It was mentioned in the Times this week, but basically, the offense that threatened to derail the Angels' season so many times over the last few months reared it's ugly head at the wrong time, and for once, the pitchers couldn't bail them out. I've gotta agree with Rob. I am absolutely shocked that this team found a way to win 95 games this season. The Angels had exactly one hitter with more than 20 home runs this season. Guys that would have finished second on the Angels in homers this year include Johnny Gomes (in less than 400 at bats), Craig Monroe, Jay Payton, Chris Shelton, and four or five guys on the White Sox. In addition to lacking any measurable power, they also were great at not getting on base. It's a testament to how awful the AL West was this year that they were able to make the playoffs. The Angels did lead the league in batting average with runners in scoring position. Unfortunately, in order to take advantage of that, you actually need to get runners in scoring position.
I haven't gone through every at bat, but I don't think Chone Figgins has hit one ball on the ground in this series. That's really great. A guy with his speed has either popped up or struck out just about every time up. Vlad is now one for sixteen in this series, and still hasn't had an extra base hit in the post-season. He's hit exactly one ball hard, and it ended in an out.
The White Sox have an excellent pitching staff, but it certainly isn't, as a whole, demonstrably better than it was earlier in the season. I'm sorry if it sounds petty, but I just can't in good conscience credit the White Sox pitching staff to the extent that most of the press will. If they do this to the Cardinals, or maybe even the Astros, that will be impressive. The proof is in the three straight complete games. That just doesn't happen unless you're a major league pitching staff facing a double A offense, which is pretty much what the Angels are right now.
This offense, plainly and simply, sucks. Sucks hard. And quite honestly, it's a couple years away from getting better. D-Mac and Kotchman need a full year at this level to adjust. In 2007, hopefully the right moves are made such that our starting infield is Kotchman, Kendrick, Wood, and McPherson.
This game, for all intents and purposes, was over just three batters into the game. I don't think there's anyone, if asked for an objective opinion, who believed the Angels would (not could) score three or more runs tonight. They remind me a lot of the '95 Angels during that stretch in August where they were losing game practically before they started. They'd go out, give up a bunch of runs in the first, and the offense would pretty much just give up. The Kid didn't have it, and the offense is simply unable of picking their pitcher up.
Unsurprisingly, the umpiring crew missed two more calls tonight against the Angels, failing to recognize a faily obvious catcher's interference, turing a bases loaded, none out situation into a inning ending double play. Later, Ed Rapuano blew a call on a pick-off of Podsednik, who would later steal and score. The one call that went the Angels way was actually the right call. Everyone realizes that middle infielders get the "neighborhood" play, but that's usually when they actually touch the base. So far, the only breaks the Angels have gotten from the umps in the post-season have actually all been by-the-book correct calls. But it's irrelevant. This team simply can't hit. And while they may not be as bad next year, they won't be appreciably better until Finley, Erstad, Molina, and maybe even Kennedy are no longer regulars in the lineup (only because Kennedy is likely to be replaced by a much better hitter). That's not until 2007.
There's one more game left, but it's pretty much a foregone conclusion at this point. I actually expect Byrd to pitch really well for five or six innings, but at some point the Sox will push a run or two across, and that's all they're going to need.
Oh well, we'll always have 2002.