Monday, May 23, 2005

Angels - 4; White Sox - Santana's bitches

Welcome to the big leagues, kid. You just shut-out the team with the best record in baseball. That was nothing but flat-out domination. The great thing about this game is that there's plenty of credit to go around. Normally when you see a game like this, you think one of two things: 1) It was a shut-out because of dominant pitching, or 2) It was a shut-out because the defense brought him off the wire a few times. But tonight was a little bit of both.

Santana struck out seven, walked only one, and gave just four hits (maybe five, depending on what they gave Konerko on that penultimate at bat). But the defense, or more accurately Erstad, shined as well. Erstad stole two outs on balls that should have gone foul into the Sox dugout. But tremendous concentration and athleticism shortened the game by two batters. He also started an excellent tag-the-bag/tag-the-runner double play

Aggresive baserunning led to two runs when D-Mac went first to third on a single to left center by Cabrera. If Crede had held on to the throw, McPherson would have been out easily and the inning would have been over. But Crede didn't hold on, Cabrera waltzed into second, and Kennedy drove in two with a double to the gap in left center.

Bengie provided some power and finesse, driving in a run on a blooper over the drawn in infield in the sixth, then blasting one to dead center for a solo homer in the eighth that sort of put a capper on things.

But the real story was Santana. That performance, for me, will rank right up there with some of the best outings I've actually seen in person (obviously I wasn't in Anaheim for this one, but the others stick out because I was there on those nights). One was Jason Dickson's five hit masterpiece that beat Tim Wakefield and the Red Sox 2-0 on day two of the 1997 season. We had the good seats, three rows from the front, right behind home plate, and it was a great spot from which to witness his mastery. Another was Ramon Ortiz's two hit, one run performance that beat Pedro Martinez and the Red Sox 2-1 (it should have been a shutout, but the ump blew a call at second on what should have been a single by Troy O'Leary).

Tonight Santana changed speeds, located his fast ball, and threw the right pitches at the right time. Credit Bengie for calling a great game behind the plate. By the late innings, the kid was getting the benefit of the doubt from the plate ump, and he deserved it.

I imagine that when Escobar comes off the DL, Santana will return to the minors, but I'm guessing he's done with double A. He'll most likely go down to Salt Lake and face more experienced hitters. He'll also probably option number one should another starter hit the DL. I'm not 100% familiar with the organizational moves that will need to be made to send him to Salt Lake instead of Arkansas, so I could be wrong, but I'm guessing they'll find a way to make it happen.

Good start to the homestand. They need to take at least two of these four from the White Sox, and they can pitch with this team, so I wouldn't be surprised if the starters carry them to three of four. They also must take two from KC. Anything less will be unacceptable. And with the stretch that lies ahead, they need to get some wins under their belt before the next road trip.