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Tag:Joe Saunders
Posted on: May 11, 2009 3:58 pm
Edited on: May 11, 2009 6:52 pm
 

Halos streaking, reinforcements coming

The Angels won their fourth straight game (and 6th of last 7) yesterday in completing a sweep of the Kansas City Royals. They are now 16-14 and just a half game behind the Rangers for the top spot in the AL West. The makeshift starting rotation has been one of the best in the AL all season without studs John Lackey and Ervin Santana, who are both set to make their debuts later this week. Fill-ins Shane Loux, Matt Palmer and Anthony Ortega have performed very capably, especially Palmer (pictured left) who has gone 3-0 with a 3.06 ERA. His solid work has probably earned him a chance to remain in the rotation when Lackey and Santana return, with Loux probably heading back to the bullpen and Ortega, who got roughed up by the Blue Jays in his last start, heading back to Salt Lake.

While the youngsters have been doing their part, it's been mainstays Joe Saunders and Jered Weaver who have led the way. Both sport tidy 2.66 ERA's with Saunders going 5-1 and Weaver 3-1. These two were counted on to hold the rotation together with Lackey and Santana out, and both have answered the bell. It's beginning to look like Saunders' All-Star 2008 season was not the fluke many made it out to be. He's beginning to remind me a bit of Mark Buehrle, a guy who's not everpowering, but just knows how to pitch and get guys out. On Saturday night, he outdueled Zack "Cy Young" Greinke, matching him pitch-for-pitch and making a single Angels run hold up in a complete game shut-out. Greinke had all the headlines coming in, and he was as good as advertised, but Joe did what top of the rotation guys need to do. It was an impressive start to say the least. Weaver is also coming off a CG, his perhaps even more impressive than Saunders's, as he surrendered only 1 run to the scorching hot Blue Jays in a 6-1 win. All the Blue Jays did the previous night was score 13 runs on 15 hits. Weaver cooled them off in a hurry.

The bullpen has looked better as of late, but still not the rock-solid, lock-down pen of past Angels teams. Closer Brian Fuentes has looked better of late, though he got bailed out big time yesterday by Torii Hunter, who snatched what would have been the game-tying HR off the bat of Miguel Olivo 2 feet over the centerfield fence. If you haven't seen it, YouTube that action...it was AWESOME. Fuentes has 9 saves in 11 chances, and while his 15 K's in 11.2 innings is nice, his .298 BAA is not. He hasn't walked a ton of guys, but his location isn't quite where it needs to be. Closer-in-waiting Jose Arredondo has looked better lately as well. He's K'd 19 in just 13.2 innings of work, but also has an Saunders and Weaver have led the way.uncharacteristically high BAA of .288. His ERA has been slowly shrinking, but still stands at a putrid 5.27. It looks like Arredondo will be just fine, though. Scot Shields, on the other hand doesn't look fine. He had a nice outing yesterday, but has not shown any semblance of consistency. In 11.2 innings, he's issued 12 BB while striking out 8 batters. His .195 BAA suggests he still has the stuff to get guys out, when he's not issuing walk after walk, after walk. Jury's still out on Shieldsy, and the team desperately needs him to turn it around.

With Seattle coming back to reality and the A's not hitting, the Rangers have emerged as the Angels chief competition in the division. While not entirely unexpected, the offensive powerhouse Rangers have gotten solid work from starters Kevin Milwood (hello, contract year) and Vicente Padilla, along with Matt Harrison. They've also been without slugger Josh Hamilton, who returns this week. Look out.

Along with the returning pitchers, the Angels offense should get a shot of Vlad in a few weeks. He's going to be the team's full-time DH when he returns, it appears, which is the right play in my opinion. Keep Vlad as healthy as possible. The offense continues to be OK without him, as Torii Hunter and Mike Napoli have been hot. Also, there's been a Gary Matthews sighting...he's playing very well lately and will probably continue to start somewhere in the OF when Vlad returns.

So the Angels weathered the storm of injuries and are playing the best ball they've played all season. If the return of the starters can help to settle the bullpen, with Loux and Palmer heading down, the team should look like the Angels teams we've seen the last few seasons. It won't be a cakewalk, however, as the Rangers don't look like they're going to fade anytime soon and the A's bats have woken up a bit lately. The AL West is more up for grabs than it has been the last few seasons, and it could be a 3 or 4 horse race all season.                                                                                                                                     

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 28, 2008 3:14 pm
 

Angels Checklist

Starting pitching: Check.  What was supposed to be a weakness in the early part of the season with John Lackey and Kelvim Escobar missing time has been anything but. Joe Saunders and Ervin Santana have been two of the better pitchers in the AL, and now that Lackey's back and Jered Weaver is pitching better of late, the Halos have one of the top rotations in all of baseball.

Bullpen: Check.  One of the Angels biggest strengths over the last several seasons was a major liability in the opening weeks of the season. Scot Shields opened the year on the DL and Justin Speier, Darren Oliver and company were just plain horrendous in the early going. Speier is still a bit of a mess, but D.O., Darren O'Day and the return of Shields got the pen going again and Franky has been getting the job done, albeit in shaky fashion.

Defense: Check.  Trading a Gold Glove shortstop and having a young, unproven kid try to fill his shoes, you'd expect some growing pains. I did. But Erick Aybar has been very good defensively and, to this point in the season, better than O.C. with the bat. Uh, that Torii Hunter guy IS pretty good, isn't he? Having another plus defender in Gary Matthews roaming left or right field has been a luxury. Casey Kotchman is one of the best in the league, and the kids (Brandon Wood, Sean Rodriguez) haven't hit a lick but have been solid with the leather.

Offense: What's the opposite of a check? After getting off to a blazing start, to say the offense has fizzled out would be a massive understatement. There really hasn't been any offense to speak of. To be fair, one-third of our lineup should be playing in Salt Lake and missing our lead-off guy and catalyst Chone Figgins has really hurt. All that said, we should still be better than this. Vlad - Hunter - GA is a decent middle of the order but it seems like we can't get two or more of those guys going at once. Kotchman has been the team's most consistent offensive player, but after an early HR tear, hasn't hit one in a while. Mike Napoli's early power stroke has been fun to watch, hopefully it continues. I'm honestly not worried about the offense, or lack thereof. When we get healthy and have Figgy, Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar back, we'll have a much more balanced attack and we all know Vlad won't stay down for long.

The good news has been that the team is winning even through this drought. We went through a similar stretch last season, but we dropped a bunch of games then. The pitching has been so good, it's like they won't let us lose right now.

 

Posted on: May 5, 2008 6:47 pm
 

Angels - O's Series Wrap

After dropping game one of the three-game set with the Orioles, the Angels stormed back to defend the Big A and took the final two games to win yet another series. Game one was there for the taking too, as we mounted a nice little rally in the 9th, but fell short, as pinch-hitter Juan Rivera popped up with one out and runners on second and third.

Garland twirled a gem, leading the Halos to a win in game 2, 3-1. Garland's last two starts have been his worst and his best. Hopefully he can avoid outings like the meltdown he had against the A's and just be more consistent. I don't expect a ton of 8-inning, lights-out performances like he showed this weekend, either...just to keep us in games, eat innings and give the team a chance to win on most nights.

The Halos took the rubber match by jumping on Orioles starter Steve Trachsel (seriously, how's this guy still pulling a big league paycheck?) and bailing out Joe Sauunders, who struggled through 5 innings, but improved to 6-0 on the season. The offense probably owes Joe a couple as he's needed minimal run support up until this outing. Vladdy got some rest and hopefully he starts to heat up soon as I don't expect Garret to anytime soon. Torii Hunter hit his first bomb since the walk-off granny, this one, an absolute rocket shot over the bullpens in left field, gave the team a nice jolt early in the game after the O's had come out strong themselves. Mathis looked good throwing out Roberts attempting to steal third and then picked him off in the 9th to help seal a win in a tight game.

Off on another roadie, this time to Kansas City and then to Tampa Bay, to visit our old friend Joe Maddon, who's got a nice young team and should pose a tough challenge.

Posted on: May 2, 2008 12:53 pm
 

Angels - A's Series Wrap

Well, the Angels and A’s just split a four game series that was, uh, odd. To say the least. Games one and four were blowouts with the A’s putting up 14 and 15 runs en route to easy wins. The middle games were dominated by Angels pitching with Joe Saunders and Ervin Santana each going to 5-0 on the season. To say this wasn’t your average Angels vs. A’s series is definitely an understatement.

In the two blowouts, it didn’t seem like the A’s were scorching the ball. They hit some balls hard and others just found holes. They did hit three bombs in the first game, but they strung together a bunch of hits to do the damage, in game four.

Nick Adenhart made his Angels debut and struggled with his fastball control, walking five batters in two-plus innings and surrendering five earned runs…ouch. He was only working on three day’s rest so it wasn’t exactly the best of circumstances for the kid. I suspect he’ll get a chance at redemption, maybe two, as John Lackey makes a couple more rehab starts.

So, we were tied with the A’s atop the West when the series started and we’re still tied with the A’s. The Orioles are in town starting tonight and then off to Kansas City. Bottom line, we gotta play better.

Posted on: April 18, 2008 1:10 pm
 

Pop the Champagne!!!

The Halos have defeated the mighty Royals...finally.

OK, so a little over the top, but geez that streak was getting a little long for my taste. The Angels beat the Royals 5-3 last night behind a solid effort from Jon Garland, who ran his record to 2-2. Garret got the big hit, a bases-clearing double in the 3rd inning off Royals starter Brett Tomko and Gary Matthews and Erick Aybar each added an RBI in the 5th. Aybar is swinging a hot bat right now, and after his 2-for-3 last night his average is up to .318. As I mentioned in my previous blog entry, even the outs he's making right now are sharply hit. It's nice to have production up and down the lineup.

Vlad sat out after bruising his finger in game 1 of the series, but he's fine. He probably needed a night off anyways and it was good to get Juan Rivera some at-bats. I expect he'll be back in tonight against the Mariners.

Speaking of the Mariners, they have taken care of the A's the last few nights rather easily and we miss "Prince" Felix in this series. Here are the pitching matchups:

Game 1: Joe Saunders (2-0, 1.27) vs. R.A. Dickey (0-0, 0.00) - Dickey was called up to replace Erik Bedard who is on the DL. Dickey is a knuckleballer, so the Halos need to show some patience.

Game 2: Ervin Santana (2-0, 3.32) vs. Jarrod Washburn (1-2, 3.50)

Game 3: Dustin Moseley (1-1, 7.80) vs. Miguel Batista (1-2, 6.35)

Hopefully we can exact some revenge for the 2 of 3 they took in their home park and do the same here in Anaheim. As always with the M's, it should be a good series.

Posted on: April 13, 2008 9:42 pm
 

Nice Cup 'o Joe

Yeah, I know, it's a corny title. But since we're in Seattle, I thought I'd tie-in a coffee reference. Before I get into the game particulars, did we even get Raul Ibanez out once that series? I mean, I know we got him out, but geez...he is scary hot right now. If you're in a shallow fantasy league he is a must-add right now.

As for the game, a nice 10-5 win for the Halos, we pretty much treated Baek and O'Flaherty like BP pitchers, racking up 15 of our 16 hits off them and all 10 runs. We were probably fortunate that Bedard's hip is still bothering him, but hell, we needed a win and we'll take it. Joe Saunders (who I referenced in my witty title) pitched another nice game, going 5 1/3 and giving up two earned runs. He has by far been the Angels best starter in the early going and he got plenty of run support today courtesy of RBIs by seven different Angels, including a two-run shot by Jeff Mathis that sealed the win. The offense came through with RISP, something they hadn't been doing all series, and the bullpen hung on so we could avoid the brooms. Now the team heads to Texas for a quick two-game set against the Rangers before the next homestand.

By the way, for those who watched the game...do you think Justin Speier was throwing at Ichiro? That was weird...two balls in a row that were practically behind him. We may see some retaliation when the M's visit the Big A in a few days. All right...good win, lets take care of business in Arlington.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com