Saturday, October 10, 2009

Going Back to Boston - Up Two Games to None

After two games, the Angels have erased the letters H and E from the word HEX. Two starts, two great pitching performances, and two days with just enough offense to get the Angels over the hump. They’ll board a plane tomorrow and fly back to Boston with a 2-0 series lead in the best of five ALDS.

Jered Weaver backed up John Lackey’s gem from last night with one of his own, limiting the Red Sox to two hits and two walks over 7.1 innings, while striking out seven. , Kevin Jepsen, and took the reins and finished off the victory, ensuring a comfortable Saturday for nervous Angels fans everywhere.

The Sox got the scoring started in the fourth inning when Jacoby Ellsbury led the inning off with a triple. Two batters later, Victor Martinez singled him home, and the Sox had a 1-0 lead.

The Angels didn’t wait long to respond. Bobby Abreu led off the bottom of the fourth with a base hit. After Mike Lowell made a great play on a Torii Hunter line drive, Vladimir Guerrero singled Abreu to third. cashed him in with a sacrifice fly to right field, and the Angels tied the game at 1.

Weaver and Beckett matched zeroes in the fifth and sixth innings, but the Angels jumped in front in the bottom of the seventh. Guerrero walked to lead off the inning, and pinch runner Howie Kendrick stole second. Two outs later, clutch God singled him home. Josh Beckett hit with a curve ball two put runners on first and second. followed with the big blast to center field, a triple over the head of Ellsbury that gave the Angels a 4-1 lead that they wouldn’t relinquish.

Thoughts on Game 2:

  • Through two games last year, the Angels’ 6-9 plus leadoff hitters were a combined 4-42, with three walks, and six total bases. This season they’re 7-34 with 11 total bases. The difference has almost totally been , who has a double and a triple so far, and whose triple tonight was the difference in the game.
  • I still think these teams are almost dead even. If you started this series fresh tomorrow, I could easily see the roles completely reversed. But for now, the Angels are outplaying the Red Sox, and the biggest key has been their clutch hitting. That’s been the Angels’ M.O. in the regular season this decade, but severely lacking come playoff time. This year seems different.
  • The Angels take two left handers into Boston, seemingly a graveyard for lefties. But both and have been excellent against the Red Sox in their careers. The matchups favors the Angels from this point, but things change again if we go to a fifth game.
  • The best the Angels could hope for, going into this series, are deep runs from their starters, and low leverage situations for their relievers. They’ve got that so far. If they can get that again on Sunday, they’ll be preparing for the ALCS.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Thoughts on Game One

  • You really can't overstate how important it was to get game one. If the Angels had lost again, after getting another excellent start, you have to think it would have started some sort of death spiral. But they didn't win in a throw-away type laugher. They didn't win on a controversial finish. They simply outperformed Boston at the plate and in the field, and were the better team. They haven't won anything yet, but this is a good start.
  • I'm really glad that neither of the awful C.B. Bucknor calls had an impact on the game beyond John Lester's pitch count. They'll be footnotes now, but today would have been lousy with whiny Red Sox fans complaining that the fix was in.
  • That said, there were two bad calls that had an effect on the game. Lackey through ball four to Kevin Youkilis and got a lucky strike call from Joe West to keep the at bat alive, and got an inning ending ground out two pitches later. He handled David Ortiz pretty well, so it may not have mattered, but he was really struggling with his control right there, and who knows what happens if he walks three straight.
  • The second bad call, at least from the replays I've seen, was on the bases loaded double play. Looked to me like Torii Hunter avoided the tag at third, and that cost the Angels at least one run.
  • It may be the last time Lackey pitches for the Angels, but two things about that possibility jumped out at me. First, if it is his last start in Anaheim, he just made about a million more per year with that start. Second, with the run support and defense that he got, he may be a tad more inclined to stay in SoCal. At the very least, he won't have a bad taste in his mouth from another excellent performance that went for naught.
  • Chone Figgins was the only Angel who failed to reach base. The only other Angel without a hit was Bobby Abreu, but he also had no official at bats. Contrast that to last year where, for a few games, the entire bottom of the order was a black hole. This was a team effort. The defense was excellent, Kendry Morales provided a huge two out hit, and Torii Hunter, was very vocal on the need for the big performers to step up, provided the offensive heroism. That's a nice way to get things started.
  • Another good pitching matchup tonight. So many things can happen in a short series that even a 2-0 lead won't give me much satisfaction, but I think the Angels exorcised a couple demons last night, and I think they'll all be a bit more relaxed tonight.
On a final note, I missed the last two innings of the game (in real time) because I had tickets to see a really great band called The Subjects. I only mention this because I missed the first and second games of the ALDS in 2002 for the same reason (only then it was Gomez and the Super Furry Animals). I think we all know how that turned out. So I'm doing my part.