Not a bad sports weekend. The Angels swept the Blue Jays, and the Kings evened up the series with Vancouver, grabbing home ice in the process.
Three games of quality pitching and timely hitting. They picked up late runs in every ballgame, and nearly all proved necessary. Of the sixteen runs the Angels scored over the weekend, seven game in the eighth and ninth innings. Toronto picked up six runs in those same innings, so the Angels effectively maintained the status quo, and held on to leads they had earned earlier in those ballgames.
The starting pitching was phenomenal. All three starters (Weaver, Saunders, and Santana) worked deep into their respective starts, and Saunders and Santana finally gave us a glimpse of the type of run prevention we were hoping for heading into the season. Jered Weaver continued to pitch like an ace, allowing two runs (both on solo homers) in seven innings while striking out eight (he's third in the AL with 21 strikeouts). Joe Saunders did Weaver one better by working eight innings and only two runs, neither earned. His line would have looked better, and he may have had the strength for a ninth inning, if not for a nightmare third inning from Brandon Wood, who misplayed one ball into a double, then committed errors on back to back grounders, leading to the Jays' two runs. Not satisfied with an eight inning effort, Ervin Santana went the distance in his start, allowing only a solo home run to Adam Lind with two outs in the ninth. Adding to the optimism were two perfect innings from Fernando Rodney, filling in at the closer spot for the injured Brian Fuentes.
Mike Scioscia used the three games on turf to get some rest for a few guys, which meant that only Erick Aybar, Howie Kendrick, Juan Rivera, Hideki Matsui, and Kendry Morales started all three games. But Scioscia made the right calls, as four of those guys collected hits in each game. Morales, Kendrick, and Rivera picked up home runs along the way.
In all, it the combination of timely hitting and quality starting pitching that we expected to see going into the season. The Angels now sit in second place, just two and a half games behind surprising Oakland, who got to beat up on the awful Baltimore Orioles for a few games. Let's hope the Angels can keep things rolling against Detroit.
I can't express with words how much I've missed actually caring about playoff hockey. I just love the atmosphere, and it gets better in overtime. I was literally at the edge of my seat on Saturday night, knowing that a bounce either way could be the difference between the edge of hopelessness and home ice advantage. Unlucky in game one, the Kings took advantage of good fortune in game two, scoring twice on the power play, the second goal coming in overtime, to send the series back to LA all tied at one.
I can't say the Kings have been the better team so far. They were handled pretty well in game one, but Jonathan Quick, who looks to have rebounded (no pun intended) from his late season slump, kept the Kings in the game until Randy Jones turnover in OT led to the game ending goal. In game two, Vancouver dominated the first period, but the Kings used the power play to spring to life, and a little luck to tie the game. Anze Kopitar made a tremendous defensive play to save a goal, picked up the loose puck on the left wing boards, and took advantage of Sammy Salo's stumble to start a three on one. Wayne Simmonds finished the play beautifully for a 2-2 tie.
The kids came through in overtime. Jack Johnson fed the puck to Drew Doughty who slid a cross-ice pass to Anze Kopitar on the right wing half boards. Kopitar collected the rebound of his own shot and bounced it off of Roberto Luongo for the game winner. I'm pretty sure I either woke up or startled my neighbors with my yell as I saw the puck go in.
So far, the Kings look like they're getting the hang of playoff hockey, while Vancouver appears to filled with the largest collection of whiners I've ever seen. Can't wait for tonight's game.