Monday, October 19, 2009

Angels Still Breathing: Angels 5; Yankees 4

With the season on the line, the Angels needed to find a way to get back into this series. Thanks to the bats of Vladimir Guerrero, Howie Kendrick, and Jeff Mathis, the Angels pulled the series back to 2-1 and look to get even tomorrow night.

Jered Weaver didn't bring his best stuff to the mound today. He got his pitch count up early, and his fastball was very hittable. He battled through five innings, allowing five hits and three walks while striking out four. He was undone by three solo homers, the first coming from Derek Jeter on the third pitch of the game. To Weaver's credit, he worked out of some serious jams. In the second and fourth innings, he found himself with two runners on and no one out, and was able to work out of it both times. He left after a fifth inning in which he allowed the third solo homer of his day, a fastball that was hit over the short wall in right field by Johnny Damon.

In the bottom of the fifth, Howie Kendrick started the comeback with a solo shot of his own off of Yankees starter Andy Pettite. Kendrick crushed an inside fastball into bullpen in left field. An inning later, Bobby Abreu worked a one out walk. With two outs, Vladimir Guerrero hit a towering shot over the wall in left field to tie the score at three.

The Angels took the lead an inning later. Yankees manager Joe Girardi brought in Joba Chamberlain to face the right handed Kendrick, and Howie greeted him with a triple off the wall in right field. Maicer Izturis hit for Mike Napoli and drove Kendrick home with a sacrifice fly. But the lead was short lived. Kevin Jepsen walked Hideki Matsui to lead off the eighth inning. Matsui was replaced by Brett Gardner, but he was erased on a caught stealing, the result of a pitch out and a great throw and tag by Jeff Mathis and Erick Aybar. It was in important play, because Jorge Posada followed it up with a solo home run to dead center field, tying the game.

The Angels missed a golden opportunity to take the lead in the bottom of the eighth inning. Bobby Abreu led the inning off with a double to wall in right center field. Abreu thought about stretching it to third, and by the team he decided to stay at second, it was too late. He had overrun the bag and was thrown out on a nice play by Derek Jeter, and a great cover of second base by Mark Teixeira.

The Angels threatened again in the 10th inning. Mathis led off with a double and was bunted to third by Aybar. All runners were safe when Mariano Rivera's throw to third went into left field, but an alert Johnny Damon backed the play up and held Mathis. Chone Figgins grounded to first, leaving Mathis on third. After Abreu was walked intentionally, Torii Hunter hit a sharp grounder to Teixeira, who threw to the plate for the second out. Guerrero grounded out to first to end the inning.

Ervin Santana got the Angels through the top of the 11th with top notch stuff, setting the Angels up for fireworks in the bottom of the inning. After David Robertson retired Juan Rivera and Kendry Morales, Joe Girardi made the strangest of his many strange managerial decisions and pulled Robertson in favor of Alfredo Aceves. Kendrick delivered yet again, this time with a two out single to center field. Jeff Mathis followed with a walk off RBI double on a pitch that he crushed to left center field, bringing Kendrick around from first base.

Thoughts on the game:
  • He screwed up on the bases, but a nice take away from this game are the two hits from Bobby Abreu. The Angels NEED his bat to come through, and hopefully today's game was a step in the right direction. On the other hand, Juan Rivera and Kendry Morales have been non-existent. Both were 0-5 today.
  • Hopefully Howie Kendrick made his case to stay in the lineup today. I know he'll be in there tomorrow against the left-hander, but there's no reason his bat should be on the bench, even against right handers. With all credit in the world to Jeff Mathis, he was the Angels most valuable player today. His solo homer in the fifth got the offense started. His triple gave the Angels their first lead, and his single in the 11th set up the drama in the bottom of the 11th. His addition to the lineup was huge.
  • Joe Girardi really overmanaged the Yankees today. Pulling Robertson for Aceves was the killer move, but Damaso Marte and Phil Coke, both left handers, faced two hitters and threw a combined four pitches in back to back at bats. He used Mariano Rivera for an inning, but made a defensive move to replace Johnny Damon's arm in left field with Jerry Hairston. This cost the Yankees their DH, and Girardi made the call to hit for Rivera with a weak bat and two out in the top of the 11th, which meant he had to pull Rivera from the game. The rest is history.
  • Mark Teixeira, love him or hate him, is just a terrific fielder. He made the crucial play to cover second base on Abreu's botched double. He retired all three batters in the 10th when the Angels loaded the bases, keeping the Angels from scoring in an inning where they had a runner on third and nobody out.
  • For all of its faults, the Angels bullpen worked six innings and allowed only one run, the Posada homer. Darren Oliver worked another solid 1.2 innings. Fuentes worked the ninth, striking out two and allowing only an intentional walk to A-Rod, perhaps a game too late. Jason Bulger worked a 1-2-3 tenth and struck out two hitters.
  • Can't wait for tomorrow night.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Yankees 4; Angels 3

Just an atrocious way to end a game that the Yankees tried to give away. I don't even know what to say after this one. Time and time again the Angels had chances to take control, and time and time again they refused to cash in. For some reason, the Angels have not come to the ALCS prepared to play, and it has cost them the first two games of the season. They wasted an excellent effort from Joe Saunders and Kevin Jepsen, and now they head back to Anaheim with a must win game on Monday afternoon.

The Yankees got the scoring started in the second inning. Nick Swisher worked a two out walk, and Robinson Cano tripled him home. Derek Jeter's third inning homer gave the Yankees a 2-0 lead. The Angels got both runs back in the fifth inning. Maicer Izturis led the inning off with a ground rule double, and Erick Aybar singled him home. After Chone Figgins was hit by a pitch, and Torii Hunter walked, Yankees starter A.J. Burnett threw a wild pitch that scored Aybar to tie the game.

The bullpens battled it out into extra innings, with Joe Girardi burning through his best pitchers early, while the Angels went to the 10th with some of their best arms unused. In the 11th inning, Gary Matthews walked to lead off the inning. After Aybar bunted him to second, Chone Figgins singled him home to give the Angels a 3-2 lead. Mike Scioscia called upon closer Brian Fuentes to end the game, but he surrendered a lead off home run to Alex Rodriguez that tied the game. It came on an 0-2 pitch, but in Fuentes' defense, the ball barely cleared the wall in right field, and would have been a routine fly ball in every single professional ball park in the country. Only in the joke of a ball park they built in the Bronx would that be a home run. Yankee Stadium is really an embarrassment to baseball.

The Angels left the go ahead run in scoring position in both the 11th and 12th innings, failing to get the big hit time and time again. In the bottom of the 13th, Jerry Hairston, Jr. led the inning off with a base hit. He was sacrificed to second. The Angels intentionally walked Cano to get to Melky Cabrera. Cabrera hit a grounder to second that should have been the second out, but Izturis felt the need to try to get the out at second, even though there was no chance at turning a double play. Predictably, he threw it away, and Chone Figgins botched the back-up. Hairston scored, and now the Angels find themselves at death's door.

Thoughts on the game:
  • I'm not sure I have many. I'm numb at this point. Aside from Joe Saunders, who got himself out of jam after jam, not one player on the Angels played like they wanted to win this game. A team that relied on getting the job done in crucial situations has not gotten it done in those situations against the Yankees.
  • Yankee Stadium is a joke. Blame Fuentes all you want for making a bad pitch to A-Rod, and he certainly made a bad pitch, but there isn't a professional baseball stadium in the country were that's a home run. I've played on softball fields where that wouldn't have gone out. The new Yankee Stadium is an embarrassment to baseball. If they wanted to play on a Little League field, they should have moved the team to Williamsport.
  • We won't know if the series is over until Tuesday evening. The Angels have to win games three and four. Even if they lose game five they aren't dead, but they have to even the series up at some point What scares me isn't the idea that Jered Weaver won't get it done. I have the utmost confidence in him. But this marks the sixth straight ALCS loss for the Angels, and the biggest problem in all of those games has been the offense. I think they can handle Andy Pettite. He's not all that. But they've got to get it done Monday, or the series is over.
  • There were all kinds of other weird things in this game that may or may not be worth mentioning. A strange call at second base on a routine double play ball where Erick Aybar didn't touch the base and didn't get the neighborhood call. Robinson Cano's multiple erros. None of those had an impact on the game, so I'm not going to delve into them.