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.
On Friday night in Anaheim, the Angels were owned by the Athletics. Three different pitchers led by Gio Gonzalez combined to fan the Angels 13 separate times. The amount of wind produced by the Angels bats coming up empty swing after swing did in fact cool down much of Orange County after seeing another day of 100 degree heat. On this night, it was the A’s who looked to be the team zoning in on their 3rd consecutive AL West division title, rather than the Halos who were just plain flat all night long. The only Angel starter not to strike out was Torii Hunter, who went 0-4 and appeared to possibly re-aggravate an abdomonial injury that shelved him for a month earlier this year.
The Rangers beat the Rays to close within 6 games of the Halos. While I am still not worried about this, the Rangers are coming in for a 4 game series and finally have Josh Hamilton back in the lineup who always feasts on Angels pitching. The magic number for the Angels to clinch the division is still at 4 as the club will look tomorrow to improve on that. John Lackey will oppose Dana Eveland the middle game of the 3 game series.
On a separate note, Red Sox starter and Angel nemesis John Lester was drilled by a line drive in the 3rd inning of his terrible start tonight in New York, and had to leave the game. X-rays were negative, but it would just be terrible if for some reason this injury keeps him from being on top of his game come the playoffs, where, unless a miracle for the Rangers does happen, it will be another version of Angels/Red Sox. Hey, one can only hope.
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.
It’s safe to say that more often than not, most anticipated pitcher’s duels end up being anything but. However, on Saturday night in Kansas City, John Lackey and Zack Greinke rolled up their sleeves and squared off in front of a packed house. And, they didn’t disappoint, not even in the slightest.
Greinke went 8 masterful innings, striking out 8, keeping the Angels tied in knots all night long. Greinke left the game after having tossed 125 pitches. Lackey though, was better, going 9 even more impressive innings, and throwing 106 pitches of his own. Yes, Lackey only struck out 4, but those extra pitches he didn’t throw let him go that extra inning that Greinke didn’t. This was the John Lackey that we all know and love, the staff ace that goes out and gets the job done no matter what. The Halos managed to tie the game at 1 when Torii Hunter lashed a two out, two strike single off of Greinke in the 8th. Big John also managed to do this in front of a crowd that would give Greinke a standing ovation on nearly every strike he threw. I mean, the guy would spit a solid loogie and you would hear the applause from various parts of the ballpark.
Lackey did everything possible to keep the team in the game. Combined with the Angels ineffective offense of late (granted they’ve been facing some pretty solid pitching) only magnifies the brilliance of Lackey’s start. The Halos took the field in this game already knowing that the Rangers had lost, briefly pushing the club’s lead in the division to 4 games. With 7 games left against the Rangers, especially considering how much the Angels struggle against the Rangers, at this point of the season, they need to get every game in the standings that they can.
Lackey also continued the Angels awesome starting pitching of late. With the addition of Scott Kazmir, who was more than solid in his club debut in Seattle despite losing along with solid Jered Weaver, Joe Saunders, and Ervin Santana, the rotation as a whole finally appears to be in line. Trusting that the club can hold on and make the playoffs, this rotation, combined with a strong bullpen and torrid offense, this team really does have a chance at making it deep.
As I write this, the game just turned to the bottom of the 10th, still tied at 1. Hopefully Lackey’s efforts weren’t made in vain tonight.
Until next time Angel fans.
Wednesday afternoon saw the Angels Joe Saunders make his first start since coming off the disabled list, and by all accounts, looks to have not only his old form back, but his velocity as well. Saunders reached 95 MPH at times, on his way to picking up the victory, despite Brian Fuentes attempt at hitting all Tiger batters he faced in the 9th, he did manage to pick up the save. Fuentes nailed 2 Tigers in the inning, the only runners that reached base, before getting the final out and notching another save under his belt. Saunders only went 5 innings, but they were good quality innings. The lefty struck out 6, only allowing 4 hits and 2 runs, courtesy of Adam Everett, who hit a 2 run homer off of Saunders in the 5th.
Saunders start wasn’t the end of the lists of firsts for the Halos on this 100 degree day in Anaheim. Torii Hunter hit his first home run since his return from the disabled list, a 2 run shot off of Tigers starter and former Dodger castoff Edwin Jackson in the first inning to get the Angels off to a much needed good start. The Halos also stole 5 bags off of the Tigers and Gerald Laird, who leads the league in % of runners thrown out attempting to steal. Chone Figgins led the way with 2 swipes of his own, followed by Erick Aybar, Bobby Abreu, and Maicer Izturis who each stole a bag. Figgins was a busy man on Wednesday, collecting 2 hits and a walk as well.
After Saunders 5 innings, the bullpen again, came in and provided shutout relief. Highlighted by Kevin Jepsen, who threw 1 1/3 perfect innings, and was the bridge to Fuentes in the 9th. With each outing that Jepsen comes in and delivers, it is becoming more and more apparent that this guy is not only going to be heavily counted on for the rest of the season, the playoffs, and hopefully for years to come. Imagine next year, with a healthy Scot Schields, the bullpen future again looks very bright for the halos.
This series, which the Tigers took 2 games to 1, could possibly be a first round playoff matchup – as long as the Texas Rangers can grab a lead and hold on the wild card, the Halos would take on the Tigers, and the Rangers would get the Yankees. The Tigers showed in this series that they have higher quality starting pitching compared to the Angels, with both Justin Verlander, Edwin Jackson, and rookie Rick Porcello looking pretty strong. Joe Saunders and his ability to maintain this newfound form, will be key for the club. A healthy Saunders, combined with John Lackey, Jered Weaver, and Ervin Santana are essential for the club to not only secure the AL West, but to get out and beyond the first round of the playoffs this year. Starting pitching has definitely been the sore spot for the club, as since the All Star break, the club has only had 10 quality starts out of 39 games. Yes, that’s barely a 25% rate of quality starting pitching. One would have to wonder, with the way Texas has been playing, if the Halos offense wasn’t playing out of it’s mind and carrying the club, how far back they could actually be in the division right now.
Next up Halo fans, the club welcomes the basement tenants of the AL West, the Athletics. Don’t be fooled, these Athletics always seem to provide plenty of 1 run games, and always give us a tough time. Tomorrow night’s game will mark the team’s hall of fame induction of former greats Brian Downing and Chuck Finley.
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
Tonight’s game was a complete opposite of last night’s offensive extravaganza that saw the Angels win 8-7. Ervin Santana completely manhandled and shut down a powerful Rays lineup, going the distance while allowing only 3 hits to get the complete game shutout. This also happened to be his first home win of the year, and it couldn’t have come at a better time for the Halos. Santana, to be blunt, has been wildly inconsistent all year long, and in a week that saw the Halos put lefty starter Joe Saunders on the DL, this is something that the club really needed. It remains to be seen though, if Santana can build off of this start and provide some much needed consistency for the club and the starting staff in particular.
Rays starter David Price performed much better than his line shows. The lengthly lefthander carried a no hitter into the fifth inning, an inning in which, the wheels started falling off. Reggie Willits helped lead to the demise of Price after a clutch 2 RBI single with two outs in the fifth and was driven in by the next batter, Chone Figgins, who singled to put the Halos up 3-0. Jeff Mathis put the icing on the cake with a bases loaded double off the left field fence, driving in 3 and putting the Angels up to stay, 6-0, and sending Price off to an early, lonesome shower.
The Rangers were shutout by the Indians today, so now the Halos lead the division by 5 games. In the series finale tommorow, Trevor Bell of the Angels will make his major league debut, and will be opposed by the Rays Jeff Niemann. It will be an early start for the game, at 12:35. The club is also expecting to see the return of centerfielder Torii Hunter, which will be a much welcomed sight for the club. Justin Speier, who had been very inconsistent in the pen all year long, was released today as the club made room on the roster for Bell.
On a separate note, it was great to see the Tigers Rick Porcello throw the charging Kevin Youkillis to the ground during the benches clearing brawl. I hope he gets a nice fat suspension for his actions.
Until next time Angel fans.