Friday, June 02, 2006

Angels 10: Indians 3

So it looks like this Weaver kid might be kind of good. Of course, he's benefitted from a ton of run support, which is irrelevant when evaluating his performance. What's not irrelevant is the tremendous oufield defense he's received, crucial for a fly ball pitcher. In his debut, it was a bullet from Vlad to cut a runner off at the plate for a double play. Tonight it was a fantastic catch by Chone Figgins off of Casey Blake, which led to a double play as Travis Hafner was nowhere near first base. But eight strike outs against four hits and two walks is nothing to sneeze at. He was mixing his pitches well, hitting his spots, and staying ahead of the hitters for the most part. And let's be honest, this wasn't the Royals. This is the second most prolific offense in the majors. It stands in stark contrast to the last road debut by an Angels pitcher, also in Cleveland. In that game last year, Ervin Santana gave up the cycle to the first four batters he faced.

On the other side, for the second straight Jered Weaver start, the Angels clubbed three home runs, taking a 2-0 lead on Vlad's shot in the first, and adding insurance on a two run blast by D-Mac and a three jun jack from GA. Those were three of the ten hits pounded out by the Angels, nicely complementing their six (six!!) walks, including two each from Napoli and the OC. Someone in Cleveland has either refused to teach pitchers how to hold runners, or Tim Laker has a weaker arm than my six year old niece, because the Angels managed to steal six bases in this game, three by Figgins.

That makes seven wins in their last nine, and they're creeping closer to .500. I'm with my brother on this one. They're not going to win the division with fewer than 81 wins, so discussing where they are in the division race is kind of pointless. Get back to .500, then let's take stock of the situation.

Happy and secure Kelvim takes the pill tomorrow night. A win would provide the Angels with their fourth straight series win and another chance at their first sweep of the season.

Off Day, so here's some music

I went over to Reckless Records yesterday because I had to kill some time while getting my glasses fixed, and spennt my time going through their used CDs. It's something I used to do all the time when I was back in LA and there were some good used record stores around. Then in Champaign, we had Record Swap, which, other than maybe Amoeba and Lou's, is probably the best used record store I've ever been to. Haven't really done it as much in Chicago though. Strangely there don't appear to be as many good stores in my area outside of Reckless, and honestly, this was the first time I'd gone there.

Found a bunch of good stuff, although I was looking for the La's CD, which they didn't have. It was stolen along with my car a few years ago, and though the car was found, I never got the CD back. But aside from that, I was able to pick up:
  1. The The - Mind Bomb
  2. Apples in Stereo - Tone Soul Evolution
  3. Spacemen 3 - Recurring
  4. Beta Band - Hot Shots II (already had it burned, but I decided to pick up the original
  5. Guided By Voices - Alien Lanes
  6. Broadcast - The Noise Made By People
The last one is a CD I've been seeking for a couple of years now with no luck. Never in stock at the Virgin Megastore. I was able to pick up Work and Non-Work, but apparently this one is out of print, and Reckless priced it as such (about $23). Broadcast is kind of a loungy pop act in the mold of Stereolab, but not as expiremental, and not as French. I first heard them on an personal internet radio thingy that probably played them because they sound a little like the Lab. The song that kept coming up was Papercuts, and lo and behold, the video is available on YouTube. So in all it's glory, here it is. Enjoy Trish Keenan's voice.

UPDATE - Youtube removed the first Broadcast video I posted, so here's a replica, and another tune.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Twins 7; Angels 1

Well, make that six out of eight. On the bright side, there weren't any wasted efforts tonight. Not one player in an Angels uniform deserved to win this game except for maybe Jose Molina, and almost all of them deserved to lose it. Ervin Santana, who pitches great in night games at home, apparently took the mound while the sun was shining a little too brightly, because he got roughed up for three runs in the first, and that was all the Twins and Francisco Liriano needed. Santana recovered and pitched seven strong innings giving up only the three earned runs with another unearned run added in. JC Romero followed with a perfect eighth, but Hector Carrasco was absolutely putrid in the ninth giving up three runs on five hits to the first five batters he faced, and that was pretty much all she wrote.

Liriano was terrific for the Twins. His 90mph slider and solid change kept the Halo hitters off base all night. They didn't get a hit until the sixth inning, and even that required a bad call from first base umpire Ed Hickox. They actually got a little threat going in that inning, putting runners at second and third with only one out. Then Garret Anderson and Vlad Guerrero suddenly caught a case of Junior Felix disease, which caused them to swing at a combined five consecutive pitches out of the strike zone, promptly ending the threat, and really any hope that the Angels had to come back.

As if the contrast in pitching performances wasn't enough, Juan Rivera had enough action in center to show why he really shouldn't be playing center unless he's hitting. Figgins was part of two double plays, but unfortunately both were on the offensive end, the second coming when he broke from first on a rip by Garret which was caught nicely by Lew Ford in right field to end the eighth. He also botched a play at second that Kennedy clearly would have made. Molina was the lone bright spot, reaching base twice via the base on balls. He also made a fantastic play to pick Jason Kubel off third base to end the sixth inning. Everyone else sucked, though.

In other news, the Angels inked Kelvim Escobar to three more years, with terms undisclosed. Assuming the money is reasonable, I like the move. Escobar has been solid when healthy, and he's young enough that the Angels have now locked up four spots in their rotation for the next few years, and they have all five spots already booked for next year. That should allow someone like Saunders to work out of the pen next year before possibly moving into the rotation in 2008, and by the time Escobar's deal is up, Nick Adenhart and Jose Arredondo are just about ready.

Off day tomorrow, then on to underachieving Cleveland, who could break out, or hopefully continue to underachieve. Should be good pitching matchups throughout.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Twins 3; Angels 6

And with that, the Angels have won three consecutive series. They'll likely remain one game back of the Oakland A's They're now tied with the Oakland A's, and five games back of the Texas Rangers, and they're actually over .500 in their last ten, having won six of their last seven.

I missed a fair amount of this one thanks to Extra Innings showing this game on the same channel on which they carried the Tigers loss to the Yankees, which went into extra innings. That combined with an unscheduled nap on the couch, and well, it was 6-3 when I came to. It was actually a nice surprise considering when I first looked at the screen, I thought it said 3-0.

Second consecutive quality start for Weaver the Elder, some nice work by Donnelly in the 8th (thanks to a weird strikeout), and more Frankie dominance in the ninth (funny how those injury rumors have died down). For the second straight game, the guys at the top of the lineup got the job done. Figgins scored after a pair of leadoff walks, while the OC went 2-4 with a double and an RBI, making this the 31st consecutive game in which he has reached base. Aside from his awful start in the field, he's really putting together a solid season. Even Juan Rivera chipped in with a home run to add some insurance. On the downside, a second straight ofer from Kendry has finally dropped his average below .300, but he continues to play solid defense.

Tomorrow night the Angels face one of the top pitching prospects in the game. So far all he's done is go 3-0 with a 2.51 ERA this season, and he's allowed all of one run in his two starts. The Angels counter with their own future star in Ervin Santana, who is a completely different pitcher during night games at home. Throw in a struggling Twins offense, and this should be another close low scoring affair with the Twins, as if the Angels play any other type of game against the Twins.

This is starting to get fun again.

Twins 3; Angels 4

Looks like a picked a good day to start getting back into this. This is the type of victory the Angels have been able to put together over the last couple of years. A good outing by the starter, the offense scraps for some runs, they turn it over to the bullpen who shuts the opponent down, and the offense finds a way to pull out the victory.

Aside from the six combined hits by the top two hitters, there were some things in this game that I really liked to see. The Angels have gotten very few bad calls in their favor this season. It seems they've all gone against them, and tonight was no differen as Marvin Hudson took away a double and an RBI on a rip by Garret Anderson down the first base line. Replays appeared to show the ball was fair, but Hudson ruled it foul, and Anderson and Scioscia let him know how wrong he was. No bother. GA knocked the next pitch into center for an RBI single. So while they didn't get the call, they didn't let it bother them and got the run anyway.

The Angels defense has been one of their bugaboos all season. They rank near the bottom if the NBA in fielding percentage. But they made up for a big error in the tenth inning. After Orlando Cabrera made a two out error on an ill-advised throw to first base (Rondell White had it beat anyway), Frankie and Adam Kennedy combined to pick White off on a beautifully executed pickoff play at second. And not only did the Angels make up for their defensive miscue, they actually took advantage of their opponents'. They score the tying run on two plays that were inexplicably ruled hits in the eighth inning (apparently official scorekeepers don't expect much out of major leaguers defensively), and they scored the winning run after Figgins went from first to third on a botched pickoff throw to first from Jesse Crain to Justin Morneau.

Just another tight game with the Twins, who always seem to be within a run or two of the Angels, but lately often seem to be on the losing end. Rough nights for the kids save for Mike Napoli's single in his only at bat. This was a game the Angels would have lost pretty much all season up until about the last two weeks. They appear to be turning things around, and they're starting to get some breaks. Let's hope it snowballs. They could just rip through the soft spot of their schedule.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Slowly Coming Out Of It

The Angels have now won two consecutive series, and they really should have completed the sweep yesterday. They're coming into a stretch of games against very beatable teams, and if they can find a way to heat up, and if the rest of the division stays dormant, they very well could find themselves within a game or two on either side of first place in three weeks. Honestly, I had no idea they'd be in this position a few weeks ago, but the combination of unispired play compared against even more unispired play from the rest of the division has them within a handful of games of the top.

There are certainly reasons for optimism, moreso than there were three weeks ago. Specifically, the optimism is being provided by Michael Napoli, Kendry Morales, Dallas McPherson, and Jered Weaver. Napoli has been solid behind the plate, solid with a bat, and incredibly, he'll actually take a walk. McPherson still swings big and misses a lot, but he's hit a couple of big homers, and you can't argue that he isn't fun to watch at the plate. Morales has been a revelation. A slow started at almost every level, he's already hit two homers and has nine hits in his first five games. Despite his reputation as a butcher with the glove, he's made some sparkling plays in the field. I still have high hopes for Kotchman, but he has to be a little concerned at this point. And at a time where the starting staff needed a boost, all Jered Weaver did was throw seven shutout innings while striking out five and allowing only three hits. In the meantime, Erick Aybar and Howie Kendrick have gotten their cups of coffee, and they'll be better prepared to deal with the big leagues when they're actually expected to produce.

If the team isn't going to win, all I ask is that they be interesting to watch. With the future of the team in the lineup today, they're an interesting ballclub for Angels fans to watch, and the injection of youth into the lineup has put them back on the winning track for the time being, and the schedule in the near future gives me a glimmer of hope. I'm going to start easing my way back into this. Of course, if they stop winning, then I'm clearly a jinx and will need to stop again. Let's hope they get it started tonight.