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 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
In case anyone missed it, apparently the powers that be reorganized the typical calendar and swapped Christmas 25th, with July 8th, as Angel pitching was lit up like a Christmas tree, and gifts were be given to nearly every Ranger hitter. Let me mention this before I forget, the Rangers walloped the Angels 8-1. The Angels pitching was in such the giving mood, that they gift wrapped three home runs to Andruw Jones, and one each for Marlon Byrd and some guy named Taylor Teagarden. Try to bear with me Angel fans, I didn’t really just make up that name, there really is a guy on the Rangers named Taylor Teagarden.. it’s not the newest brand of tea being sold at stores across the southland. I will try to get through this as nicely as I can for you, much like the Angels pitchers strategy Wednesday night – nice and easy.
Ervin Santana, again, struggled mightily. The right hander entered the game with a fabulous 1-4 record and an ERA of 7.43 – which only got worse after his start. After going four uninspired innings, giving up seven hits and six runs, (3 home runs) the ball was handed over to Rich Thompson who fared no better, allowing two home runs of his own in 1 1/3 innings. Kevin Jepson and Matt Palmer apparently were the only Angels pitchers who don’t celebrate Christmas, delivered solid relief.
The Halos were already in a bind going into the game, missing Vladimir Guerrero and Torii Hunter who both sat out with injuries. It remains to be seen the severity of Hunter’s, but it more than likely will cause the leader of the team to miss the All-Star game and possibly more time. Gary Matthews, who is always quick to say he deserves more playing time, again, didn’t come through when needed. Gary, perhaps next time you want to cry about playing time, you’ll look at your anemic average and overall play and figure it out. Oh Juan Rivera, how you will be counted on heavily until he’s back.
Also, while I’m at it, I think the “vote Figgy” campaign is officially over (as I write this, Rex Hudler, among others, is still campaigning for Figgins), and wonder how much of this talk distracted the club in what was the most important series of the season. The Rangers continued to dominate, improving their mark to 7-2 this year again the Halos. This year’s Angels also are struggling agains the rest of the AL West this year – a part of their game they have excelled at in seasons past.
So, Angel fans, here come the Yanks. Here comes Mark “insert your very own expletive here!” Teixeira, and the rest of the newly competetive Yankees. I truly hope the Angels show up for this series, as they should be embarassed over how easily the Rangers walked over them in this last one. Going into the All-Star break, a series win would be a great momentum builder heading into the second half. Joe Saunders will take the hill against over-hyped Joba Chamberlain in the first game. Saunders has been mediocre at best lately, and a solid start will do well to quell some fears amongst the Angels faithful as we head into the second half. As for me, I’m going to go drink a few beers – I hope you’ll join me.
Until next time Angel fans.