Ok, Angel fans, here we go, again, on this all to familiar path to begin the playoffs against the hated Red Sox. For the past several seasons, the Angels, for one reason or another, have disappeared as the calender turned to October. This year, it has to end. They must get through this first round – they have to.
I’m going to break down as best I can the offense, defense, starting pitching, bullpen, and x-factors for each team and what the Halos need to do in order to not become the Buffalo Bills of baseball.
You’ve got to give the edge on this one to the Angels. Losing Mark Teixeira in the offseason to the Yankees made all Angel fans turn pale in the face. However, this has turned into being a huge blessing in disguise for the team as Kendry Morales turned in near identical numbers as Mark and should finish in the top 5 this year for AL MVP, despite batting 6th for the majority of the year. The Angels lineup is littered with .300 hitters throughout. The addition of Bobby Abreu has literally been huge. Combine that with the Angels aggressiveness on the basepaths. It’s truly a question of if this offense is going to show up against two of the best pitchers in the league, Jon Lester and Josh “Mr. Necklace” Beckett.
I give this one as well to the Angels. The Red Sox do have Jacoby Ellsbury in center, but, we have Torii Hunter. We also have an infield of Chone Figgins, Erick Aybar, and Maicer Izturis/Howie Kendrick to go along with Kendry Morales who is much better defensively than he gets credit for. Also, the Red Sox catchers throw out runners at a pathetic clip, which is why I give this one to the Halos. The Angels defense at times this year has self destructed, most notably last time in their last visit to Boston. They simply cannot let that happen in this series.
You can’t argue with success here. Jon Lester, Josh Beckett and company have been here before and shined brightly. Combined with Clay Bucholtz and Daiske Matsuzaka as well as an injured Tim Wakefield – and this one goes to Boston. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Angels rotation, especially with the addition of Scott Kazmir, but the Angels starting pitchers have shown that they don’t have as dominating stuff as the Sox, especially in October. This one goes to the Sox
The Angels bullpen of late has been pretty good. They started the year though, as the worst in all of baseball, and then followed that by a 3 month period of being nearly lights out. They somewhat limped to the postseason, with Brian Fuentes blowing his fair number of saves and making those other ones that he converts, very nervewracking. Fuentes just doesn’t have an out pitch – I mean he barely thrown 91 MPH and has trouble locating at times. The Angels will lean heavily on Ervin Santana who will be in the bullpen for the series, as well as Kevin Jepsen and Darren Oliver. Jason Bulger will be a question mark as he had some shoulder issues at the end of the season. When it comes to the Sox, it gets a little scary. Daniel Bard, Billy Wagner and a cast of others are extremely potent, and then they get to hand the ball to Jonathan Papplebon to finish things up. As much as I dislike Papplebon, the guy gets the job done, and he definitely has that “out” pitch.
The Angels can win this series, and this is how. They must press the issue. Chone Figgins and his .390 on base percentage need to be on base as much as possible. They must also need to be dirty thieves on the basepaths. The Red Sox have a big weakness, and that is throwing out opposing basestealers. On top of this, the bullpen, when called upon, needs to be nails. Fuentes absolutely cannot blow any save opportunities, and the rest of the guys need to do the job in getting him the ball. Offensively, the Angels must continue to follow Bobby Abreu’s example of patience as they have all year long.
The Red Sox will win simply if they can take one of the first two games in Anaheim. Keeping Figgins off of the bases will also make their lives much easier. Getting to the Angels bullpen as well as the continued clutch players on their roster coming through when it matters, will make give this series an all too familiar ending for the Sox.
My prediction though, is Angels in 5. Why, you may ask? Nick Adenhart. The team is going to get after it unlike we’ve ever seen them. They want to honor Nick, plain and simple.
Until next time Angel fans.
Well Angel fans, to be blunt, this one hurt.. it hurt real bad. What should have been an Angel victory turned into defeat after home plate umpire Rick Reed (this year’s version of Doug Eddings) first didn’t call Nick Green’s check swing on a two strike pitch as the third strike, and second, on the same at bat, didn’t call a 3-2 fastball for strike 3 (which replays clearly showed was well inside ESPN’s strike zone). As a result, Green walked, forcing in the tying run. The next batter, Alex Gonzalez, drove in the winning run on a bloop single to left, giving the Sox the victory. I am very curious to see what, if any discipline Reed gets for this blatant missed call. Gotta love home cooking if you’re a Red Sox fan….
The Angels can get some sort of silver lining out of this loss. This loss, especially combined with the fact that the Angels had and lost the lead 3 separate times, should bode them well in the playoffs. They just got a chance to experience utter heartbreak, only this time, it’s during the regular season and not during the playoffs. Hopefully this will be all they need and to start playing better baseball, as tonight again, the defense let down the starting pitcher, and twice the team couldn’t cash in on bases loaded and less than two out situations.
The loss takes the club to 0-3 so far on this crucial road trip, but thank goodness Texas forgot how to hit a baseball, as the Rangers have lost 3 in a row as well, to keep the Angels lead at 6 games. I don’t know exactly what wise words Mike Scioscia can deliver to his team after tonight’s loss, but something needs to be done to turn this team around, and this needs to be done quick.
Vladimir Guerrero was hit by former Dodger Takashi Saito in the ribs with a crisp fastball in the 6th, and had to leave the game an inning later with what the club called a bruised ribcage and is listed day to day. I think fair retalitation would be for a certain steroid user, Mr. David Ortiz, to feel the same pain tomorrow in his first at bat. The Angels need to show that they’re not going to be pushed around, especially by these Red Sox.
The Angels get to face Josh Beckett and his fancy necklace tomorrow, and the Halos will give the ball to Ervin Santana. A strong start by Santana will help any chances he has to get a start in this year’s post season.
I know this loss was tough to swallow Angel fans – hopefully tomorrow goes better.
Until next time Angel fans.