It's all over but the shouting, folks. Oftentimes in sports, there are little things that happen which, when isolated, don't seem to have much of an impact on the action. But when looked at in a broader context, these little things foreshadow the bigger things to come. A player in a slump hits line drives right at someone. A pitcher just barely off his game gives up bloop singles on great pitches. Tonight's game was full of evidence that the Angels are done, and they were done by the fourth inning. What am I talking about? In the third inning, after a lead off single, the Angels called a hit and run. A sinker ball pitcher throws a pitch practically over Figgins' head. Chone fails to make contact, and Posada has a perfect pitch to throw on. Kennedy heads back to the dugout. In the fourth, the Angels get a one out baserunner. Vlad tries to steal second. Cano, on the move to cover the bag, is in perfect position to field a ground ball which would have been a hit at any other time.I consider it cathartic to prepare myself for the worst. Otherwise, I end up watching my team blow a huge lead, like the Kings tonight, and it catches me completely off guard.
These are what they call "the breaks" and the Angels aren't getting them. In 2002, they got all the breaks. A Robin Ventura smash hits the high wall in right when it would have been long gone if it had been just a few feet to the left. Spiezio collides with AJ Pierszynski in game 2 of the ALCS, kicking the ball out of AJ's glove, giving the Angels a first inning lead. In the post-season, the teams are so close that the one that wins is the one that gets the breaks. It wasn't meant to be for the 2005 Angels, and there's no better evidence than the fact that the A's are getting all the breaks.
As has been the case many times over the years, the Angels faced a no name pitcher with decent, but not eye-popping numbers, and they make him look like the greatest pitcher in history. The Yankees decided to go with a strong infield defense with the sinkerballer on the mound, planning on getting a large number of ground balls, and the Angels were more than willing to oblige. They could have started Giambi in center field and gotten away with, because nothing was getting to the outfield in the air. Lackey, on the other hand, threw a lot of pitches, walked a few, and could not avoid getting touched up by the stout Yankees offense. When they pushed their second run across in the fifth inning, the job was all but complete. If you want one stat that's indicative of this offense, look no further than their igniter, Chone Figgins. Through two games, to this point, he's 0 for 7, with three strikeouts. His career in the post-season as a regular (five games) he's now 2 for 21 with no walks, and 8 strike outs. That's not exactly what you look for out of your lead off hitter.
The Angels had another fine season. They can add another year to their division championship banner. But for the second straight year, the Angels will leave the party early, likely after the minimum number of required games. The gas is on, the match is lit, and it will soon be time to fire up the hot stove.
Anyway, I was 100% wrong. The breaks, well, they broke. Things started going the Angels' way. They finally made the Yankees pay for an error, and then they went and did it again in the seventh after Finley's bunt pulled Cano off the bag at first. Lackey didn't pitch badly, but he did walk way too many hitters. Of course, perhaps the walk isn't a bad option against a team of mashers. I really think if the Angels get to the next round and face Chicago, the pitchers will feel like they were swinging the weighted bat in the this series.
The top of the lineup continues to disappoint. Figgins and Anderson have been brutal with the bat in their hands, Chone's making up for it on defense. Clutch hits from Molina and Cabrera kept the wheels turning, and the bullpen looked sharp, Frankie's meatball to Posada notwithstanding. Big credit to Mike Scioscia for calling the pitch-out at a crucial moment, and props to Escobar, Bengie, and Cabrera for executing. Bengie practically caught the ball in front of home plate, and threw a perfect strike. I thought that was a real turning point.
Now it's back to New York to face their