Angels vs. Red Sox Playoff Breakdown

Ok, Angel fans, here we go, again, on this all to familiar path to begin the playoffs against the hated Red Sox.   For the past several seasons, the Angels, for one reason or another, have disappeared as the calender turned to October.  This year, it has to end.  They must get through this first round – they have to.

I’m going to break down as best I can the offense, defense, starting pitching, bullpen, and x-factors for each team and what the Halos need to do in order to not become the Buffalo Bills of baseball.

Offense

You’ve got to give the edge on this one to the Angels.  Losing Mark Teixeira in the offseason to the Yankees made all Angel fans turn pale in the face.  However, this has turned into being a huge blessing in disguise for the team as Kendry Morales turned in near identical numbers as Mark and should finish in the top 5 this year for AL MVP, despite batting 6th for the majority of the year.  The Angels lineup is littered with .300 hitters throughout.  The addition of Bobby Abreu has literally been huge.  Combine that with the Angels aggressiveness on the basepaths.  It’s truly a question of if this offense is going to show up against two of the best pitchers in the league, Jon Lester and Josh “Mr. Necklace” Beckett.

Defense

I give this one as well to the Angels.  The Red Sox do have Jacoby Ellsbury in center, but, we have Torii Hunter.  We also have an infield of Chone Figgins, Erick Aybar, and Maicer Izturis/Howie Kendrick to go along with Kendry Morales who is much better defensively than he gets credit for.  Also, the Red Sox catchers throw out runners at a pathetic clip, which is why I give this one to the Halos.  The Angels defense at times this year has self destructed, most notably last time in their last visit to Boston.  They simply cannot let that happen in this series.

Starting Pitching

You can’t argue with success here.  Jon Lester, Josh Beckett and company have been here before and shined brightly.  Combined with Clay Bucholtz and Daiske Matsuzaka as well as an injured Tim Wakefield – and this one goes to Boston.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the Angels rotation, especially with the addition of Scott Kazmir, but the Angels starting pitchers have shown that they don’t have as dominating stuff as the Sox, especially in October.  This one goes to the Sox

Bullpen

The Angels bullpen of late has been pretty good.  They started the year though, as the worst in all of baseball, and then followed that by a 3 month period of being nearly lights out.  They somewhat limped to the postseason, with Brian Fuentes blowing his fair number of saves and making those other ones that he converts, very nervewracking.  Fuentes just doesn’t have an out pitch – I mean he barely thrown 91 MPH and has trouble locating at times.  The Angels will lean heavily on Ervin Santana who will be in the bullpen for the series, as well as Kevin Jepsen and Darren Oliver.  Jason Bulger will be a question mark as he had some shoulder issues at the end of the season.  When it comes to the Sox, it gets a little scary.  Daniel Bard, Billy Wagner and a cast of others are extremely potent, and then they get to hand the ball to Jonathan Papplebon to finish things up.  As much as I dislike Papplebon, the guy gets the job done, and he definitely has that “out” pitch.

X Faxtors

The Angels can win this series, and this is how.  They must press the issue.  Chone Figgins and his .390 on base percentage need to be on base as much as possible.  They must also need to be dirty thieves on the basepaths.  The Red Sox have a big weakness, and that is throwing out opposing basestealers.  On top of this, the bullpen, when called upon, needs to be nails.  Fuentes absolutely cannot blow any save opportunities, and the rest of the guys need to do the job in getting him the ball.  Offensively, the Angels must continue to follow Bobby Abreu’s example of patience as they have all year long. 

The Red Sox will win simply if they can take one of the first two games in Anaheim.  Keeping Figgins off of the bases will also make their lives much easier.  Getting to the Angels bullpen as well as the continued clutch players on their roster coming through when it matters, will make give this series an all too familiar ending for the Sox.

My prediction though, is Angels in 5.  Why, you may ask?  Nick Adenhart.  The team is going to get after it unlike we’ve ever seen them.  They want to honor Nick, plain and simple.  

Until next time Angel fans.  

 

 

 

 

Here We Go!

The Angels completed the first step in hopes of winning the World Series this year on Monday night in Anaheim, shutting out the Texas Rangers 11-0 to take the AL West and secure a first round matchup against the hated Red Sox of Boston.  While I would have expected more from the Rangers, especially considering the problems they have put us through this year, it was nice to see an offensive explosion and a masterful pitching performance from Ervin Santana.  I had great seats myself right next to the right field foul pole, and after the game was put away by the 3rd inning with the Angels leading 7-0, even Bobby Abreu was having fun with the fans.  I stopped counting after Bobby waved and acknowledged more than 20 different fans offering praise and congratulations to the team.  Even one fan went as far as promising to buy Bobby a shot of Petron after the game, to which Abreu reacted by jumping up and down and running in place as fast as he could.  It was a great night.

Vlad Guerrero and Kendry Morales got the Angels out to the right kind of start; Guerrero doubling home a run in the first folllowed by a 2 run shot by Morales to dead center field to stake the Halos to an early 3-0 lead.  Abreu himself came within a home run of hitting for the cycle.

Santana pitched masterfully throughout, getting out of a few jams with slick double plays turned by Morales at first, and ended up giving up only 7 hits and striking out 2 to get the shutout.  But the story wasn’t Santana tonight folks, as the win finally let the Angels take a breath and celebrate the division title despite the adversity faced this season.  It was especially nice to see the club come back on the field about 10 minutes after disappearing into the clubhouse for a champagne celebration, as the club came back out and jogged to Nick Adenhart’s jersey on the right center field wall and paid their respects.  For those of you who don’t have a team to root for this October, the Angels deserve your support.

The club now has the remainder of the season to rest up and get their rotation in order for the first round, which begins in a little over a week.  Be sure to check out my breakdown of the first round series against Boston and what I feel the Halos need to do to finally get past these Sox.

Until next time Angel fans.

A’s Strike Victory, Defeat Angels 3-0

On Friday night in Anaheim, the Angels were owned by the Athletics.  Three different pitchers led by Gio Gonzalez combined to fan the Angels 13 separate times.  The amount of wind produced by the Angels bats coming up empty swing after swing did in fact cool down much of Orange County after seeing another day of 100 degree heat.  On this night, it was the A’s who looked to be the team zoning in on their 3rd consecutive AL West division title, rather than the Halos who were just plain flat all night long.  The only Angel starter not to strike out was Torii Hunter, who went 0-4 and appeared to possibly re-aggravate an abdomonial injury that shelved him for a month earlier this year. 

The Rangers beat the Rays to close within 6 games of the Halos.  While I am still not worried about this, the Rangers are coming in for a 4 game series and finally have Josh Hamilton back in the lineup who always feasts on Angels pitching.  The magic number for the Angels to clinch the division is still at 4 as the club will look tomorrow to improve on that.   John Lackey will oppose Dana Eveland the middle game of the 3 game series. 

On a separate note, Red Sox starter and Angel nemesis John Lester was drilled by a line drive in the 3rd inning of his terrible start tonight in New York, and had to leave the game.  X-rays were negative, but it would just be terrible if for some reason this injury keeps him from being on top of his game come the playoffs, where, unless a miracle for the Rangers does happen, it will be another version of Angels/Red Sox.  Hey, one can only hope.

Until next time Angel fans. 

Saunders Shuts Down Yanks

By far and away, this was Joe Saunders best start of the year.  Despite giving up solo home runs to Hideki Matsui and Mr. Performancer Enhancer himself, Alex Rodriguez, the lefty was locked in and lethal on Monday night.  Saunders ended up going 8 1/3 innings, and only allowed 2 runs to the high powered offfensive show that is this year’s version of the New York Yankees.  Closer Brian Fuentes came in to slam the door shut to pick up yet another save.  Saunders start was exactly what the team needed to start this homestand with and set the tone against the Yanks, as the Halos (not sure about the Yankees) hope that this is just a preview of a potential ALCS matchup.   

Saunders was opposed by Andy Pettitte, who wasn’t too bad himself.  Besides a little hiccup in the first in which the Angels scored 2, for the most part, the veteran lefty was superb.  The hiccup in the first were back to back RBI doubles by Vladimir Guerrero and Torii Hunter to stake the club to an early lead that they would never surrender.

Kendry Morales checked in with a pinch hit solo hom run, his 31st of the season in the 7th inning to help give the Angels a little insurance heading into the latter innnings.

Most importantly though, the Angels gained a game on the Yankees, who currently hold the lead on the best record in the AL and furthermore, home field advantage throughout the playoffs.  The Yankees lead, now stands at 4 games, and with 2 more games left against the Bronx Bombers in this series, plenty of ground can be made. 

Ervin Santana opposed Chad Gaudin tomorrow night as the Halos look to make it 2 straight.  I know it’s still just the regular season, but to think about a possible playoff matchup between these two teams is something I know the Halo fans are frothing at the mouth about, and I can already hear the grumblings from the New York fans – they want to stay as far away from us in the playoffs as they can.

Until next time Angel fans.

Angels Blank Rangers, 2-0

It wasn’t exactly pretty, but at this time of the season, especially against the closest team to them in the standings, the Angels will take it.  Scott Kazmir was a bulldog on Friday night, going 6 shutout innings, and picked up his first win with the team since coming over from Tampa Bay.  Despite this only being Kazmir’s first victory, he has been a man of quality each time he has taken the hill thus far.

Granted, the Angels are taking on a Ranger team who hasn’t scored since the Eisenhower administration it seems like.  They (the Rangers) had their chances, but Kazmir, followed with excellent relief from Jason Bulger, Mr. Consistency Kevin Jepsen in particular and Brian Fuentes kept the Rangers off of the scoreboard.  If this note my statistician handed me is correct, the Rangers have been shut out 4 times now in their past 5 games – which is quite possibly the biggest slump in the history of these normally offensively sound Texas Rangers.  To be blunt, my 96 year old grandfather is scoring more than the Rangers these days.. Who would have thought the Rangers problem at this point in the season would have been hitting rather than pitching?  The pitching, to the Rangers credit, is as good as I’ve seen in many, many years.  It remains to be seen, in the offseason, if the Rangers have the testicular fortitude in the form of money to go out and get the missing pieces needed to overtake the Halos next year, as this year, as the beloved Chick Hearn would say, is over. The jello is certainly jiggling. 

The Angels now have a comfortable 7 1/2 game lead in the division.  The next series, when the club returns home, will be against the Yankees and will go a long way to see who will have home field advantage throughout the playoffs.  Should be interesting.

Let’s see if the Angels can add to the Rangers woes with another shutout today as Jered Weaver takes the hill.  Boy, it sure is nice when you have 5 better than average starters to rely on each and every day. 

Until next time Angel fans. 

Angels Lose Absolute Heartbreaker to Boston

Well Angel fans, to be blunt, this one hurt.. it hurt real bad.  What should have been an Angel victory turned into defeat after home plate umpire Rick Reed (this year’s version of Doug Eddings) first didn’t call Nick Green’s check swing on a two strike pitch as the third strike, and second, on the same at bat, didn’t call a 3-2 fastball for strike 3 (which replays clearly showed was well inside ESPN’s strike zone).  As a result, Green walked, forcing in the tying run.  The next batter, Alex Gonzalez, drove in the winning run on a bloop single to left, giving the Sox the victory.  I am very curious to see what, if any discipline Reed gets for this blatant missed call.  Gotta love home cooking if you’re a Red Sox fan….

The Angels can get some sort of silver lining out of this loss.  This loss, especially combined with the fact that the Angels had and lost the lead 3 separate times, should bode them well in the playoffs.  They just got a chance to experience utter heartbreak, only this time, it’s during the regular season and not during the playoffs.  Hopefully this will be all they need and to start playing better baseball, as tonight again, the defense let down the starting pitcher, and twice the team couldn’t cash in on bases loaded and less than two out situations.

The loss takes the club to 0-3 so far on this crucial road trip, but thank goodness Texas forgot how to hit a baseball, as the Rangers have lost 3 in a row as well, to keep the Angels lead at 6 games.  I don’t know exactly what wise words Mike Scioscia can deliver to his team after tonight’s loss, but something needs to be done to turn this team around, and this needs to be done quick.

Vladimir Guerrero was hit by former Dodger Takashi Saito in the ribs with a crisp fastball in the 6th, and had to leave the game an inning later with what the club called a bruised ribcage and is listed day to day.  I think fair retalitation would be for a certain steroid user, Mr. David Ortiz, to feel the same pain tomorrow in his first at bat.  The Angels need to show that they’re not going to be pushed around, especially by these Red Sox. 

The Angels get to face Josh Beckett and his fancy necklace tomorrow, and the Halos will give the ball to Ervin Santana.  A strong start by Santana will help any chances he has to get a start in this year’s post season.

I know this loss was tough to swallow Angel fans – hopefully tomorrow goes better.

Until next time Angel fans.

 

Different Team, Same Result for Halos

Halo fans, for the 2nd consecutive night, the Angels were beaten by an overrated starter.  Also, the team’s defense, which is normally solid, played a huge role in this loss.  After Joba Chamberlain kept them in check for 4 innings the night before (and if anyone feels the need to argue with me the fact that he isn’t overrated, please tell me someone else in recent baseball history who has gotten so much attention and done virtually nothing), Daisuke Matsuzaka did the trick tonight, keeping the Angels bat’s silent, as the Red Sox won, 4-1. 

The matchup Tuesday definitely had a playoff type feel to it.  But that’s not a good thing Angel fans.  This playoff feel was really just a reminder of how much the Angels choke when it comes to the Red Sox.  What Donnie Moore and the club back in 1986 experienced is still happening 23 years later.  From the beginning, the Angels acted like their offense, which, what feels like ages ago was almost a guarantee of scoring 10 runs a game, was going to be as lethargic as Oprah Winfrey after a hot fudge sundae.  You could just see that unless a small miracle happened, it would be hard to scratch even one run across the board.  The only Angel who deserves no fault is John Lackey.  He pitched his heart out for 7 2/3 innings only to get absolutely no backing by the offense.  Angels, if this is the same song and dance against the Red Sox we are going to see in the first round, just tell me now so I can save myself from the mulitiple ulcers this will cause and the years I will lose on my life.  Tell me now. 

The Angels should be thanking their lucky stars that the Texas Rangers too have forgotten how to score runs.  Having lost the first 2 games in pathetic fashion on this most important trip, the Rangers have also dropped their last 2 games to keep the Angels lead in the division at 6 games. 

As a die hard Angel fan, I am starting to develop that ever so familiar pit in my stomach feeling that comes around this time of year.  When is this team going to play to it’s full potential when it matters most?  Maybe I just expect too much.  I mean, they can barely manage to get through their own division – at times it amazes me how they have the record that they do, seeing as they generally don’t show up for the big games.

Let it be known, the Red Sox beat the Angels rather easily without Kevin Youkilis and Victor Martinez in the lineup – 2 guys you know we will see in the first round.  Oh yeah, and instead of getting Daisuke, we will get an all you can eat buffet of Josh Beckett and Jon Lester… Just food for thought Angel fans.

Now, I drink some beers and try to relax until tomorrow night’s game.  Wherever you are Angel fans, have one with me.

Until next time Angel fans. 

Biggest Road Trip of Season Awaits Angels

A desire from many players on the Angels and furthermore from around major league baseball players in general, is to play meaningful baseball in September.  Well, for the 25 guys who wear the Angels uniform, this road trip is as good as it gets.

The Halos hit the road to take on the other top 3 teams in the AL, for what will be the ultimate test for them.  The Angels first head to New York for a make up game before shooting to Boston and Texas for 3 games apiece before finally coming home and getting to face the Yankees for 3 more.  I think it’s safe to say, that the next 10 games, with an extra emphasis on these first 7 on the road, will make or break the Angels season.   

Having a 6 game lead on the division is definitely nice, especially at a time like this.  The first game pits the Angels best starting pitcher so far this year, Jered Weaver, against the much over rated Joba Chamberlain.  Weaver will be looking for his 16th win and, to put his name in discussions for a possible Cy Young award. 

The Angels last homestand concluded yesterday with a 3-2 win over the visiting White Sox.  The Angels went 5-1 on the homestand, which also saw them sweep 3 from the Mariners.  The Halos once white hot offense has cooled of late, but excellent starting pitching and continued solid bullpen work has translated into wins for the club.  I think not only for the playoffs, but even this time of the year, the club would rather see it’s starting pitcher where it’s at, compared to how it had been for the majority of the year.  The addition of Scott Kazmir, along with a healthy Joe Saunders and Ervin Santana have made all the difference.  Kevin Jepsen, who many would say should get team MVP honors, has been amazing in filling in for the injured Scot Shields.

The Angels offense, on the otherhand, could really use a wake up call.  Ever since Vladimir Guerrero came off of the DL and occupied the clean up spot in the lineup, the offense hasn’t been the same.  At it’s most lethal, the lineup was patient and didn’t swing at bad pitches.  That’s exactly the opposite of Guerrero, who just can’t get away with being that type of player anymore.  The bad balls he used to hit for doubles and home runs, are now lazy pop ups and fly balls.  Mike Scioscia should really consider relegating him to part time duty, and bumping up Kendre Morales to the 4th spot, and getting Mike Napoli more consistent playing time. 

Fasten your seatbelts Angels fans, the next 10 games should all be great.  I see the Angels jumping all over Joba tonight.

Until next time Angel fans. 

 

Lackey vs. Greinke

It’s safe to say that more often than not, most anticipated pitcher’s duels end up being anything but.  However, on Saturday night in Kansas City, John Lackey and Zack Greinke rolled up their sleeves and squared off in front of a packed house.  And, they didn’t disappoint, not even in the slightest. 

Greinke went 8 masterful innings, striking out 8, keeping the Angels tied in knots all night long.  Greinke left the game after having tossed 125 pitches.  Lackey though, was better, going 9 even more impressive innings, and throwing 106 pitches of his own.  Yes, Lackey only struck out 4, but those extra pitches he didn’t throw let him go that extra inning that Greinke didn’t.  This was the John Lackey that we all know and love, the staff ace that goes out and gets the job done no matter what.  The Halos managed to tie the game at 1 when Torii Hunter lashed a two out, two strike single off of Greinke in the 8th.  Big John also managed to do this in front of a crowd that would give Greinke a standing ovation on nearly every strike he threw.  I mean, the guy would spit a solid loogie and you would hear the applause from various parts of the ballpark.

Lackey did everything possible to keep the team in the game.  Combined with the Angels ineffective offense of late (granted they’ve been facing some pretty solid pitching) only magnifies the brilliance of Lackey’s start.  The Halos took the field in this game already knowing that the Rangers had lost, briefly pushing the club’s lead in the division to 4 games.  With 7 games left against the Rangers, especially considering how much the Angels struggle against the Rangers, at this point of the season, they need to get every game in the standings that they can. 

Lackey also continued the Angels awesome starting pitching of late.  With the addition of Scott Kazmir, who was more than solid in his club debut in Seattle despite losing along with solid Jered Weaver, Joe Saunders, and Ervin Santana, the rotation as a whole finally appears to be in line.  Trusting that the club can hold on and make the playoffs, this rotation, combined with a strong bullpen and torrid offense, this team really does have a chance at making it deep.

As I write this, the game just turned to the bottom of the 10th, still tied at 1.  Hopefully Lackey’s efforts weren’t made in vain tonight. 

Until next time Angel fans. 

Angels Hit the Road With Lots to Prove

The Angels just completed one of their most disappointing homestands of the year, but despite the poor showing, we learned a little bit more about the team.  The halos finished the homestand 3-4, and, only managed to split a 4 game series against last place Oakland.  The series against Oakland again highlighted the fact that the Angels have been flat out horrible against the AL West this year.  However, not is all lost Angel fans.  A lot happened during the past week.  Most importantly, the club managed to snag Rays lefty starting pitcher Scott Kazmir, who the club had been keeping their eyes on for a couple years now.  The move, coming at only the expense of 2 minor leaguers and a player to be named, allows the club to keep the nucleus of big leaguers on the roster, and adding that much needed starting pitcher the club had been looking for.  Now, a rotation of Lackey, Weaver, Santana, Saunders and Kazmir, looks mightily impressive.  However, it remains to be seen if this will translate into success on the field, as the Angels starting pitching has been the weak link of the team this year.  Kazmir has battled injury this year, but appears healthy and has been throwing well of late. Also, Kazmir is under contract for the next 2 years, and if the team can manage to resign John Lackey in the offseason, they would have one of the best rotations in baseball.  Speaking of Lackey, on Sunday he picked up his 100th career victory as an Angel.  Also on the homestand, Kendry Morales hit his club leading 30th home run of the season, and also set the club record for home runs by a switch hitter.  Morales, or K-Mo as he is now being referred to, is starting to show he may deserve more at bats in the 4th spot of the order, rather than 6th where he has been doing his damage all year.  

So, the club will head out on the road beginning in Seattle, with a 5 game lead in the division.  Despite the club’s poor play of late, they have managed to keep the lead at or near that mark for some time now. 

Kazmir will make his debut either Tuesday or Wednesday against the Mariners, which should be interesting.

Until next time Angel fans. 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.