The Angels had no business winning this game. Down 3-0 before the seats were warm, and down 5-3 heading into the 9th both serve as example enough. Problem is though, someone forot to tell the Halos. Before the night was over, the Angels would have earned their 6th victory in a row, and their 31st comeback win of the year, stunning Joe Nathan and the Twins.
The Twins, who got beat around like a bad little league team during their last series against Oakland, looked more like the Twins of old in game one of this four game series Thursday night in Anaheim. Jerrod Weaver managed to recover from allowing 3 runs in the first, finishing with 7 gutsy innings, and putting the club in position to have a chance down the stretch. Two of those three runs in the first, came courtesy of Angel killer Jason Kubel, who hit his 17th home run of the season, a two run shot deep into the right field seats. The Angels were held in check by Twins starter Scott Baker for the first four innings, although the Halos returned the favor, putting Baker through a marathon 30+ pitches in the fifth which would end up being his last, as the Angels scored twice, cutting the lead to 3-2. Each team tallied single runs in the 6th, and that’s the way the game stayed until the ninth. The Angels bullpen, which had been nearly perfect on the road trip, allowed a run to the twins, courtesy of Kevin Jepson.
And then the mighty Joe Nathan trotted in from the bullpen to slam the door shut. The Angels however, pushed back, and how fitting, that Gary Matthews Jr and Howie Kendrick provided both two out RBI singles to tie the game. These two Halos in particular have had their fair share of struggles this year, on the field and in the press, even in this blog. Brian Fuentes held the Twins at bay in the tenth, and then the Angel offense leapt at their chance to finish things off the good old walk-off way.
Chone Figgins started the 10th off with his 3rd hit of the game, and was promptly sacrificed over by Brandon Wood. Bobby Abrue was then immediately given a free pass via the intentional walk, and Kendre Morales, who saw his 20 game hitting streak snapped, made the 2nd out of the inning. Up stepped Mike Napoli, who has a knack of providing the big hit of late, as his two run home run in Kansas City in yesterday’s game knotted things late. He didn’t disappoint this time either. Napoli drove a ball deep into the right center field gap, scoring Figgins and thus began a celebration on the field of Napoli trying to dodge the onslaught of Angel players chasing him down, only to be caught on the infield grass and dog-piled by the team, as the Angel fans went wild.
Angel fans, this game was a better test of the club than any of the games just completed on this 7 game road trip that saw the Angels go 6-1. Reason being, is that the Twins have for the most part, a solid team. The “Killer J’s” (Jason Kubel, Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer, Joe Nathan) are all premier players in the league, and the fact that the Angels were able to come back against a closer such as Nathan, speaks volumes. It’s also very apparent that the patience that Bobby Abreu exhibits in every single at bat, is spreading to the rest of the team.
Game 2 of the series Friday, will see once promising starter Francisco Liriano face off against John Lackey. With the Rangers off on Thursday, the Angels now enjoy a 3.5 game lead in the AL West. On a day when Mark Buehrle of the White Sox threw a perfect game, the Angels also had a little magic up their sleeve.
Until next time Angel fans.
Halo fans, I hope your seatbelts were strapped on extra tight for this one. The Angels offense continued to sizzle, finding yet another way to offset subpar starting pitching courtesy of Joe Saunders, to complete the sweep of the 3 game series against the Royals, 9-6. Royals manager Trey Hillman personally drove the Angels team bus to the airport, as he had seen just about everything that the scorching hot Angels offense had to offer. The series saw the Royals lose a game they had a brief lead in, get thoroughly wacked in another, and lost the finale in a game they had a 6-2 lead going into the 7th inning. When the dust had settled, the Royals were mired in an embarassing 9 game losing streak, while the Angels have now won 9 of their last 10. Dating back to June 12th, the club’s record is 26-9, best in the majors.
While I understand and I hope you do as well, that the Angels won’t be seeing any teams in the playoffs with poor bullpens like that of the Royals, and, they won’t be so lucky to get away with such horrid starting pitching from Mr. Joe Saunders – this game was, a true showing of the tenacity and grit that is present in every single one of the Angles offensive players. There’s no way you can stop them, you can only hope to contain them. This was, in the truest sense of the word, a complete team victory. The power was provided courtesy of Maicer Izturis, Howie Kendrick, and Mike Napoli (who provided the game tying home run in the 8th). Chone Figgins chipped in nicely with 4 hits, while Reggie Willits and Kendre Morales added 2 hits apiece. Kendre Morales extended his hitting streak to a very respectable 20 games. The only Angel that didn’t have a hit, was Bobby Abreu, and after what he did last night, I’ll give him a pass on today’s game.
Shutout bullpen relief again (this seems like an occurrence every game lately) was provided by Justin Speier, Kevin Jepsen, and Brian Fuentes, who picked up his major league leading 30th save of the year. I can’t remember when it was this much fun to watch the Angels play, as they are coming out, guns blazing each and every time.
However, there are still glaring issues with the club; don’t be fooled by their blistering hot play of late. Huge question marks still abound in the form of starting pitching – and these question marks rest solely on the head of Joe Saunders and Ervin Santana at the moment. While Roy Halladay’s pricetag may be too much for the Halos to absorb, perhaps Cleveland’s Cliff Lee might be a much cheaper, but all together a very good alternative? I would hate to see the club give up Jerrod Weaver and other big name prospects, but this is the time of year when GM’s make their money. Tony Reagins, boy have you got your work cut out for you this year.
Tomorrow, the Halos open up a 7 game homestand with the Twins and Indians coming into town, with Scott Baker opposing Jerrod Weaver.
Until next time Angel fans.
Ervin Santana’s outing Thursday night brought from the Angels brass and fans alike, a huge sigh of relief, as the right hander went 8 solid innings, yielding only one run on three hits and striking out four to earn his second win of the year. Santana looked like the Santana of old, pitching with poise, confidence, and a wicked curveball that stifled the A’s all night long. If this is the Ervin that we can expect to see in the 2nd half, the rest of the AL West better take notice, as a rotation featuring him, Lackey, Weaver and Saunders will surely be a force to be dealt with.
The Halos picked up right where they left off prior to the all-star break, as they collected 13 hits and sent Oakland started Dallas Braden to an early shower after 5 innings. Kendre Morales hit his 16th home run of the year, and first from the right side in the 2nd inning. Another Halo outburst in the 4th, keyed by an RBI singles from Robb Quinlan and Erick Aybar, and a 2 RBI double from All-Star Chone Figgins was more than enough to earn the Angels their fourth win in a row, and an important game one win in this series.
The only area of concern, which has been all year for the club, was surprise surprise, the bullpen. Justin Speier was brought in to get the final three outs, however he couldn’t manage to retire one batter, giving up three hits before Brian Fuentes had to come in and clean things up, limiting the A’s to only one run in the frame. Had this been a close game, the only thing Speier would have been credited with doing would have been causing many Halo fans ulcers.
Joe Saunders takes the ball for game two in this series. Saunders, who hasn’t been on top of his game lately, hopefully used the All-Star break to clear his mind and get ready for a strong second half.
Until next time Angel fans.
The Angels wrapped up a three game sweep Sunday afternoon, defeating the Yankees 5-4 on a sun blistering afternoon in Anaheim. Perhaps though, it was a little hotter at the stadium compared to the rest of Orange County, and that folks, can be attributed to the halos. The Angels completed a ten game homestand, finishing 7-3 and had into the All-Star Break with a 1.5 game lead over the second place Texas Rangers. Those same Rangers, you remember, just left Anaheim after taking 2 of 3 and enjoying a slim one game lead in the division. To make matters worse, before this series against the Yanks began, the Angels placed both Vladimir Guerrero and Torii Hunter on the disabled list. Needless to say, most Angels fans including yours truly, were concerned over how exactly they would score runs, and who would step up in the absence of the injured players. To make matters worse, Juan Rivera left in the first game of the series with a hamstring injury and although he isn’t expected to be placed on the DL, he missed the final two games against the Yankees.
Brandon Wood, Robb Quinlan and Gary Matthews Jr. all made the most of their new found opportunities, each contributing to victories in the series. Combined with strong play by Kendre Morales, Bobby Abreu, Chone Figgins and the rest of the club, the Angels quickly showed the character and grit that will be needed throughout the rest of the season, and that, was a welcome sign to Halo fans. Both clubs put up football type scores in the first two games, as the Angels took game one 10-6, and game two 14-8. Game three turned out to be more of a typical Angel game. Strong starting pitching from John Lackey, who outdueled C.C. Sabathia for 7 strong innings. A little hiccup provided by Justin Speier and spotty defense briefly let the Yankees back in the game, but Darren Oliver pitched a solid 8th and Brian Fuentes picked up his 26th save, setting the Bronx Bombers down in order in the 9th, culminated by strking out famed steroid (sorry Alex, but nobody buys the fact that you only used steroids in Texas..) user and all around pretty boy Alex Rodriguez to close the door.
I also must admit that I found great joy in the fact that Mark (fill in your own expletive here) Teixeira went a superb 2-14 in the series, and thoroughly enjoyed watching Kendre Morales (who replaced Teixeira) round the bases in game one after hitting a bomb of his own.
So, Angel fans, enjoy this sweep, but let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. The second half of the season begins in Oakland, and gives the Angels an opportunity to show that they can win against the AL West, whom they have for the most part, struggled against so far this year. Also, you have to wonder if the club will be involved in any big trades. With Roy Halladay available, and under contract through next year, it sure would be nice to see the Angels land him, as getting an ace like Halladay, combined with the other horses we have in our rotation would surely make the Angels serious threats to make it deep into the playoffs. The Angels also have needs in the bullpen to look at filling. Needless to say, Tony Reagins will have his hands busy in this second half.
Until next time Angel fans
This time, (as best put by Sasha Baren-Cohen in his famous movie, Borat) he get this. This, as in revenge against a Texas Ranger team that put him through his worst outing of the season last start out, in which the Rangers beat up Weaver and the Angels, 9-7. This time however, Weaver pitched seven solid innings, giving up three earned runs while fanning nine to earn his ninth win of the season, and, spoiled the return of Ranger’s Slugger Josh Hamilton, who had missed nearly 5 weeks with an abdominal injury. Even allowing two runs in the first wasn’t too much of a problem for Weaver and the Halos, as they demonstrated for the third game in a row, that being down early is no reason to hit the panic button. In fact, it’s quickly becoming a calling card for this first place club.
After spotting the Rangers 2 runs, Jeff Mathis, in the bottom of the second, put the Angels up for good, hitting a three-run home run off the Ace of the Rangers staff, Kevin Millwood, who, unbeknownst to him, was embarking on a titanic of a start, which would be his worst start of the year, and tie a career high with nine earned runs allowed in 5 innings of work. Mathis’ home run came on yet another fastball from Millwood, his sixth in a row that he threw him, and was neatly deposited near the rock pile in left center field. Chone Figgins, always the table setter, walked in three consecutive plate appearances, which Torii Hunter, Vladimir Guerrero, Juan Rivera and Kendre Morales were all too eager to cash in for runs. In the end, clutch hitting by the teeth of the Angels order (the Angels 3-5 hitters went a combined 7-12 with 5 RBI’s) proved to be the Rangers downfall, and was just what the Angels and Weaver needed to start this all too important series which now sees the Angels in sole posession of first place.
What was once the achilles heel for the Angels this year, it’s bullpen – turned in another scoreless relief outing, with Justin Speier and Kevin Jepsen each throwing an inning of shutout baseball.
Tomorrow’s game pits big John Lackey against little known Dustin Nippert, who will make his first start of the season. You can be sure that revenge will be on the mind of Lackey, as his first start of the season was cut short against these Rangers back on May 18th, after only 2 pitches. Pay special attention to his matchups against Ian Kinsler, who snapped an 0-24 streak with a seventh inning home run on Monday.
Until next time Angel Fans
If Vladimir Guerrero was water, he wouldn’t necessarily be boiling, however bubbles would be pooling at the bottom of the pot, ready to explode to the surface. Not only did the Angels Slugger make his season debut in right field, delighting the halo faithful, he also homered for the second straight game, propelling the Halos to a victory over the team with the worst road record in the league, the Orioles, 9-6 on a beatuful Sunday afternoon at Angel Stadium.
Despite another sub par start by Angels lefty Joe Saunders, who is also yielding a .390 average against opposing righties, the Angels overcame their second consecutive 4-0 deficit. Saunders start fizzled out faster than a North Korean missile – as he surrendered a leadoff home run to Brian Roberts before the seats could even get warm on this 80 degree afternoon, and it was clear that the rest of his miserable 5 1/3 innings were an all out struggle for the normally reliable Saunders. However, the Angels had a rare sighting this game so far this season, scoreless relief from a bullpen that has seen its struggles all year long. Brian Fuentes picked up his major league leading 24th save, and also collected a ticket to the All Star game along with Torii Hunter. It remains to be seen if Chone Figgins will have what it takes to earn the fan’s vote – but at least it’s a shot.
Somewhat of a head-scratcher, is Howie Kendrick being included in the starting lineup again, as he went 1-4, leaving 3 men on base and committing a critical error which led to 3 Oriole runs in the 3rd inning. I would like to propose some sort of a Howie Kendrick grounding of sorts – he is to no longer appear or make any more Howard’s appliance commercials until his average is at least above .280. The Angels went 14-6 in his absence, Maicer Izturis performed quite well, however Kendrick and his .232 average are back in the starting lineup and Izturis’ .309 average sit on the pine. What gives, Mike?
Next up, a showdown of two teams tied for first place begins, as the Texas Rangers come in for the most important series of the year so far, with first place on the line. John Lackey will get to see the Rangers for the first time since having his season debut cut short after only two pitches, and all eyes will be on him especially when Ian Kinsler comes to the dish. Jerrod Weaver will also have his opportunity to take out his frustrations on not making the team despite a solid first half, as he gets a re-do against the Rangers Keving Millwood on Monday night (you see these two went at it last week in Texas, with a not so desirable outing being had by Weaver). My guess, Angels take two of three.
Until next time Angel fans.
Let’s be honest Angel fans, the halos not only lost their 2nd straight to the Rangers, but they practically gave this one to Texas on a silver platter. Granted, Hank Blalock’s walk off home run was what won the game, but four huge baserunning blunders by the Angels set Hank up for his mighty shot.
Juan Rivera, despite hitting his most clutch home run in his big league career of Frank Francisco (who hasn’t seen anything fly so fast out of the park since he threw a chair at a fan in Oakland years ago) in the 9th to tie things up, only to have their heart’s broken moments later, was involved in two of these all by himself. And when you thought the worst was over on the basepaths with those, we then witnessed Vlad Guerrero decide to try to steal second while the Angels were trying to get something brewing, in the top of the 7th, only to be thrown out while Torii Hunter was on 3rd. This was followed by Chone Figgins leading off the ninth and trying to stretch a double into a triple only to change his mind halfway in between 2nd and 3rd, resulting in the first out of the inning.
Jerrod Weaver looked like the solid Jerrod Weaver we’ve seen all year long, but over the course of the next two innings, he did his best big brother impersonation, finally being taken out to Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” (just like Joe Saunders the night before) lasting 5 1/3 innings, and yielding 7 runs on 8 hits. Kevin Jepson and his soon to be demoted to AAA 12.34 ERA then came in, allowing 2 more hits before the last out was mercifully made. Matt Palmer provided two innings of solid relief, only to hand the ball to another of the bullpen regulars, Justin Speier, who put the final touches on this Angels Masterpiece. Despite the baserunning blunders, something has got to be done with the bullpen. It seems as if every lead is as safe as a bulldog under Michael Vick’s care – and how much longer this is going to be tolerated is anyone’s guess, but hopefully not too much longer.
Furthermore, Angel fans, the halos are 1-5 vs Texas and 10-14 against the AL West so far this year – typcially something, much like their bullpen work, they are much better at. Let’s see if Vlad can keep up the hot hitting away from Texas, as the Angels come back home to open a huge 10 game homestand against Baltimore, Texas, and the hated Yanks. John Lackey will get things started, taking the ball in game one tomorrow night.
Until next time Angel fans.