(Photo Credit: Yardbarker.com)
I’d like to take you back a bit, to a simpler time. A better time. A happy time. It was a mere 204 days sooner, and the Angels were getting the monkey that is the Red Sox in the playoffs off their back, finishing up a sweep at Fenway to advance to the ALCS. It happened in dramatic fashion, with the pitching letting us down early, but the offense storming back to win the game by scoring three runs in the 9th, and off closer Jonathan Papelbon no less. It was amazing, and sweet, and nearly as good as winning it all in 2002. It felt like a team that was on a mission, a team that was going somewhere, that could beat anyone. Angel fans everywhere walked just a little bit taller the next day.
Fast forward past those 204 days, and we find ourselves going back to Fenway for the first time since that magical ALDS sweep. This team has had significant changes, obviously – gone is Vladimir Guerrero, Chone Figgins, and Darrin Oliver – but some would say the core of the team is still there. Of course, now that we’ve gotten over the hurdle that is the Red Sox in October, we have their number… right?
Well, yes. If “have their number” means they beat our asses like it’s late September and we’re resting our starters for the playoffs. Except.. we weren’t. Everyone was there. Aybar led off, Abreu was in the two-hole, Morales, Matsui, Hunter, and Rivera were all in the middle of the lineup, and Joe Saunders, the Man With All The Wins, was on the mound. Things even started out perfectly. Scutaro grounded out, Pedroia struck out looking, and Victor Martinez grounded out. Saunders was getting ground ball outs with an occasional strike out mixed in, just like he’s always done.
And then the second inning came around.
When it ended, the Angels were down 3-0, on homers from both Youkilis and Bill-effin’-Hall. Just in case you’re confused about who I mean, Bill Hall is the guy that was with Seattle and Milwaukee last year, and finished 2009 with a .338 SLG. Yeah, that one.
Next inning, Mike Lowell blasts a double to center that makes it 5-0 Boston. Top of the 4th Hunter is able to draw a leadoff walk, and then we promptly turn that into an out by trying to steal him into scoring position. These are not the actions of a manager that is confident in his team’s ability to score, no matter what he’s telling the media. When you’re down by five runs in the fourth, there’s still a lot of baseball to be played and you need base runners. Risking having them erased, and potential runs turned into outs, is both desperate and dumb. And unfortunately, one leads right into the other.
When all was said and done, the Angels lost 17-8. It’s nice that they scored 8 runs, and maybe it’ll make this seem like less of a blowout in terms of their Runs Scored/Runs Allowed ratio, but let’s be honest with ourselves here. This was a blowout from the 2nd inning on, and at no point were the Angels truly back in the game. I talked yesterday about how ridiculously inconsistent this team is, and this is simply an example of it. Most times, if you score eight runs you’re winning the game. Most times, though, your pitching staff is not giving up 17 runs.
I wish I had a solution to any of this, something that I could suggest that may turn things around. Sadly, I don’t. Littered all over this blog are my fears on how this team would perform this year, on the way we’re relying on career performances to repeat themselves and regression to skip over the Angels this season, and game after game we’re seeing that it’s not happening the way they wanted it to.
On the plus side, games like this one may introduce me to brand new liquors I didn’t even know I liked.
Tags: ALCS Bill Hall Chone Figgins Darrin Oliver Dustin Pedroia Fenway Hideki Matsui Joe Saunders Juan Rivera Kendry Morales Kevin Youkilis Marco Scutaro Mike Lowell Torii Hunter Victor Martinez Vladimir Guerrero