Friday, August 22, 2008

Twins 2; Angels 1

See also here.

Following a blistering July and first half of August, the Angels offense appears to be slowing down to June levels. They struggled to generate any offense last night, and they failed to exert any pressure on the Twins defense. They managed only one hit and three baserunners in the last eight innings of play last night, and wasted an otherwise solid performance from John Lackey. On the other side, Scott Baker threw eight innings of four hit baseball to lower his ERA to 3.74.

The Angels took the lead on a first inning home run from Mark Teixeira, his fifth since the trade. The Twins scratched out a run in the fifth inning to tie the score on a two out double from Nick Punto and an RBI single from Carlos Gomez. That was all the offense until the 12th inning.

In the 12th, Mike Scioscia made the inexplicable decision to turn to Justin Speier, who has now allowed at least one run in five of his last seven appearances (an 8.64 ERA over that span). Punto led off the 12th with a triple on a ball that, quite frankly, should have been caught by Torii Hunter. Two batters later, Denard Spann drove a single past the drawn in Chone Figgins for the eventual winning run.

Angels Top Three Performers:

1) John Lackey pitched eight innings of one run ball, allowing seven baserunners and striking out five. He pitched his way out of a jam in the eighth (which he helped create with his second error of the night), with some help from Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar, who turned a nifty double play.

2) Mark Teixeira was the only Angel with more than one hit, and provided all the offense with his 5th home run as an Angel.

3) The bullpen (non-Speier division). Frankie Rodriguez, Scot Shields, and Darren Oliver combined for three scoreless innings. Each allowed a hit, and Shields walked a batter, but struck out two.

Jeff Weaver of the game:

Take your pick between Scioscia, for going with Speier when he could have extended Oliver (or gone with Arredondo), Speier (who's simply been awful this year), or Hunter, who in addition to failing to catch a very catchable ball, went 0-4 and left four runners on base.

What to look for tonight:

Joe Saunders goes after win number 15 again. The Twins counter with Glenn Perkins, a 25 year old Minnesota local with a very nice 10-3 record and a 4.17 ERA. He's struggled a bit in four of his last five starts, but tossed eight innings of scoreless baseball against the Yankees a week and a half ago. Garret Anderson looks to start a new hitting streak after having his 23 gamer snapped last night (though in all likelihood, he'll get the day off).

Game time: 7:05 PDT; Television: KCOP

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Angels 2; Rays 4

Another in my series of recaps for Socal Sports Hub.

Ten years ago, the New York Yankees had an historic season, winning 114 games against just 48 losses. Six of those losses came against the Angels. Ever since, the Angels have consistently been thorns in the Yankees collective side, true proof of which wouldn't manifest itself on a grander stage until the 2002 ALDS, a triumph the Angels would duplicate in 2005. The Tampa Bay Rays are quickly becoming the Calanaheim Angels to the Angels' Yankees. The Angels have a winning record against every team in the American League, except for the Rays, who continued their dominance over the Angels last night with a 4-2 victory.

The Angels got the ball rolling early with a home run from Vladimir Guerrero, his 23rd of the season, to lead off the second inning. They would go on to squander a great opportunity to add to the lead when Torii Hunter was cut down at the plate on a strike from B.J. Upton. And I'm serious about it being a strike. I'm pretty sure that peg went through the strike zone. The Angels added a second run in the fourth inning when Garret Anderson's double, which extended his hitting streak to 22 games, drove in Guerrero, who had doubled to lead off the inning.

Meanwhile, Ervin Santana was quietly twirling a gem. He didn't allow a baserunner until there were two outs in the fourth inning, and didn't allow a hit until the sixth inning, when he finally ran into trouble, and got a little help from umpire Jerry Meals at first base. Following a double by Jason Bartlett and an infield single by Akinori Iwamura, Upton hit a bouncer to first base. Mark Teixeira thought about going to the plate, and his hesitation fooled Santana, who was on his way to cover first base. Teixeira's throw to first subsequently flew by Santana and was picked up by an alert Howie Kendrick. Upton ran through first base, and it looked to me as if he thought about going to second on the error for a split second before coming to a stop. Kendrick alertly tagged Upton, and Meals called him out. Rule 7.08(c) says that a player overrunning first base must immediately return to the base. If the umpire can discern any intent to advance toward second base, the player is fair game. In Meals' judgment, Upton hesitated (a big no-no), and was in play. Joe Maddon disagreed and got the gate after letting Meals know.

Scot Shields made it all academic, however, in the bottom of the eighth. He came in with absolutely no concept of the strike zone, and walked Gabe Gross. Jason Bartlett tried to bunt him over, and Jeff Mathis' throw to first sailed into right field, putting the tying run on third and the go ahead run on second. Shields then walked the bases loaded before striking out Upton on a fastball at the knees. Darren Oliver was summoned to face lefty Carlos Pena, but he too couldn't find the strike zone when it mattered and walked in the tying run. Following a strike out of Cliff Floyd, Willie Aybar singled home Bartlett and Iwamura to provide the winning margin.

Angels three top performers:

1) Vladimir Guerrero went two for four with a homer and a double, and scored both Angel runs.

2) Ervin Santana threw seven innings of one run ball and allowed only six baserunners against nine strikeouts. He took a no-hitter into the sixth inning.

3) Jerry Meals made a questionable call that kept the Angels in the lead until the eighth inning implosion. No one else really qualified here, so Meals gets the nod over any actual Angels.

Jeff Weaver of the game: Scot Shields, with a tip of the cap to Jeff Mathis. Shields' job is to get the Angels through the eighth inning in close games, and failed dramatically. Mathis runs a close second for not only allowing the eventual winning run to reach base with a wild throw to first, but for also striking out with a runner in scoring position.

What to look for tonight: Jered Weaver rides the roller coaster against Matt Garza. Acquired before the season from the Twins, Garza has been sharp this year with a 10-7 record and 3.63 ERA. After two straight shaky performances (nine runs in 10.2 innings), he's coming off a shut out of the Rangers. Weaver has been unreliable of late, with an ERA over six in his last four starts.

Next game: Tonight at 4:10 PDT, on FSN and ESPN2