Sunday, October 05, 2008

Game 3 notes

It's over. For the first time since I was 13, the Angels have beaten the Red Sox in a playoff game. And it just dawned on me while typing this that I was at the game. Game 4 in 1986, my friend and I were sitting in Jim Fregosi's season seats. In his non-baseball life, he owned a food brokerage and did business with my day. My parents were sitting two rows from the top of the enclosed Big A in dead center field. Here's a few thoughts on tonight.
  • The umpiring in this series has been atrocious. I say that objectively, as it's been awful for both teams. Ed Rapuano has had a horrible series, blowing check swings in games 1 and 3, tonight to the Angels brief benefit, and Wednesday to their detriment. He blew the call on the pickoff at second in game two. Kerwin Danley's strike zone tonight was just awful. I'm pretty sure he had no idea where it was. And the Angels caught a huge break when Danley called an inside fastball to Napoli a ball. That same pitch was strike three to left handed hitting Jacoby Ellsbury just minutes before. Napoli followed with a single, and scored the winning run.
  • Speaking of catchers and 1986, the last time the Angels beat the Red Sox in the playoffs, a catcher scored the winning run in extra innings. Jerry Narron scored on Bobby Grich's single to left field to give the Angels a 3-1 series lead.
  • I've been pretty hard on Kendrick and Figgins, but both had good games tonight. They were a combined 4-12, and Kendrick put down a nice sac bunt to set up the winning run. Figgins made some great plays at third base late in the game. He snagged sharply hit balls by Dustin Pedroia and Alex Cora to preserve the win. Speaking of Howie...
  • I don't blame the play in short center entirely on him. He should have caught the ball, but Torii Hunter has to call that ball one way or another. He either has to take charge, or he has to let Howie know that it's Howie's ball. Still, what's done is done, and the play won't matter in the grand scheme of things.
  • Hunter deserves more blame for his ill-advised attempt to go for the double on his leadoff hit in the ninth. Slightly mitigating his decision is that the ball took what looked like a weird bounce off the wall. Fenway regulars may tell me I'm wrong, but it seems like balls over there usually hit that wall where it curves and bouce into short left, or hug that wall down toward the corner. If either of those things happen, Hunter probably makes it. But it took a very friendly bounce for Jason Bay. Still, that play was entirely ahead of Hunter, and he should have seen that he was toast.
  • That play also may have hurt the Angels defense. If Hunter had stayed at first, Reggie Willits would have remained in the game to sacrifice him to second. With no one on and one out, Kendry Morales was called in to hit before Gary Matthews took over in right field. He ended up making a couple of nice plays, but after what happened in game one, it was a risk.
  • Because of the late drama from Frankie Rodriguez and Jered Weaver, it might be forgotten that the middle of the Angels bullpen was lights out. Jose Arrendondo, Darren Oliver, and Scot Shields threw 4.1 innings of hitless ball, walking two and striking out six. Shields looked as dominant as he's ever looked, especially for a guy who works the corners with his two seamer, working to an umpire with an inconsistent strike zone. Arredondo was fantastic as well.
  • I hesitate to write this, but maybe the tide is turning. Everything was lined up for the Angels to lose this game. A bad ump, a closer who walks a lot of guys, Jered Weaver pitching in relief against a team that has hit him pretty hard, a tough task pitching to David Ortiz who has killed him... The list goes on. But they got a big break when Ellsbury overslid second base. They got a break on the strikeout of Ellsbury in the 11th. They broke an 11 game losing streak against the Sox in th playoffs. They broke a nine game post-season losing streaking, going back to 2005.
  • John Lester is a great pitcher, but the Angels have the man they want on the mound. Lackey is their horse, and you might as well go down with your best. They seem to be waking up a bit at the plate. There's certainly no reason to think they can't win tomorrow night. Aybar got a hit. Kendrick started to hit. Now we just need Teixeira to deliver an extra base hit.
  • Napoli looked bad against Lester's breaking ball in game one, but hit a curve ball out tonight. Lester's comes from the other side, but he looks like he's locking in.
  • Which player sees a fastball first tomorrow night, Napoli, or Jason Bay? I wouldn't be surprised if neither saw a fastball all night.
  • If it comes down to it tomorrow, bullpen usuage should interesting. The Red Sox probably have an advantage, as both Okijima and Masterson threw fewer than 20 pitches. Arredondo and Shields both threw 28. Both closers threw over 30, that Papelbon did it over two innings.
  • This game lasted five hours and 19 minutes. Last month I sat through 12 innings of an Angels v. White Sox game that took only three hours. The game lasted 15 innings (I just left after 12) and still only took four hours. One reason people hate the Red Sox? Their games last for goddamn ever.
I'm not going to pick a winner, but needless to say, if it's a repeat of tonight's game, I'll be substantially more nervous. Having essentially given up after game one, I was relatively calm tonight, which is to say I was a nervous wreck who could still watch the game. Should be fun.

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