Thursday, September 03, 2009

Mariners 3; Angels 0

In a totally unsurprising performance, the offense which could only score one run against Mariners rookie Doug Fister managed one fewer than that against Mariners ace Felix Hernandez. The Angels offense has seemingly been feast or famine of late, and last night was definitely famine. Hernandez had command of all of his pitches, and Angels hitters flailed accordingly, managing only four hits and seven baserunners, while striking out seven times.

Somewhat surprising, especially after the first three hitters, was the performance of newly minted Angel Scott Kazmir. His Angels career started with runners reaching via an error, a single, and a hit batter, leaving the bases loaded with no one out. Kazmir found his good stuff, however, and struck out the next three batters he faced to escape the first unscathed. He didn't stop there. He retired the next 15 hitters in a row and carried a shutout into the seventh inning. He left the game after allowing only three hits and one walk while striking out 8.

The Mariners got to Kazmir in the seventh. A leadoff walk to Mike Sweeney and a one out double from Bill Hall provided all the offense the Ms would need. Hall eventually scored on a steal of third and Mike Napoli's errant throw. Brian Fuentes allowed the Mariners' final run on a bases loaded walk.

Thoughts on the game:

  • With the Rangers victory over Toronto, what seemed like a safe six game lead just two days ago has dwindled to 3.5 games. Considering that the Rangers have hammered the Angels this season, when one looks at the two teams' schedules down the stretch, one wouldn't be out of line predicting an AL West title for Texas.
  • On the other hand, Kazmir's outing adds to a string of solid recent performances by the Angels' "real" starters, which should give the team some hope, assuming the offense can get back on track.
  • High pitch counts continue to be a problem. Even good outings have been marred by early exits recently. That wasn't an issue the last few years when the Angels had a rock solid bullpen. With the shaky crew on the Angels' current roster, however, starters need to work deeper into games, or this team could be in trouble.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Fistered: Angels 1; Mariners 2

Just when you think the Angels are ready to finally put Texas away, both teams show that the race isn't over. The Rangers swept two games from the Blue Jays yesterday. Coupled with the Angels loss to the Mariners, the AL West lead now stands at only 4.5 games with a month left in the season.

The Angels' offense, prolific in Monday's series opener, failed to create many opportunities, and squandered the opportunities it did create. Mariners rookie Doug Fister allowed just five hits and two walks over 7.1 innings, and the bullpen closed the deal for the home team. The Angels put the lead-off hitter on base in six of their nine at bats. Three times the runner was erased via the double play (including a strike-him-out throw-him-out double play in the first inning), and three times the runner advanced no further than the base at which he started.

The night's largest failure came in the eighth inning. With the Angels trailing 2-1, Maicer Izturis led the inning off with a double to right field. But Erick Aybay fouled out, failing to move Izturis to third. Consecutive fly-outs from Mike Napoli and Chone Figgins stranded Izturis at second.

Ervin Santana became a victim of low run support for the second straight game. He lasted six innings and allowed only one run. But he was also a victim of his own high pitch count, leaving after 100 pitches even. Darren Oliver relieved him in the seventh inning, and allowed a two out double to Jose Lopez which scored Franklin Gutierrez from first base for the eventual winning run.

Scott Kazmir makes his Angel debut this afternoon, and he's tasked with outpitching King Felix, who goes for the Mariners. A bit of a tall order, and a reason last night's game was so important.

Thoughts on the game:

  • Ervin Santana has quietly put together five consecutive quality starts. The Angels are only 3-2 over that stretch, but he's put up an ERA of 2.45 in those games. He needs to start working a little deeper. In the last four of those five starts, he's only lasted six innings. Still, he's starting to look like a guy who Angels fans can trust in the playoffs.
  • The Angels offense has been inconsistent of late, and they're struggling to find the form that they showed in late July and August. Games like this are unfortunate reminders of what we've seen in the playoffs the last couple years.
  • While all eyes have been on Texas, the Red Sox have been surging. They now sit one game behind the Angels and 3.5 ahead of the Rangers. This is meaningful for two reasons. First, they look more and more likely to win the wild card, which means they'd probably face the Angels in the first round, and I probably don't have to tell you what that means. Second, because the Angels can't seem to beat the Rangers this year, the wild card was a nice fall back option in case of a late season Texas surge. That option looking less likely, and if the Rangers nip the Angels at the wire, it probably means there won't be a 2009 post-season in Anaheim

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Angels 10; Mariners 0

For much of the season, 2008 all-star Joe Saunders was firing blanks. After finally admitting to an arm injury, and spending some time on the DL, it's Saunders' opponents who are getting blanked. In his second start since returning from the DL, Saunders tossed seven scoreless innings, allowing only three hits and three walks, while striking out four. He lasted 98 pitches, 57 of which were strikes. After loading the bases in the first on a hit and two walks, Saunders allowed just three baserunners over his final six innings. Trevor Bell, in his first major league relief performance, worked two perfect innings to close out the game.

With the Mariners' bats silenced by Saunders, it was up to the Angels to provide some noise, and they responded by bringing the thunder. After Chone Figgins scored on a Torii Hunter sac fly to give the Angels a 1-0 lead, Vladimir Guerrero crushed a fastball over the wall in left center for a two run shot. The Angels added another run in the third on Howie Kendrick's RBI ground out. Juan Rivera added three runs to the board in the fifth with a blast to left field that scored Hunter and Guerrero. Vlad struck again with a mammoth two run shot to the upper deck in left in the seventh inning. Kendrick's RBI single later in the inning closed out the scoring.

With the Rangers losing to Toronto, the Angels lead in the AL West now stands at six games. The re-emergence of Joe Saunders, and the acquisition of Scott Kazmir (if his last three outings are predictive) puts the Angels in a pretty good position to win their third straight division title.

Thoughts on the game:

  • Kendry Morales is turning into a bona-fide star. He had three more hits last night, including two double, pushing his average to .314. He's slugging nearly .600, and his OPS+ (142) is actually two points higher than Mark Teixeira.
  • More on Morales: His OPS+ has increased every month of the season from an April low of 113 to an August high of 191. He's simply been dominant since the all-star break, leading the AL in RBIs over that stretch. He hit his first home run this season as a right handed batter in mid-July. He's since added three more. He's becoming a threat from both sides of the plate.
  • The competition for the post-season roster just got a little more heated in the wake of Bell's relief appearance. He was solid for two innings in his last start before falling apart. If he can show over the next month that he's capable of providing quality pitching for an inning or two at a time, he could be a big boost to the bullpen.