The Good, the Bad, and Murphy’s Law
The reigning AL West champion Angels hosted the reigning AL East champion, Baltimore Orioles this weekend; the team just behind them in the wild card standings. Here is a synopsis of this pivotal weekend series.
Mike Trout (27) is greeted in the dugout after hitting a home run in the first inning against the Baltimore Orioles on his 24th birthday. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
Friday night, none other than birthday boy, Mike Trout (24) got his own party started with a 2-out solo home run to centerfield in the bottom of the 1st inning. This was the 3rd time in 4 years that Trout has hit a home run on his birthday. The only player in MLB history to do it 3 times before turning age 25. The Orioles evened up the score when all-star center fielder Adam Jones hit a single to center that scored Gerardo Parra. Jones was thrown out at 2nd base by Trout when he tried to stretch his single into a double.
Uninvited party crashers Jonathan Schoop and Matt Wieters also hit homers in the 4th and 6th innings, respectively, and both off of starting pitcher Andrew Heaney, who went 5 2/3 innings giving up four runs on 10 hits before manager, Mike Scioscia pulled him for reliever Fernando Salas. Salas struck out Nolan Reimold to end the top of the 6th. With the Angels trailing 4-3 in the bottom of the 6th with two on and two-out catcher Chris Iannetta hit a double to deep left-center that plated David Murphy and Johnny Giavatella to give the Halos the 5-4 advantage. David Dejesus followed with a line-shot to right to drive in Ianetta for a 6-4 lead. Two of the three new acquisitions David Murphy going 2-4 with an RBI and run scored and Dejesus had the RBI single. To cap it all off in the bottom of the 7th inning C.J. Cron joined Trout’s birthday party by blasting a behemoth of a 2-run shot, 456 feet shot over both of the bullpens. That’s the way the game ended with the Angels on top 8-4.
Saturday’s pitching match-up looked to heavily favor the Angels as they had 27 year-old Garrett Richards and his 3.46
August 8, 2015; Anaheim, CA, USA; Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Garrett Richards (43) pitches the first inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
earned run average going against 31 year-old Ubaldo Jimenez and his 4.04 era. Jimenez also was only 1-3 with an ERA of 10.61 since the all-star break. Unfortunately for the Angels’, the offense struggled and so did Richards. Jimenez looked like 2010 Colorado Rockies, version of himself that saw him go 19-8 with a 2.88 ERA. Jimenez had a no-hitter going through 5 2/3 when Angels Kole Calhoun broke it up with a double to center. Until that point the only Angel batters who managed to reach base were David Dejesus who was hit by a pitch and back-up catcher Carlos Perez who managed to work a walk. Jimenez went 8 strong innings and only allowed 2 hits. He lowered his ERA to 3.79 with the performance. Richards did however go 6 innings with 7 strikeouts, 1 walk and giving up 3 earned runs on 7 hits. One of those 3 runs, was a homerun to Orioles star 3rd baseman, Manny Machado. After Jimenez left the game Orioles’ closer and former Angels’ reliever Darren O’Day came into the game in the bottom of the ninth. Angels had the heart of their order coming up. If a comeback was to happen, this would be a great place to start. Trout led off the inning with a single to left-center field. Albert Pujols then singled to right field, moving Trout to 3rd. With runners on the corners, David Murphy hit a fly ball to medium center field. Trout tagged up and headed for home. The throw from Jones looked to be late and home plate umpire, Gerry Davis called him safe. After an umpire review the call was overturned and Trout was ruled out. Shortstop Erick Aybar singled and moved Pujols to 2nd. Angels once again looked like they might have something brewing. However the next batter, Connor Gillaspie grounded out to first base to end the game. Angels dropped Saturday’s game 5-0.
Sunday’s matinée, brought not only the rubber match of the series but also the return of veteran Angels starting pitcher, Jered Weaver; who had been out since June 21st with a right hip injury. “Jered has always set the tone here when he’s been the lead dog.” Scioscia said of Weaver before the game. “You like to have that presence in your rotation.” Weaver has been a staple in the Angels rotation since 2006 and has a career era of 3.36. Weaver struggled in the first inning giving up 2 runs, both with 2 outs while making 31 pitches. He battled back in his remaining 4 innings of work looking like the Weaver of old. Including striking out the side in the 4th inning, the first time he has done that in a game since June 26th, 2014. Weaver went 5 full innings and only allowed the 2 runs he gave up in the first and 4 hits. Weaver struck out 7 and did not allow any walks.
Jered Weaver returned to the mound for the Angels Sunday. Except for a little first inning trouble Weaver was on his game.. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
“After that first inning, took a lot of energy to get out of the first inning, but he minimized the damage and gave us 5 good innings hopefully he can build off of this.,” Scioscia said of Weaver’s outing.
In the bottom of the first Calhoun got one of those first innings runs back with a solo shot to right field. Originally, the ball was called off the wall but after an umpire review was changed to a home run. In the bottom of the 3rd with two outs, David Murphy hit a ball almost the same spot that Calhoun hit his home run. It was called a home run on the field and that call was upheld after Orioles manager Buck Showalter came out of the dugout and asked the umpires to take a look. Johnny Giavotella and Calhoun also came around to score on the Murphy homer.
Cory Rasmus came into the game in relief for Weaver in the 6th gave up solo home runs to outfielder Gerardo Parra and to first basemen Chris Davis to the tie the score at 4 taking away Weaver’s chance for a victory. The game remained tied and headed into extra innings. Carlos Perez led off the 11th with a double. A botched bunt attempt by Giavotella with two strikes for a strike out, and a strikeout by Calhoun left the Angels with 2 outs.
The Orioles elected to walk both Trout and Pujols, loading the bases so that left-handed pitcher, Brian Matusz would face the left-handed hitting Murphy. (Murphy was hitting .417 off of Matusz, so maybe it wasn’t the best idea) With the count full, Matusz threw Murphy a fastball around the belt and Murphy drove the pitch into the gap allowing Perez to score the game-winning run. The Angels did their usual walk-off celebration, mobbing Murphy. The final score 5-4 Halos. “When something like that happens (walking two guys to get to him), it adds a little fuel to the fire and your competitive nature comes out and you really want to come through in that situation,” Murphy who went 3 for 6 with a home run and 4 RBI’s said. “I turned to C.J. (Cron) and said if they get Kole out here, are they gonna walk both of those guys to get to me. And sure enough they did it. I don’t think that’s ever happened to me before. The game of baseball, crazy things happen. I got a pitch up and middle, and that’s a hot zone for me. Praise the Lord, the ball fell.”
Pujols was asked if he was surprised that they walked both he and Trout back to back. “No, not really.” Pujols said. “Having a lefty behind me, it makes a lot of sense.” “It worked out perfect for us and it was a huge win, winning the series, especially against a team like that who is right behind us in the wild card too.” The Angels finished this home stand at 4-2 after going 0-6 on their most recent road trip. Bench coach Dino Ebel said of winning series “We’re focused on winning series, sure. When you win series, those numbers start to rack up fast.”
Angels go on the road now to Chicago and Kansas City, facing 5 out of 6 left-handed starting pitchers, including White Sox hurler Chris Sale. After this weekend, the Angels have a 3 game lead over the Orioles for the second wild card spot and only trail AL West leading Houston by a half game. There is a lot of baseball left to be played but the races are heating up.