Friday, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim played the first game of what has to be the most anticipated season in franchise history. Fans and players alike have literally been waiting months for this day. Here are some thoughts on game one.
Jered Weaver was dominant
Jered Weaver threw eight shutout innings, giving up four hits, no walks, 10 strikeouts on 97 pitches, 62 for strikes in the Angels 5-0 win over the Kansas City Royals. Weaver established his fastball early as he only threw two off-speed pitches, both sliders, the first time through the Royals lineup. For the night his fastball sat 88-90; he topped out at 94 MPH on a first inning fastball that struck out Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain. After going through the lineup once Weaver mixed in his other pitches throwing his slider, changeup and the occasional curveball. The slider was the most effective pitch of the game getting several swings and misses. Of his 10 strikeouts five came from the slider, three from the fastball and two from the changeup. Weaver’s command was very good throughout the game. This was a great start to the season for the Angels’ ace.
Let’s get to what everyone wants to hear about: Albert Pujols
This was a largely uneventful game for the Angels new marquee player. Albert Pujols finished the game 0-3 with an intentional walk. In the first inning he lined softly to shortstop Alcides Escobar; Howard Kendrick was doubled off second base as he must have thought the ball was headed for the outfield. Pujols next came up in the fourth inning and fouled out to third base. In the seventh inning, Pujols struck out against reliever Aaron Crow on three pitches. The second pitch of the sequence was a hard 96 MPH fastball down in the zone with some tail action. It was followed up by a nasty slider down in the zone that Pujols swung over. In the Angels five run eighth inning, the first basemen came up with Erick Aybar on third base with one out and was intentionally walked. One game, can’t take much away from it.
Mark Trumbo was a disaster at third base
Mark Trumbo had three balls hit to him (two in foul territory) and made two errors. The first play came in the second inning on a hard hit ball hit by second basemen Yuniesky Betancourt. Trumbo fielded it cleanly but had trouble with the transfer and threw it poorly to first base forcing Pujols to catch it off the bag. Betancourt reached on the error though replay showed that Pujols reached back with his cleat to touch the bag before Betancourt. The two other balls hit to him were both foul pop-ups. The first of the pop-ups was hit by Mike Moustakas, the very next batter after the throwing error. Trumbo caught the routine pop-up though I wouldn’t say he made it look routine, catching it off of his shoulder rather than up above his head. The second foul pop-up came in the seventh inning, hit by Betancourt. The pop-up was hit close to the Angels on-deck circle. Trumbo had to move some to get to the ball and overran it allowing the at-bat to continue. Betancourt would eventually hit a soft line drive into left field for a single. Trumbo’s play at third base is worth noting after all the discussion in the off-season and Spring Training about whether he could handle the switch to third base. Through one game there is reason for skepticism.
The Angels Offensive Explosion
The offense scored all five of their runs in the bottom of the eighth inning. After Royals reliever Aaron Crow mowed through the Angels 2-3-4 hitters (Kendrick, Pujols, and Torii Hunter) in the seventh inning, striking out the side in impressive fashion, he did not follow it up the next inning. Crow started the inning off well enough getting Vernon Wells to flyout to center field. His fortunes took a turn though as he elevated his fastball giving up three consecutive hard hit singles to Kendrys Morales, Trumbo and Chris Iannetta. Crow was pulled in favor of Greg Holland. Peter Bourjos then hit a soft grounder to shortstop. Moustakas tried to cut it off but couldn’t and Escobar couldn’t make the play. The Angels first run scored on the infield single. Tough play for Royals infielders to make. Aybar came up next and turned on a 95 MPH inside fastball down the right field line clearing the bases with a triple. The Angels tacked on a run later in the inning on a bloop single by Hunter. In the inning the Angels showed they could hit elevated fastballs. All three singles off Crow and the triple by Aybar were on elevated 95-96 MPH fastballs.
MVP: Jered Weaver (not close)
Biggest play: Aybar’s base clearing triple
Underrated impact play: Jeff Francoeur getting picked off second base with one out in a scoreless game in the seventh inning
- When Pujols was introduced it still hadn’t set in that he was, in fact, a member of the Angels. It’s going to take me – and I am willing to bet most others – some time to get used to him wearing an Angels’ uniform.
- The camera loves Albert Pujols.
- The energy level in the stadium permeated my television. Everyone stood for Pujols’ his first at-bat. Morales got similar treatment in his first plate appearance in almost two years. Great energy from the fans.
- Speaking of Morales, he went 1-3 in his first game back after the long layoff from injury. He’s been through a lot to get back. I expect it’s going to take some time for him to be comfortable. In game one he did not run with much fluidity in my humble opinion.
- Bruce Chen pitched a great game for Kansas City. He went six innings giving up three hits, no walks, striking out four on 75 pitches. He had good command/control of the strike zone working in and out. Chen also mixed his pitches well and kept Angels hitters off balance.