Wednesday, June 24, 2009

First Place: Angels 4; Rockies 3

After all the Angels have been through this year, it's hard to believe that they're in first place, but after handing the Rockies on their second loss in the last 19 games, the Angels have caught the Rangers atop the AL West.

Sean O'Sullivan provided his second solid start of the season. He allowed three runs on six hits in five innings. Troy Tulowitzki proved to be O'Sullivan's undoing. Tulowitzki walked in his first appearance. In the fourth inning, O'Sullivan threw his first pitch behind Tulowitzki. A few pitches later, Tulowitzki got his revenge by blasting a fastball over the wall in left field. Three innings later, Tulowitzki wasn't done. With Brad Hawpe on first, Tulowitzki drove a fastball at the top of the strike zone off the foul pole in left field, giving the Rockies a 3-2 lead.

The Angels offense did just enough to win the game, though they squandered a few opportunities. In the third inning, after Jeff Mathis and Maicer Izturis had reached base, Erick Aybar failed to get the sacrifice bunt down, hanging Izturis out to dry at third base. Chone Figgins followed with an RBI single, but was thrown out trying to take second base.

After the Rockies tied the game on Tulowitzki's first home run, Juan Rivera delivered one of his own, his 11th of the season, giving the Angels a 2-1 lead.

In the eigth inning, with starter Ubaldo Jiminez still in the game, the Angels fought back from a 3-2 deficit despite only hitting one ball out of the infield. Jeff Mathis walked to lead off the inning. Erick Aybar's sacrifice bunt was double clutched by Ian Stewart, allowing Aybar to reach safely. Chone Figgins' sac bunt attempt should have led to an out at third, but Stewart couldn't find the bag after taking the throw from Jiminez, and the Angels loaded the bases. Bobby Abreu delivered a two run single in the next at bat, giving the Angels a 4-3 lead.

Brian Fuentes, working against his former team, hit Chris Iannetta to lead off the inning. But after Ryan Spillborghs sacrificed, Fuentes struck out Garret Atkins and Clint Barmes for his league leading 20th save. All in all, the bullpen (Oliver, Bulger, Jepsen, Fuentes) worked four hitless innings, with Kevin Jespen earning the win.

Thoughts on the game:

  • After Torii Hunter and Chone Figgins, conventional wisdom would suggest that Bobby Abreu has been the Angels' third best hitter. But Juan Rivera is slugging 100 points higher than Abreu, and on a power starved team, he's been pretty indespensible this year.
  • It really makes you wonder. I know it's only been two starts, but Sean O'Sullivan struggled in Salt Lake, yet he comes to the big club and gives the team a good chance to win in his first two starts. Goes to show that minor league numbers probably aren't reliable indicators of a player's ability.
  • Since May 1st, Brian Fuentes is 15/17 in save opportunities, with a respectable 3.31 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 16.1 IP. Take away the game against Seattle where he allowed a three run homer in the ninth, and his ERA is almost cut in half. He hasn't been lights-out dominant, but he's been effective, which is more than can be said for much of the bullpen over that stretch, last night's game notwithstanding.

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