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.
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 wasn’t exactly pretty, but at this time of the season, especially against the closest team to them in the standings, the Angels will take it. Scott Kazmir was a bulldog on Friday night, going 6 shutout innings, and picked up his first win with the team since coming over from Tampa Bay. Despite this only being Kazmir’s first victory, he has been a man of quality each time he has taken the hill thus far.
Granted, the Angels are taking on a Ranger team who hasn’t scored since the Eisenhower administration it seems like. They (the Rangers) had their chances, but Kazmir, followed with excellent relief from Jason Bulger, Mr. Consistency Kevin Jepsen in particular and Brian Fuentes kept the Rangers off of the scoreboard. If this note my statistician handed me is correct, the Rangers have been shut out 4 times now in their past 5 games – which is quite possibly the biggest slump in the history of these normally offensively sound Texas Rangers. To be blunt, my 96 year old grandfather is scoring more than the Rangers these days.. Who would have thought the Rangers problem at this point in the season would have been hitting rather than pitching? The pitching, to the Rangers credit, is as good as I’ve seen in many, many years. It remains to be seen, in the offseason, if the Rangers have the testicular fortitude in the form of money to go out and get the missing pieces needed to overtake the Halos next year, as this year, as the beloved Chick Hearn would say, is over. The jello is certainly jiggling.
The Angels now have a comfortable 7 1/2 game lead in the division. The next series, when the club returns home, will be against the Yankees and will go a long way to see who will have home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Should be interesting.
Let’s see if the Angels can add to the Rangers woes with another shutout today as Jered Weaver takes the hill. Boy, it sure is nice when you have 5 better than average starters to rely on each and every day.
Until next time Angel fans.
Halo fans, for the 2nd consecutive night, the Angels were beaten by an overrated starter. Also, the team’s defense, which is normally solid, played a huge role in this loss. After Joba Chamberlain kept them in check for 4 innings the night before (and if anyone feels the need to argue with me the fact that he isn’t overrated, please tell me someone else in recent baseball history who has gotten so much attention and done virtually nothing), Daisuke Matsuzaka did the trick tonight, keeping the Angels bat’s silent, as the Red Sox won, 4-1.
The matchup Tuesday definitely had a playoff type feel to it. But that’s not a good thing Angel fans. This playoff feel was really just a reminder of how much the Angels choke when it comes to the Red Sox. What Donnie Moore and the club back in 1986 experienced is still happening 23 years later. From the beginning, the Angels acted like their offense, which, what feels like ages ago was almost a guarantee of scoring 10 runs a game, was going to be as lethargic as Oprah Winfrey after a hot fudge sundae. You could just see that unless a small miracle happened, it would be hard to scratch even one run across the board. The only Angel who deserves no fault is John Lackey. He pitched his heart out for 7 2/3 innings only to get absolutely no backing by the offense. Angels, if this is the same song and dance against the Red Sox we are going to see in the first round, just tell me now so I can save myself from the mulitiple ulcers this will cause and the years I will lose on my life. Tell me now.
The Angels should be thanking their lucky stars that the Texas Rangers too have forgotten how to score runs. Having lost the first 2 games in pathetic fashion on this most important trip, the Rangers have also dropped their last 2 games to keep the Angels lead in the division at 6 games.
As a die hard Angel fan, I am starting to develop that ever so familiar pit in my stomach feeling that comes around this time of year. When is this team going to play to it’s full potential when it matters most? Maybe I just expect too much. I mean, they can barely manage to get through their own division – at times it amazes me how they have the record that they do, seeing as they generally don’t show up for the big games.
Let it be known, the Red Sox beat the Angels rather easily without Kevin Youkilis and Victor Martinez in the lineup – 2 guys you know we will see in the first round. Oh yeah, and instead of getting Daisuke, we will get an all you can eat buffet of Josh Beckett and Jon Lester… Just food for thought Angel fans.
Now, I drink some beers and try to relax until tomorrow night’s game. Wherever you are Angel fans, have one with me.
Until next time Angel fans.
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.
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.
This wasn’t at all what Sean O’Sullivan had planned as he prepared to take the mound against the Blue Jays in game one of this three game series. The rookie right hander didn’t record an out in the 2nd inning, and left having yielded 4 runs to the Blue Jays as the Jays went on to win, 5-4. The outing was yet another in a newly formed trend of poor starts from Angels rookie starting pitchers lately. Granted Trevor Bell did pick up his first major league win his last turn around in Cleveland, but it was far from pretty. The bullpen did the best they could with solid relief coming in the form of Matt Palmer (who may see himself getting O’Sullivan’s turn in the rotation next time) and Jose Arredondo, who limited the Jays to only 1 run for the rest of the game. The Angels offense wasn’t much better, at least through the first 8 innings. The bats appeared to have taken the night off for the second night in a row, only managing one run, but Mike Napoli provided an ulcer building moment for Jays manager Cito Gaston, hitting a 3 run home run in the Angels half of the ninth to bring the Halos within a run. Casey Janssen would induce a game ending groundout by pinch hitter Bobby Abreu to notch the save and the victory for Toronto with Howie Kendrick on 2nd base.
Yorba Linda native Marc Rzepczynski (last time I will type that name – haha) silenced the Angels bats for 6 1/3 innings, only allowing 3 hits and 1 run to pick up the victory. After somewhat of a shaky first inning, he found his form – and his slider and pitched well. Adam Lind hit his 29th home run off of O’Sullivan in the first to help start the Jays attack.
Tomorrow, Ervin Santana will get the start in an afternoon game, and look to get the Angels off of this 2 game skid. He will be opposed by Scott Richmond, as both pitchers will look to pick up their 7th win of the season.
The Rangers lost in Tampa Bay, so the Angels lead still sits at 5.5 games. Elsewhere around the league, the Yankees continue beating anyone and everyone, outscoring the hated Red Sox in a run scoring extravaganza, 20-11. The Red Sox appear to be getting some bullpen relief in the form of Mets lefty Billy Wagner, who is just now getting back from a left elbow injury suffered nearly 12 months ago. The Red Sox hold a slim 1 game lead in the Wild Card over the Rangers. Let’s see if Ervin can build off of his recent success and provide the club with a much needed quality start.
Until next time Angel fans.