Friday, May 22, 2009

Angels 3; Mariners 0

The Angels shut out the Mariners and finished the series in Seattle by taking three games out of four. Joe Saunders righted the ship after last week’s poor outing against Texas. He worked seven scoreless innings before turning the game over to Scot Shields and Brian Fuentes, who combined to close out the Mariners.

The staccato style offense may have only provided five hits., but three of those hits left the yard. Juan Rivera hit his third home run of the year, and second in four games, in the top of the first inning, providing the winning margin. Gary Matthews, Jr. followed with his first home run of the season in the third inning.

Both home runs came against starter Eric Bedard, who was otherwise effective. He allowed only those two hits, and struck out six in five innings as he returned from injury. Howie Kendrick finished the scoring for the Angels with a bomb to left field in the eighth inning off of Garret Olson. It was his fourth homer of the season.

Thoughts on the game:

  • The Angels bullpen has now tossed 10.1 consecutive scoreless innings, dropping their ERA over a half a run in the process. Make no mistake, this will be the key to the Angels success this year.
  • A winning team needs two of a good offense, good starting pitching, and good bullpen. The offense is what it is, and that means that the pitching, ALL of the pitching, needs to pick up the slack. This is why I think the bullpen will be key.
  • No Angel had more than one hit, though Mike Napoli walked twice.
  • Howie Kendrick continues to show signs of life, albeit barely. He went 5-15 in the series with a double, a homer, and 3 RBIs.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Jakubauskas'd: Angels 0; Mariners 1

Ervin Santana showed the form that he brought to the mound for most of last season, but Chris Jakubauskas showed the form of Bob Gibson circa 1968. Santana’s 6.2 innings of five hit baseball weren’t enough to overcome Jakubauskus’ six shutout innings, during which he allowed only two hits and two walks. Jakubauskas earned his third win of the season in the process.

The Mariners provided the game’s only offense in the first inning. Ichiro Suzuki led off the game with a double to right center field. Two batters later, Ken Griffey drove him home with a base hit to right, and with that, the Mariners put the only run of the night on the board.

The Angels’ most dangerous threat came in the top of the fourth inning. After Jakubauskas retired the Angels’ first two hitters, Torii Hunter doubled to left. Kendry Morales and Gary Matthews Jr. followed with walks to load the bases, but Howie Kendrick, swung at the first pitch and flied out to right field to end the inning.

The Mariners got three excellent innings of bullpen work from Miguel Batista, Mark Lowe, and David Aardsma to close out the game. The trio combined to allow only two baserunners.

Thoughts on the game:
  • Kendrick followed his two steps forward with a big step back. He was hitless in three at bats, and left four runners on base. As mentioned above, in the fourth inning, he came to the plate with the bases loaded, following two walks. Logic says you make the pitcher throw a strike, or even two, before taking an aggressive cut. But Kendrick offered at the first pitch he saw, and the Angels never threatened again. People are asking what the Angels will have to do with either Erick Aybar or Chone Figgins to make room for Brandon Wood, but the answer just may be “move one of them to second base”.
  • The Angels bullpen, which entered the game as the worst in the American League, has now worked eight and a third consecutive scoreless innings. If they can bring their 5.91 ERA down by a run and a half by the end of the season, the Angels will win the division. It’s been their biggest hindrance to this point, and right now they aren’t ham and egging it very well, but with the starting rotation back in decent shape, if the bullpen gets going, their mediocre offense should be just barely good enough.
  • Then again, the Angels were swept for the second time this season, and the second time in four games. Mediocre may be an optimistic assessment of the offense. Still, when everyone is back and healthy, they strike me a team that can win eight straight, and 14 of 15 at some point this season.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Still Perfect Palmer: Angels 6, Mariners 5

Matt Palmer needed a lot of help from the offense and the bullpen, but he gave the Angels a chance to win yet again, and his teammates responded, lifting him to fifth victory against zero losses as the Angels beat the Mariners for the second night in row. The Angels pulled to within three games of the first place Rangers, and moved two games over .500 for the season. They seem to have righted the ship a bit after last week’s debacle in Arlington.

The offense got started early against Felix Hernandez. The first four batters reached base. Chone Figgins led the game off with a single and Maicer Izturis drew a walk. Bobby Abreu and Torii Hunter followed with back to back RBI singles to give the Angels a 2-0 lead. It was gone by the second inning. Palmer served up a solo shot to Ken Griffey Jr. in the first inning, while Ronnie Cedeno touched him for a two run homer in the bottom of the second, giving the Mariners a 3-2 lead.

The Angels tied the game in the fourth inning on Howie Kendrick’s RBI single. The Mariners retook the lead on Ichiro’s fourth inning RBI double, but the Angels responded the next half inning with a little luck and two runs, the first on a wild pitch from King Felix. The took a 5-4 lead when a tailor made double play ball from Mike Napoli ducked under the glove of Jose Lopez and rolled into center field.

The Angels extended the lead and chased King Felix with Abreu’s two out double in the sixth inning. The Mariners clawed back to within one after Palmer allowed a lead off double to Kenji Johjima, who would later come around to score, in the sixth inning.

The Angels bullpen took over from there, as Bulger, Scot Shields, and Brian Fuentes worked four innings of scoreless relief, hopefully a sign that the bullpen is getting back on track.

Thoughts on the game:

  • As I mentioned yesterday, I thought this was going to be a tough one for the Halos. The Mariners clearly had the edge in the pitching matchup, but the offense touched Hernandez for six runs, and the pitching staff made it hold up. The pendulum swings back to the Angels tonight, as Ervin Santana goes against Chris Jakubauskas.
  • The bullpen was really phenomenal. Bulger, Shields, and Fuentes combined for four perfect innings, with nine of the twelve outs coming via the strikeout. Fuentes struck out the side in the ninth.
  • Howie Kendrick had two hits, again showing signs of life. Unfortunately, he was inexplicably double off of first base when Chone Figgins hit a looping liner in the eighth inning. Baby steps.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Angels 10; Mariners 6

John Lackey made his second season debut, and wasn’t great. He allowed five runs, four earned, over five innings. But the Angels offense delivered 10 runs, and delivered Lackey his first win of 2009.

The Angels pounded out 15 hits, seven for extra bases. They left their pop-guns in Texas, and showed up in Seattle with a Howitzer. Kendry Morales hit two home runs, giving him eight on the season. Juan Rivera hit his second of the season. But perhaps the biggest hit of the game came from Torii Hunter. Trailing 4-2 in the fifth inning, Kendry Morales singled, and reached third on Howie Kendrick’s double. After a Chone Figgins strike out, Erick Aybar delivered an infield single, pulling the Angels to within a run. Bobby Abreu drew one of his three walks to load the bases. Torii Hunter followed with a double to deep right center field, clearing the bases and giving the Angels a lead that they wouldn’t relinquish. Kendrick showed signs of life with two hits. In all, the bottom third of the Angels order (Rivera, Morales, Kendrick) combined to go 7-14 with three homers, a double, seven runs, and five RBIs.

Lackey was knocked around for seven hits in his five innings, but showed better control than he did in Texas, walking none. He was a victim of poor defense from Mike Napoli in the second inning. With Kenji Johjima on third base and Franklin Gutierrez on second, Ronnie Cedeno laid down a safety squeeze. Johjima broke for the plate only after Napoli decided to throw to first. The throw sailed into foul territory, and two runs scored on the error. The Angels bullpen allowed one run in four innings of work. Darren Oliver allowed the run in his two innings. Jose Arrendondo was a little shaky in a scoreless eighth, and with the save out of reach, Justin Speier worked a scoreless ninth.

Thougts on the game:

  • Great production out of the bottom of the order, and Howie Kendrick better hope this is the start of a warming trend. With Brandon Wood destroying PCL pitching, Kenrick’s bat has emerged as the most likely to be replaced.
  • Mike Napoli had two hits, but he also struck out twice, and his error cost the Angels two runs. It wasn’t one of his better games, but the bottom of the order really picked him up.
  • Tonight’s win was important. As well as Matt Palmer has pitched, the Mariners have the better pitcher going tomorrow in King Felix, so it was important to get one on the board tonight. Wednesday won’t be a picnic either if Eric Bedard is healthy.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Swept back to .500; Angels 0; Rangers 3

The Angels fell back to .500 and 4.5 games behing the first place Rangers, as the offense came up empty against Scott Feldman and a trio of Texas relievers.

Jered Weaver went the distance, lasting eight innings while giving up three runs, all in his final two innings. His ERA climbed to 2.59. He allowed six hits and walked three, while striking out seven.

On the offensive end, the Angels were ineffective all afternoon. They amassed only five hits, and left runners in scoring position multiple times. Arguably their best chance to score came in the 7th inning. Following a Gary Matthews single, Howie Kendrick launched a fly ball to right center field. Josh Hamilton tracked it down and leapt into the wall the make the catch, saving at least one run.

In the bottom of the seventh, Hank Blalock opened the frame with a double. He advanced to third on a Nelson Cruz single, and scored on David Murphy’s sac fly. It was all the offense the Rangers needed.

Thoughts on the game

  • Darren O’Day hasn’t been with the Rangers long, but he lasted an inning and a third, retired all four batters, and struck out two. He might look pretty nice in a bullpen full of guys that can’t get anyone out. Too bad the Angels let him get away.
  • Jered Weaver has elevated himself to ace status so far this season. He’s been good enough to win in every start.
  • Mike Scioscia probably wished he’d let Weaver go the distance in his last start. Instead, he pulled Weaver with a lead after 98 pitches, and the bullpen coughed it up.