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.
The Angels completed the first step in hopes of winning the World Series this year on Monday night in Anaheim, shutting out the Texas Rangers 11-0 to take the AL West and secure a first round matchup against the hated Red Sox of Boston. While I would have expected more from the Rangers, especially considering the problems they have put us through this year, it was nice to see an offensive explosion and a masterful pitching performance from Ervin Santana. I had great seats myself right next to the right field foul pole, and after the game was put away by the 3rd inning with the Angels leading 7-0, even Bobby Abreu was having fun with the fans. I stopped counting after Bobby waved and acknowledged more than 20 different fans offering praise and congratulations to the team. Even one fan went as far as promising to buy Bobby a shot of Petron after the game, to which Abreu reacted by jumping up and down and running in place as fast as he could. It was a great night.
Vlad Guerrero and Kendry Morales got the Angels out to the right kind of start; Guerrero doubling home a run in the first folllowed by a 2 run shot by Morales to dead center field to stake the Halos to an early 3-0 lead. Abreu himself came within a home run of hitting for the cycle.
Santana pitched masterfully throughout, getting out of a few jams with slick double plays turned by Morales at first, and ended up giving up only 7 hits and striking out 2 to get the shutout. But the story wasn’t Santana tonight folks, as the win finally let the Angels take a breath and celebrate the division title despite the adversity faced this season. It was especially nice to see the club come back on the field about 10 minutes after disappearing into the clubhouse for a champagne celebration, as the club came back out and jogged to Nick Adenhart’s jersey on the right center field wall and paid their respects. For those of you who don’t have a team to root for this October, the Angels deserve your support.
The club now has the remainder of the season to rest up and get their rotation in order for the first round, which begins in a little over a week. Be sure to check out my breakdown of the first round series against Boston and what I feel the Halos need to do to finally get past these Sox.
Until next time Angel fans.
By far and away, this was Joe Saunders best start of the year. Despite giving up solo home runs to Hideki Matsui and Mr. Performancer Enhancer himself, Alex Rodriguez, the lefty was locked in and lethal on Monday night. Saunders ended up going 8 1/3 innings, and only allowed 2 runs to the high powered offfensive show that is this year’s version of the New York Yankees. Closer Brian Fuentes came in to slam the door shut to pick up yet another save. Saunders start was exactly what the team needed to start this homestand with and set the tone against the Yanks, as the Halos (not sure about the Yankees) hope that this is just a preview of a potential ALCS matchup.
Saunders was opposed by Andy Pettitte, who wasn’t too bad himself. Besides a little hiccup in the first in which the Angels scored 2, for the most part, the veteran lefty was superb. The hiccup in the first were back to back RBI doubles by Vladimir Guerrero and Torii Hunter to stake the club to an early lead that they would never surrender.
Kendry Morales checked in with a pinch hit solo hom run, his 31st of the season in the 7th inning to help give the Angels a little insurance heading into the latter innnings.
Most importantly though, the Angels gained a game on the Yankees, who currently hold the lead on the best record in the AL and furthermore, home field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Yankees lead, now stands at 4 games, and with 2 more games left against the Bronx Bombers in this series, plenty of ground can be made.
Ervin Santana opposed Chad Gaudin tomorrow night as the Halos look to make it 2 straight. I know it’s still just the regular season, but to think about a possible playoff matchup between these two teams is something I know the Halo fans are frothing at the mouth about, and I can already hear the grumblings from the New York fans – they want to stay as far away from us in the playoffs as they can.
Until next time Angel fans.
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.
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.
The Angels rolled out the red carpet for this series, as they wanted to welcome back former bench coach Joe Maddon in typical Angel fashion. And they did just that, completing a three game sweep of the Rays. The day was highlighted by the major league debut of Trevor Bell. Bell, who wasn’t particularly great nor particularly bad, gave what was expected of him and of someone making their big league debut. The righty went 5 1/3 allowing 4 runs on 9 hits. Carlos Pena proved to be the biggest thorn in Bell’s side, hitting 2 home runs off of him.
Offensively, the Angels again, just kept throwing runs on the board. Gary Matthews Jr hit a three run home run in the 6th and Howie Kendrick added a three run blast of his own an inning later. Chone Figgins led the attack with 3 hits, and was followed by Erick Aybar, Kendry Morales, Mike Napoli and Howie Kendrick who all had two hits apiece.
The Angels wrapped up the homestand going 4-2, and have now won 3 games in a row. Hopefully come this weekend, Torii Hunter will rejoin the team.
The Angels are off tomorrow, as they travel to Baltimore to being a crucial 10 game road trip against the Orioles, Indians and Blue Jays.
Over the next week I will be doing a little road tripping with the family, I will do my best to throw a couple of blogs out there but should be back to normal in a week.
Until next time Angel fans
For any fan out there that isn’t a fan of good starting pitching, this game was definitely for you. Rays starter Matt Garza didn’t make it out of the 4th inning and Angels starter Sean O’sullivan didn’t fare much better, not making it out of the 5th. Despite the ineffectiveness of each team’s starting pitching though, this was quite an entertaining game.
Vladimir Guerrero reached a milestone on Monday night.
In a great example of baseball irony, Vlad hit his 400th career home run off of the right field foul pole. Earlier in the game he hit #399 off of an umbrella next to the center field cameraman. Kendry Morales kept pace, hitting 2 dingers of his own as well to help the Angels battle back from an early deficit, only to keep watching the Rays battle back to tie things up. Three separate times the Rays fought back to tie when the Angels had taken the lead the previous inning. However though, the Rays didn’t have one last comeback in their system, and the when the dust had finally settled, the Halos came away victorious, winning game 1 of this series 8-7.
Brian Fuentes came in to slam the door shut, retiring the Rays in order to record his 32nd save of the season. The save didn’t come easy, as Juan Rivera robbed Ben Zobrist of a game tying home run, near the short fence on the left field foul line, for the final out. A huge relief outing was turned in by Kevin Jepsen, who threw 2 innings of scoreless relief. Jepsen has been very effective of late, which was a big difference from how he was earlier in the year.
With both the Angels and the Rays having hopes this year of making the playoffs, this game exposed both of each team’s achilles heal. Starting pitching. Plain and simple, both teams need to solve this problem before the playoffs are reached.
Rays shortstop Jason Bartlett came within a single of being the second major leaguer on the day to hit for the cycle, as Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki had done so earlier in the evening.
The Rangers had the day off, so the Angels lead is now at 4 games. Game 2 tomorrow will see young Ray lefty phenom David Price take on the Angels Ervin Santana. Each starter hasn’t been pitching up to their talent, it will be very interesting to see how each will do. Both teams used their bullpens heavily tonight, it would be nice to see Ervin go at least 7 innings.
Until next time Angel fans.