Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Mariners 1; Angels 4

No shame in thinking this one was trouble about two batters into the first inning. Ervin Santana allowed the first two runners to reach, and only retired Guillen on a shot to third that Quinlan was able to stab. He became Ervin the Usual against Ibanez, turning an 0-2 count into a walk before completing his streak of eight straight balls against Richie Sexon. For a team that doesn't walk, the Mariners' first five batters were very patient, laying off some very close pitches. Then Kenji Johjima stepped up, grounded into a double play, and Santana had escaped with minimal damage. To top it off, the Angels got a run back in the first to tie it up.

With his new lease on life, Santana exploded. He went six more innings allowing only two hits and no walks, completing seven innings having allowed only one run, and needing fewer than 100 pitches to do it. So a reprieve for now. He'll remain in the rotation, and his next start is at home. Maybe two straight home starts, if he can get it done again, will boost his confidence for that next road game. Maybe that double play was a turning point. We can only hope.

On the offensive side of the ball, Reggie Willits showed that last night wasn't just a bump in his slump, as he produced his second two hit game in a row. Behind him, Orlando Cabrera added three hits of his own, pushing his average to .314. Kind of a strange game offensively. The top three hitters reached base a total of 8 times, yet they still needed an unlikely two run homer from Shea Hillenbrand to provide the winning runs (with insurance added later). Mike Napoli's hitting streak ended on a rocket to third that Adrian Beltre had to grab simply to save his own life.

Speaking of Cabrera and Napoli, if you're wondering about the Angels recent success, you need look no further than those two players and Casey Kotchman. Not that they've been alone, but on May 8th, the Angels lost to the Indians and dropped to 17-16. Following that game, those three stood as follows:
  • Kotchman - 232/304/384
  • Cabrera - 266/338/379
  • Napoli - 194/296/339
Where are they now? (average through tonight's game - OBP and SLG through last night, to be updated tomorrow, because I'm lazy):
  • Kotchman - 302/381/487 - 6th in AL OPS among every day first basemen
  • Cabrera - 314/359/425 - 5th in AL OPS among every day short stops
  • Napoli - 259/339/491 - 6th in AL OPS among every day catchers
Certainly those rankings aren't monumental, but the turnarounds are, and they're a big reason the Angels have won 15 of their last 20. The Angels now sport five starters hitting over .290. The offense isn't outstanding, but it doesn't have to be. If they can simply be average, middle of the road (they're currently 6th in the AL in runs scored), that will be plenty to win the AL West.

Jered on the mound tomorrow night to hopefully take the series. He hasn't been great of late, but he's been good enough.

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