the club record for home runs by a switch hitter.  Morales, or K-Mo as he is now being referred to, is starting to show he may deserve more at bats in the 4th spot of the order, rather than 6th where he has been doing his damage all year.  

So, the club will head out on the road beginning in Seattle, with a 5 game lead in the division.  Despite the club’s poor play of late, they have managed to keep the lead at or near that mark for some time now. 

Kazmir will make his debut either Tuesday or Wednesday against the Mariners, which should be interesting.

Until next time Angel fans. 

Saunders Returns, Halos Avoid Sweep, 4-2.

Wednesday afternoon saw the Angels Joe Saunders make his first start since coming off the disabled list, and by all accounts, looks to have not only his old form back, but his velocity as well.  Saunders reached 95 MPH at times, on his way to picking up the victory, despite Brian Fuentes attempt at hitting all Tiger batters he faced in the 9th, he did manage to pick up the save.  Fuentes nailed 2 Tigers in the inning, the only runners that reached base, before getting the final out and notching another save under his belt.  Saunders only went 5 innings, but they were good quality innings.  The lefty struck out 6, only allowing 4 hits and 2 runs, courtesy of Adam Everett, who hit a 2 run homer off of Saunders in the 5th.

Saunders start wasn’t the end of the lists of firsts for the Halos on this 100 degree day in Anaheim.  Torii Hunter hit his first home run since his return from the disabled list, a 2 run shot off of Tigers starter and former Dodger castoff Edwin Jackson in the first inning to get the Angels off to a much needed good start.  The Halos also stole 5 bags off of the Tigers and Gerald Laird, who leads the league in % of runners thrown out attempting to steal. Chone Figgins led the way with 2 swipes of his own, followed by Erick Aybar, Bobby Abreu, and Maicer Izturis who each stole a bag.  Figgins was a busy man on Wednesday, collecting 2 hits and a walk as well. 

After Saunders 5 innings, the bullpen again, came in and provided shutout relief.  Highlighted by Kevin Jepsen, who threw 1 1/3  perfect innings, and was the bridge to Fuentes in the 9th.  With each outing that Jepsen comes in and delivers, it is becoming more and more apparent that this guy is not only going to be heavily counted on for the rest of the season, the playoffs, and hopefully for years to come.   Imagine next year, with a healthy Scot Schields, the bullpen future again looks very bright for the halos. 

This series, which the Tigers took 2 games to 1, could possibly be a first round playoff matchup – as long as the Texas Rangers can grab a lead and hold on the wild card, the Halos would take on the Tigers, and the Rangers would get the Yankees.  The Tigers showed in this series that they have higher quality starting pitching compared to the Angels, with both Justin Verlander, Edwin Jackson, and rookie Rick Porcello looking pretty strong.  Joe Saunders and his ability to maintain this newfound form, will be key for the club.  A healthy Saunders, combined with John Lackey, Jered Weaver, and Ervin Santana are essential for the club to not only secure the AL West, but to get out and beyond the first round of the playoffs this year.  Starting pitching has definitely been the sore spot for the club, as since the All Star break, the club has only had 10 quality starts out of 39 games.  Yes, that’s barely a 25% rate of quality starting pitching.  One would have to wonder, with the way Texas has been playing, if the Halos offense wasn’t playing out of it’s mind and carrying the club, how far back they could actually be in the division right now.

Next up Halo fans, the club welcomes the basement tenants of the AL West, the Athletics.  Don’t be fooled, these Athletics always seem to provide plenty of 1 run games, and always give us a tough time.  Tomorrow night’s game will mark the team’s hall of fame induction of former greats Brian Downing and Chuck Finley. 

Until next time Angel fans. 

Angels Comeback Falls Short, Tigers Win 10-7

Well, for all you baseball fans hoping to catch a classic pitchers duel, you got one for the first half of the game.  From there though, was the complete opposite.  This attempt at a pitchers duel was to be between the Tigers Justin Verlander and the Angels Jered Weaver and while they had one going through the first 5 innings, it all ended there.  Going into their half of the 6th, the Tigers were nursing a 3-0 lead.  3 pitchers and 3 outs later, the scoreboard now read 10-0 in favor of the visiting team.  The inning was highlighted by a Carlos Guillen 3 run home run and a 2 run double by Miguel Cabrera, who had homered earlier off of Weaver.  The Halos mounted a mini rally of their own in the home half of the sixth, scoring 4 runs to pull within 10-4, and a 3 run home run by Bobby Abreu in the 8th pulled the score to 10-7, but it just wasn’t in the cards tonight.  Kudos though, to the Angels, by battling battling back down 10-0 to at least make the game respectable. 

While the game was close, prior to the 6th inning, I was thinking to myself how this is a perfect example of the “good pitching always defeats good hitting” phrase always thrown around.  Really though, the phrase should be 99 MPH fastballs courtesy of flamethrower Justin Verlander will beat any kind of hitting, even a team such as the Angels, a team that saw 8 of their starting 9 have averages over .300, and the only one who didn’t, Mike Napoli, was hitting .294.

It should be said, that today was the birthday of Angel pitcher Nick Adenhart, and the start tonight for Jered Weaver, who was to be roommates with Adenhart before the horrific accident that claimed his life, was going to be extra special for him.   Unfortunately, things didn’t quite work out the way Weaver would have wanted. 

In the end, the Tigers offense proved to be just too much for the Angels pitching.  Having just returned from a 10 game road trip going 6-4, and with no day off, you could tell the team was a little tired.  And with the way the Tigers offense was so precise, so on point, you would have sworn that these Tigers got a little special training from our friends in Las Vegas. 

 

So, now the Angels lead sits at 5 games, as Texas was off tonight.  Tomorrow night, John Lackey will get his 100th career victory as he takes on former Angel Jarrod Wasburn, who was been a total and complete bust since coming over from Seattle at the trading deadline. Let’s hope Wash doesn’t find the form that made him so successful earlier in the season.

Until next time Angel fans.

Too Little Too Late For Halos

This wasn’t at all what Sean O’Sullivan had planned as he prepared to take the mound against the Blue Jays in game one of this three game series.  The rookie right hander didn’t record an out in the 2nd inning, and left having yielded 4 runs to the Blue Jays as the Jays went on to win, 5-4.  The outing was yet another in a newly formed trend of poor starts from Angels rookie starting pitchers lately.  Granted Trevor Bell did pick up his first major league win his last turn around in Cleveland, but it was far from pretty.  The bullpen did the best they could with solid relief coming in the form of Matt Palmer (who may see himself getting O’Sullivan’s turn in the rotation next time) and Jose Arredondo, who limited the Jays to only 1 run for the rest of the game.  The Angels offense wasn’t much better, at least through the first 8 innings. The bats appeared to have taken the night off for the second night in a row, only managing one run, but Mike Napoli provided an ulcer building moment for Jays manager Cito Gaston, hitting a 3 run home run in the Angels half of the ninth to bring the Halos within a run.  Casey Janssen would induce a game ending groundout by pinch hitter Bobby Abreu to notch the save and the victory for Toronto with Howie Kendrick on 2nd base. 

Yorba Linda native Marc Rzepczynski (last time I will type that name – haha) silenced the Angels bats for 6 1/3 innings, only allowing 3 hits and 1 run to pick up the victory. After somewhat of a shaky first inning, he found his form – and his slider and pitched well.  Adam Lind hit his 29th home run off of O’Sullivan in the first to help start the Jays attack.

Tomorrow, Ervin Santana will get the start in an afternoon game, and look to get the Angels off of this 2 game skid.  He will be opposed by Scott Richmond, as both pitchers will look to pick up their 7th win of the season. 

The Rangers lost in Tampa Bay, so the Angels lead still sits at 5.5 games.  Elsewhere around the league, the Yankees continue beating anyone and everyone, outscoring the hated Red Sox in a run scoring extravaganza, 20-11.  The Red Sox appear to be getting some bullpen relief in the form of Mets lefty Billy Wagner, who is just now getting back from a left elbow injury suffered nearly 12 months ago.  The Red Sox hold a slim 1 game lead in the Wild Card over the Rangers.  Let’s see if Ervin can build off of his recent success and provide the club with a much needed quality start.

Until next time Angel fans.  

Angels Scalped by Tribe, 11-3

For the first five innings Thursday night, Angels starter John Lackey looked to be having another dependable John Lackey type of start.  But in the 6th, the Indians circled the Angels wagons one too many times, exploding for 7 runs to break a 1-1 tie and put the game out of reach.

The Angels lineup had a bit of an off night, and well, with the way they have been playing of late, it’s ok.  Kendry Morales managed to add his team leading 27th home run of the season, a towering shot to right, but by the time it was hit, the game was already out of reach. 

The loss ended the team’s 5 game winning streak as they head into Toronto to wrap up the 10 game road trip already with a 5-2 record.  Sean O’Sullivan takes the mound in the opener.  His start will be a very important one as, the Angels rookies that had been carrying the team earlier in the year, have now, of late, been somewhat of a sore spot.  Trevor Bell did get his first major league win in this last series against Cleveland, but it wasn’t a very pretty one.  With Joe Saunders getting closer to coming off the disabled list, there will be one spot left open and both O’Sullivan, Bell, or perhaps a dark horse will be shooting for.

The Rangers shot up the Twins to pull within 5 1/2 games behind the Angels but right now it appears that their eyes are more on their wild card position rather than catching the mighty Halos.  The Rangers trail the hated Red Sox by 1 game for the coveted wild card spot. 

Until next time Angel fans.