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Tag:Howie Kendrick
Posted on: October 8, 2008 2:58 pm
 

This story's getting old

Manny is in Dodger blue, Papi looked like he aged five years since last season's ALDS, Beckett was not his dominating self and Schilling is not in uniform, off blabbing somewhere to anyone that will listen. And the Boston Red Sox still beat the Angels in the postseason. No, it wasn't Manny or Papi, heck, it wasn't even Youkilis or Pedroia that did the Halos in this time. It was Jason Bay in his first taste of playoff baseball, JD Drew with a bad back and some dude named Jed. Speaking of Jed Lowrie's game winner in Game 4, is it me or did it seem like that grounder took like 10 years to reach the outfield grass?

Nope, no Josh Beckett either. I mean, he was there and he pitched OK in Game 3, but it was not the Josh Beckett whose appearance on a mound in October generally means the opposing team has no chance. Instead, a young pitcher named Jon Lester became Beckett, allowing zero earned runs in 14 innings against the Angels.

The point to all this? Boston had players step up and rise to the occasion. It seems since 2004, they always do. For the Angels, Mike Napoli played the role of hero one night, hitting two home runs off Beckett to key a win in Game 3, and while John Lackey pitched great, he was still outdueled twice by Lester who was just that much better.

The Angels had plenty of baserunners in this series, and the team's heart-of-the-order guys got their share of hits, but in Games 1 and 2, there was no one on base when those hits came and when there were guys in scoring position, the big hit was nowhere to be found. Torii Hunter came up big in a few spots and Vlad and Teixeira got some hits, but none left the yard and none came when we really needed them. In the playoffs, clutch is everything, and the Angels have been anything but clutch in the postseason since that magical run in 2002. The team really needed a guy like Juan Rivera or Howie Kendrick or Erick Aybar (even with that bloop in Game 3, he was 2-for-the-series) to come through. They didn't. Instead, a guy named Jed is a hero and we're thinking about how the team will look next season.

I'm not quite ready to resign myself to the thought that 2002 will be it. Our only taste of magic. But come playoff time, if we're matched up with a certain team from the New England area again, I may be tempted to pop in my 2002 World Series DVD and relive some happier times. If we do win another title, and I think we will, I guarantee we will not go through Boston to win it. This was our year to erase 22 years of heartache against them, and we couldn't do it. Like the title says, this story's getting old.

Posted on: September 11, 2008 4:31 pm
Edited on: September 11, 2008 4:37 pm
 

How the West was won

While it's been a foregone conclusion for a few months now, the Angels repeating as AL West champions was not exactly a "gimme" when the team broke Spring Training. Injuries to the team's two best starters from 2007, trading away a Gold Glove shortstop, and an overcrowded outfield were just some of the reasons many were picking Seattle to dethrone the Halos.

Fast forward to September 11. The two young starters who were supposed to battle it out for the 5th spot in the rotation, Ervin Santana and Joe Saunders, were both All-Stars and absolutely carried the team in the early going with John Lackey missing about 5-6 starts and Kelvim Escobar missing the entire season. The trade that had many Angels fans scratching their heads turned out to be perhaps the most important thing the team did in the off season. While O.C. was fantastic at shortstop and the ideal #2 hitter, the stability Jon Garland provided at the back end of the rotation, especially with the loss of Escobar, was invaluable, and Scioscia and Reagins both knew Aybar and Izturis could hold down the fort at short, both defensively and with the bat. And they did. Another head-scratcher was the signing of Torii Hunter. Although we just gave a big contract to Matthews to seemingly be the team's CF for next few seasons, Hunter was signed to a big free agent deal himself, moving Matthews into a corner outfield/DH rotation with Garret and Vlad. While Torii was not exactly the "big bat" Halos fans have been waiting for, he was another bat and has played the best center field this long-time Angels fan has ever seen at the Big A (no disrespect to Devo, Pettis and Edmonds). Besides his glove and above-average bat, Torii also brought leadership and a winning attitude to a clubhouse that was maybe in need of a veteran vocal leader.

The MLB trade deadline is an exciting time for a fan of a team in the heat of a pennant race. Heck, it's even at least mildly interesting to the fan's whose teams are already looking forward to next season, with the chance getting some young prospects for aging veterans. For Angels fans, it has recently been a time to watch other contenders grab a bat or an arm for the stretch run while we "stand pat" and "go with the players who got us here," wherever "here" is. As a result, our offensively-challenged teams have been bounced out of the postseason rather abruptly, especially last season, when the Red Sox whipped us in three straight en route to their second World Series title in four seasons.

Not this year. The normally gun-shy Angels finally pulled the trigger on a deadline deal, landing slugging first baseman Mark Teixeira from the Braves. While it was tough seeing home-grown youngster Casey Kotchman go, it was clearly the right move and a move the team had to make if they wanted to avoid another early exit from the playoffs. And when Tex started hitting, I'm sure many a Casey-who? was heard around the Big A. Kotch was a nice young talent. Tex is a big-time, switch hitting masher and an ideal guy to hit in front of Vlad in the Angels lineup. Even if the free-agent-to-be walks after this season, I applaud the team for making the right deal in order to win now.

In my view, the hallmark of this Angels team has been balance. As of right now, the team is 45-29 at home, 43-28 on the road (by far, the best in the bigs), 30-16 vs. the East, 24-17 vs. the Central and 24-16 vs. West. They haven't had many prolonged winning streaks or losing streaks. They just went about winning series after series. Two of three here, three of four there, and before you knew it, they had one of the best records in baseball and had opened up a chasm of Grand Canyon-like proportions in the AL West over the disappointing Mariners and the young A's, who had since traded away many talented vets for prospects. Starting pitching has once again been the team's biggest strength, with all five starters reaching double-digit win totals. Francisco Rodriguez has been the anchor to a solid bullpen, and is closing in on the single-season saves record of 57. He has both done a great job and has been the beneficiary of many close Angels wins, but the results are hard to argue with.

I'm not sure whether it's a good thing or a bad thing, but the Angels will have a few weeks to rest up and prepare for the playoffs while many teams continue to duke it out, night-in and night-out for a spot in the postseason. Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar are both battling hamstring issues, and while youngsters Brandon Wood and Sean Rodriguez have filled in admirably, it is important the two starters get back in time to get a week or so worth of at-bats leading into the playoffs. The Angels don't have the most explosive offense, but with everyone healthy, do have balance and guys that can contribute up and down the lineup.

On paper, this is the best-equipped Angels squad we've seen in a while. Perhaps even better than the team that won it all in 2002. But the games are not played on paper and if the Halos are to win it all this year, they'll need some of the magic that '02 team had. Maybe not a three-homer game from a light-hitting second baseman or a three-run homer in Game 6 of the World Series to cut into a huge deficit, but a 2-out RBI hit here and sac-fly there could be the difference between celebrating another championship and thinking, "wait till next year."

Posted on: May 7, 2008 1:53 pm
 

Halos finding the road 'heavenly'

After last night's 5-3 win over the Royals in Kansas City, the Angels record away from the Big A stands at a league-best 12-5. Very impressive, considering the team did most of its damage in the friendly confines of Angels Stadium last season and played roughly .500 ball on the road. If we can start dominating like we have at home, and keep up a better pace on the road, the Angels are easily capable of surpassing last season's win total, which would hopefully mean another AL West title.

Nick Adenhart, the sequel. A little better than the original, but still not quite there. 4 1/3 innings with five walks against a fairly young and punchless Kansas City team. I think he walked 9-hitter Tony Pena twice and he's hitting like a buck-fifty. You gotta be able to lay one or two down the middle to hacks like that and Nick just couldn't. Good, live arm, and he did improve from his first outing. Got to within two outs of having a chance at his first big league win, but after walking consecutive batters in the 5th, had to hit the showers. He might get one more shot at that first win four or five days from now.

There was a Garret Anderson sighting last night. Finally. GA singlehandedly carried the offense knocking in five runs, including a 3-run shot, his second homer in two days. Hopefully GA gets it going.

Vlad had a triple-double last night. Make that a triple and a double, and he was robbed on a laser up the middle by Royals second baseman Mark Grudzasomethingorother. All those were hard hit balls to the right side. When Vlad's going good, he hits a lot of balls hard to right field. Watch out.

Howie Kendrick went 3-3 with 2 HR in a rehab start in single-A Rancho Cucamonga. He should be back soon, maybe tonight.

Uh, Casey Kotchman is pretty good. Kotch is batting .333 with 6 HR and 21 RBI and is leading the majors with a .545 average off of lefties....545. That's pretty good.

Posted on: April 13, 2008 3:01 am
 

Winless in Seattle

Pitching, defense and timely hitting wins ball games, and the Angels haven't done much of any so far in this series in Seattle. Another sub-par pitching performance, this time by Garland, two errors and Raul Freaking Ibanez did in the Halos as they lost to the M's 8-3.

Once again, the Halos hit the ball pretty good, amassing 12 hits, including Casey Kotchman's third homer of the season, a two-run shot in the fourth inning. Problem is, scoring only three runs on those 12 hits isn't very good, ie. "timely." The middle of the order didn't do much of anything tonight, as all the production came from the 6-9 spots in the batting order. Another bright spot besides Kotch's bomb was Howie Kendrick going 3-for-4 after missing a few games with a banged up thumb. Dude can flat-out hit. Aybar also had a nice night with three hits and a run scored.

The pitching continues to be a weak spot for the club. Garland battled for a while without his best stuff (although truthfully, I don't really know what his "best stuff" looks like yet) before the M's scored three times in the fifth, getting two on a Richie Sexson homer. I know our pitching staff isn't anywhere near full strength, but veteran guys like Garland need to step up and give us a chance to win games. The bullpen has been atrocious, except for O'Day, whose been getting the job done. Bulger just isn't a big league pitcher yet, but we don't have a lot of options.

Still no reason to panic. The pitching will get healthy and the bats look pretty good from top to bottom. Tough matchup tomorrow with Bedard going (I think McLaren held him back just to face us), although April is not his best month historically and he has looked farily hittable so far. Hopefully we can avoid the brooms. Saunders on the bump for the Halos...and we need a good outing from the lefty.

 
 
 
 
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