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.
They say all good things come to an end. And in the Angels case, it meant the end to their 8 game winning streak as they dropped the final game of a four game series to the visiting Minnesota Twins Sunday afternoon, 10-1. The Twins leave town, still licking their wounds from a brutal road trip, but managing to take with them some dignity in avoiding the four game sweep at the hands of the red hot Halos.
Angels starting pitcher Ervin Santana again disappointed, lasting only 3 2/3 inning to pick up the loss. It should be noted, that Santana has yet to pick up a victory this year at the Big A, a place where he has normally pitched very well. Santana surrendered a first inning home run to Twins slugger Justin Morneau, the first of two for him on the day, and from there, things only got worse. An Angel lineup filled with supersubs who have done nothing but overacheive in the absence of starters Torii Hunter, Vladimir Guerrero and Juan Rivera, helped make Twins starter Anthony Swarzak look like the best thing since sliced bread, as the big right hander went 6 2/3 innings to pick up his 3rd win of the season. There was definitely an attitude amongst the Angel fans that the Halos, who have 32 comeback wins this year, would somehow get themselves back into the game as has been the case for nearly the past month, but that comeback never came. Besides a solo home run by Kendre Morales in the 4th inning, the Angels, for the most part, went down faster than a North Korean Missile.
Combine the Angels loss with a Rangers victory over the Royals, and the Angels lead over Texas now sits at 3.5 games. The Halos next welcome in the Cleveland Indians, who have been heating up of late, winners of four in a row, but are still sitting 12 games back in the AL Central. The Indians have been involved in many trade deadline rumors involving last year’s Cy Young Winner Cliff Lee, and catcher/first baseman Victor Martinez. Game One of this series will see disabled list All Star and Yankee extortioner Carl Pavano take on Joe Saunders. Saunders, who hasn’t won in over a month will undoubtedly be looking to regain last year’s form as the Angels and Indians hook up for the first time this year.
Until next time Angel fans.
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.
A tale of two cities, is not only a literary classic, but also can best describe the last two starts by the Angels Ervin Santana. While dominating and overpowering during his last start in Oakland, Santana struggled at times (reverting back to his form so far for most of this injury filled year) against the Royals Tuesday, going 6 innings while allowing 5 runs on 8 hits, but was just good enough to earn his 3rd win of the season. This start was a letdown to those out there hoping to see some consistency out of Santana, but it just wasn’t the case. Santana was really the only not-so-bright spot in an otherwise solid victory for the halos, as they settled in to take game 1 of their doubleheader against the Royals.
What, may you ask were the bright spots in this victory? The Angels 4-7 hitters lit up Sir Sidney Ponson and his supporting cast, to the tune of a combined 9-17, scoring 7 of the 8 runs for the Halos and driving in 4 of them. Kendre Morales, Mike Napoli, (who hit his 12th moon shot of the season) Erick Aybar and Gary Matthews Jr. were those 4-7 hitters, and got the Angels started early, and carried them in the latter innings to victory. Not to be outdone, Darren Oliver and Kevin Jepsen – armed with his newly taught power slider, shut down the Royals and handed the ball off to Brian Fuentes, who picked up his major league leading 29th save of the season.
Early on, the Halos jumped all over Sir Sidney Ponson, grabbing an early 4-1 lead before Santana let the Royals back in, keyed by a 2-run home run by Billy Butler, giving the Royals a brief 5-4 lead that they would soon relinquish.
Game 2 will see Sean O’sullivan get the nod against Bruce Chen, and I really don’t see the Halos doing anything other than sweeping this doubleheader against the struggling Royals.
Until next time Angel fans.
The Angels announced today that both Vladimir Guerrero and Torii Hunter were placed on the disabled list, effective until July 22nd. So, what exactly does this mean? No, don’t hit the panic button just yet, (trust me, I thought about it) but these next couple of weeks are going to be huge for the club, obviously. Brought up to replace them on the team were Brandon Wood and Bobby Wilson. For Mike Scioscia, he’s got some decisions to make. Will he move Chone Figgins to second, and give Brandon Wood some solid time at third? Or will he pull a Sean Rodriguez with him? If you remember, Sean Rodriguez only got a handful of starts after he was called up for Howie Kendrick. If Wood can catch fly balls, why not throw him in left or right field? With the call up of Bobby Wilson, you would tend to believe that Mike Napoli is going to see some time at DH.
The time is now for several Angels. Gary Matthews Jr., will get the playing time he has been lobbying for since last year. Howie Kendrick will be counted on to help pick up the slack on offense. Also, Juan Rivera and Kendre Morales will be depended on to keep producing along with Bobby Abreu.
This next couple of weeks can very easily mean the division. We’ll have to wait and see.
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