Thursday, September 25, 2008

Frankie 62; Mariners 58

Cross Posted at SoCal Sports Hub

It's been a tight race for most of the season, but last night, the Angels clinched at least a tie. Last night's 6-5 victory in Seattle means Francisco Rodriguez will finish the season with at least as many saves as the Mariners have wins. It was just six months ago when people were seriously including the Mariners in discussions of possible winners of the A.L. West.

Jon Garland didn't exactly grab the reins last night, as he battles Jered Weaver for the fourth starter role in the playoffs, which the Angels won't likely need until the ALCS should they advance past the first round. He allowed five runs on 11 hits over five innings, and was not around long enough to pick up the win. That went to Darren Oliver, who pitched two perfect innings in relief, solidifying his bullpen role in the playoffs, as the Angels don't figure to actually use more than four relievers. Scot Shields loaded the bases with one out in the eighth on two walks and a hit batter, but he struck out Ichiro and got Yunieski Betancourt to ground out to end the inning with no damage. Rodriguez allowed a two out single in the ninth, but otherwise coasted to his 62nd save of the season.

The Angels grabbed an early lead in the second inning on Erick Aybar's RBI single, scoring Torii Hunter who had previously doubled. Aybar, having made his way to third on a Mike Napoli single, later scored on a passed ball. The Mariners tied the game in the second, and took a three run lead in the fifth. But the Angels responded in the top of the sixth with three runs of their own. The first four batters of the inning reached base. Erick Aybar led off with a double and Mike Napoli walked before Sean Rodriguez doubled them both home. Chone Figgins' single move Rodriguez to third, and he brought home the tying run on Garret Anderson's double play. The game remained tied at five until the top of the eighth, when Mark Teixeira untied it with a two out solo home run, his 13th as Angel (he also picked up his 42nd Angel RBI).

Top three Angels performers:

Mark Teixeira went four for five with a double and homer. He's hitting .361 since the trade.

Mike Napoli is swinging the bat well, and he reached base for times last night in five appearances. He delivered a double, two singles, and a walk.

Darren Oliver's two perfect innings came on the heels of the Angels big sixth inning, and gave the offense time to add the extra run it needed.

Jeff Weaver of the game:

Jon Garland didn't exactly make a case for being the fourth starter come playoff time. He allowed five runs in five innings, and a lot of baserunners.

Play of the game:

Mark Teixeira's two out eighth inning homer was the difference in the game.

What to expect tonight

Dustin Moseley takes Joe Saunders' turn in the rotation as Saunders recovers from kidney stones. The Mariners counter with Cesar Jiminez, who has been solid in 30 innings this season, mostly in relief. The Angels are one win away from tying their franchise record 99 wins. Their magic number for home field advantage is three.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Angels 2; Mariners 1

Cross posted at SoCal Sports Hub

Ervin Santana tossed a gem and picked up his sixteenth win of the season as the Angels beat the Mariners 2-1. Not a lot of action in this one, as both pitchers really threw the ball well. Ryan Rowland-Smith continued his solid work of late, earning his seventh straight quality start. His ERA, 4.11 just over a month ago, has fallen to 3.39 over that span. He allowed only one earned run last night, but some shoddy defense and a lights out performance from Santana was enough to keep him from getting the win. Frankie Rodriguez dominated the M's hitters in the ninth to extend his record saves total to 61.

The Mariners struck first with three straight singles to open the third inning. But they were only able to plate one run on an RBI ground out by Raul Ibanez, sandwiched around strikeouts by Yunieski Betancourt and Jose Lopez. After escaping that jam, Santana settled into a groove and faced the minimum from the fourth inning on, allowing only a single to Marques Tuiasosopo in the fourth inning before picking him off first base. Santana worked eight innings, allowed five hits, and struck out nine against no walks. He's now 16-6, with a 3.25 ERA, and he's second in the AL in strikeouts. A year ago today he was 7-13 with a 5.62 ERA, and he had Angels fans wondering if he'd ever put it together. Six months after refusing to give in to calls to trade him, Tony Reagins has himself a second ace.

The Angels tied the game in the fourth inning on a monster shot to center field off the bat of Vladimir Guerrero, his 25th of the season. Vlad's now poised to hit over .300 with 25 homers for the 11th consecutive season. The only other player in MLB history with a similar streak is Lou Gehrig. Pretty good company. In the seventh inning, Jeff Mathis reached on a one out single. Reggie Willits singled him to third, and a misplay in the outfield allowed Mathis to score the final run of the game. Francisco Rodriguez worked a 1-2-3 ninth inning, making Jose Lopez look stupid on a three pitch strikeout for the last out. The Angels reduced their magic number for home field advantage to four.

Top Three Angels Performers:

1. Ervin Santana was as dominant as he could be. You have to remind yourself it was against the Mariners, but the 9 strikeouts and no walks is a very nice sign heading into the playoffs. And with John Lackey's recent struggles, it's that much more important to have one of them charging into the post-season.

2. Vladimir Guerrero delivered three hits, but the home run he hit in the fourth came right on top of Santana's Houdini act in the bottom of the third, and snuffed out any Mariners momentum.

3. Reggie Willits didn't get an RBI for the single that helped push Jeff Mathis across, but he did go three for four.

Jeff Weaver of the Game

It's hard to single anyone out in a win, but take your pick between Juan Rivera (0-3, 4 LOB) or Sean Rodriguez (0-3, 3 Ks). The good news about Rodriguez is that those three strikeouts came in relief of Howie Kendrick, who returned to the lineup and was hitless in two at bats.

Play of the Game

Vlad's home run was crushed. Beautiful to watch, and it tied the game at a fairly crucial point.

What to look for tonight:

Jered Weaver, who has allowed one run in his last 12 innings spanning two starts, looks to stay hot. He probably won't start in the first round. The Angels can choose their schedule, and will likely take the five games in eight days schedule, allowing them to use a three man rotation in the ALDS. The Mariners counter with Ryan Feierabend, who has been knocked around a bit this season, including a five inning, four run performance in a losing effort against the Angels two weeks ago.

Game Time is 7:10 PDT on FSN.