Posts Tagged ‘Torii Hunter’

Angels Add To Their Rotation, Sign Joel Pineiro

January 21, 2010

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are one of the best run organizations in baseball. From top to bottom, the Angels do things the right way. From the way they develop players to the way they treat their fans, the Angels are a first-class organization.

However, even the best organizations make mistakes.

When it comes to signing free agents, the Angels really haven’t been on top of their game over the last couple of years. Outside of the solid signings of Torii Hunter and Bobby Abreu, the Angels have made suspect signings like Justin Speier, Gary Matthews Jr., Brian Fuentes, and Fernando Rodney.

And now, the Angels have made another suspect signing.

Pineiro got a two-year deal from Anaheim

According to various sources, the Angels have signed RHP Joel Pineiro to a two-year, $16 million contract. Pineiro will undergo a physical today and the deal should be officially announced shortly.

As many of you know, I am not a fan of Pineiro. I believe he is just another Dave Duncan reclamation project. Here is what I wrote about Pineiro back in September:

“Ironically, Pineiro is looking for a contract similar to Lohse’s this offseason. We all know what is going to happen. Some idiotic team is going to give him a three-year, $28 million contract and guess what is going to happen?

In his first year Pineiro is going to go 9-12 with a 4.65 ERA and his contract is going to hamstring that team for the next three years. It’s inevitable.

That’s why if I was a GM, I would stay away from Pineiro in the offseason.

I don’t need to see advanced statistics or any other stats for that matter. I will just use the “eye test” on this one. And the eye test tells me, once a mediocre pitcher, always a mediocre pitcher.”

Now, I can’t completely kill the Angels on this deal because they only signed Pineiro to a two-year deal. A two-year deal is clearly not as bad as the three or four-year deal that I thought he might have gotten. But I just don’t see Pineiro having two successful years in Anaheim.

It’s amazing to me when pitchers and their agents can’t see where their bread is buttered. Pineiro is a National League pitcher and he had success last year pitching in the NL. So why go to the American League West?

It makes no sense.

This reminds me so much of what Jeff Weaver did after the St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series in 2006. Weaver got a second life in the National League and with the Cardinals, but signed with the Seattle Mariners the following offseason.

Weaver was a disaster in Seattle and I think Pineiro is headed down that path.

What is amazing is that despite all of the Angels suspect moves and losses this offseason, I still think they have enough to win the AL West. The Angels are proving that no matter who they lose and who they bring in, they can win with what they have.

That’s why they are one of the best run organizations in baseball.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

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Starting Nine: American League West

January 13, 2010

The next division up in our Starting Nine series is the American League West. This division has undergone the most change from top to bottom this offseason, so it will be interesting to see which lineup looks the best headed into the season.

Here are the starting lineups as presently constructed for the American League West:

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

1. Erick Aybar, SS

2. Bobby Abreu, RF

3. Torii Hunter, CF

4. Kendry Morales, 1B

5. Hideki Matsui, DH

6. Howie Kendrick, 2B

7. Juan Rivera, LF

8. Brandon Wood, 3B

9. Mike Napoli, C

Quick Take – This lineup will miss Chone Figgins at the top of the lineup to an expect, but despite the Angels’ losses, this lineup is still pretty deep. Any lineup that has Napoli batting ninth should be able to score some runs.

Seattle Mariners

1. Ichiro, RF

2. Chone Figgins, 3B

3. Milton Bradley, LF

4. Jose Lopez, 2B

5. Ken Griffey Jr. DH

6. Franklin Gutierrez, CF

7. Casey Kotchman, 1B

8. Jack Wilson, SS

9. Rob Johnson, C

Quick Take – This lineup after the first four hitters is pretty bad. I don’t care how many runs you prevent in the field, you need to score runs to win. The Mariners need a better DH than Griffey Jr.

Texas Rangers

1. Ian Kinsler, 2B

2. Michael Young, 3B

3. Josh Hamilton, LF

4. Vladimir Guerrero, DH

5. Nelson Cruz, RF

6. Chris Davis, 1B

7. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C

8. Elvis Andrus, SS

9. Julio Borbon, CF

Quick Take – I love this lineup. I like Borbon in the nine-hole acting like a second leadoff hitter at the bottom of the lineup. The key to this lineup will be health.

Oakland A’s

1. Coco Crisp, CF

2. Rajai Davis, LF

3. Ryan Sweeney, RF

4. Jack Cust, DH

5. Daric Barton, 1B

6. Kurt Suzuki, C

7. Eric Chavez, 3B

8. Mark Ellis, 2B

9. Cliff Pennington, SS

Quick Take – This is the worst in the American League (yes, worse than the Kansas City Royals) and perhaps the worst in baseball. There isn’t a guy in this lineup that would start on the Baltimore Orioles. Michael Taylor better make it to the A’s soon.

Tomorrow, I will dive into the National League and look at the National League East.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

American League Hands Out Some Gold Gloves

November 10, 2009

Not only ’tis the season for surgeries, trades, and free agency, but ’tis the season for handing out some hardware.

Baseball handed out its first set of postseason awards today. The American Gold Glove winners were announced today.

gold glove award

The Gold Glove award

Let’s take a look at who won an American League Gold Glove in 2009…

C. Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins – .996 fielding percentage, 26 percent caught stealing percentage

1B. Mark Teixeira, New York Yankees – .997 fielding percentage, -1.4 UZR

2B. Placido Polanco, Detroit Tigers – .997 fielding percentage, 11.4 UZR

SS. Derek Jeter, New York Yankees – .986 fielding percentage, 4.8 UZR

3B. Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays – .970 fielding percentage, 18.5 UZR

OF. Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle Mariners – .988 fielding percentage, 10.5 UZR

OF. Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles – .996 fielding percentage, -4.7 UZR

OF. Torii Hunter, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim – .997 fielding percentage, -1.4 UZR

P. Mark Buehrle, Chicago White Sox – .982 fielding percentage

I think baseball did a good job with these selections. Believe it or not, the one selection you could really argue is Ichiro. Nelson Cruz (.990 fielding percentage, 11.6 UZR) or JD Drew (.992 fielding percentage, 10.5 UZR) would have been better selections as a right fielder.

Here is the one problem I do have with the Gold Glove awards. Why does baseball treat all the outfielders as one position? It doesn’t matter what position you play in the outfield, you are considered an “outfielder.”

Every year, either two center fielders win a Gold Glove, or two right fielders win, etc…

Why doesn’t baseball pick one left fielder, center fielder, and right fielder? Does that make too much sense?

The National League Gold Glove winners will be announced tomorrow.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

Yankees Beat Bumbling Angels 5-2, Advance To World Series

October 26, 2009

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim found out with the Minnesota Twins already know. If you continue to make boneheaded baserunning plays and continue to play horrific defense you are going to lose in the playoffs.

The New York Yankees beat the stumbling, bumbling Angels last night 5-2 to take their best-of-seven series 4-2 and advance to the World Series for the 40th time in their history.

Pettitte was vintage Pettitte last night

Pettitte was vintage Pettitte last night

The tone of this series was set in the first inning of Game One when Erick Aybar and Chone Figgins stared at each other and let Hideki Matsui’s Little League popup fall in. Shockingly, that is the way the Angels would play for the entire series.

If you said to someone that the Angels would make eight errors in six games, that person would have said you are nuts. After all, the Angels are one of the most fundamentally sound teams in baseball.

But for what ever reason, the Angels played like the Twins did in their ALDS series against the Yankees.

Here are some of my observations from last night:

Joe Saunders played with fire for the first three inning and eventually got burned in the fourth. You can’t constantly pitch from behind in the count and be successful in the playoffs.

Saunders faced 22 batters and threw first-pitch strikes to only seven of those batters.

I can’t believe Saunders was left in the game to face Alex Rodriguez with the bases loaded in the fourth. What was the point of warming up Kevin Jepsen, if he wasn’t going to come into the game to face Rodriguez?

The 3-1 pitch to Rodriguez was a strike at any level of baseball except in Game Six of the ALCS.

As bad as Darren Oliver was in Game Five, he was great in Game Six. He kept the Angels in that game for as long as he could. Great performance.

If you are going to hand out nine walks to the Yankees in a game, I would say there is a very good chance you are going to lose the game.

Melky Cabrera (my least favorite player in baseball) really gave the Yankees a boost at the bottom of their lineup. Cabrera hit .391 for series and had a .462 OBP.

When Andy Pettitte retires, the Yankees are going to miss him just as much as Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera. The guy is just money in a big spot.

Pettitte faced 25 batters and threw first-pitch strikes to 20 of those batters.

Jeter’s potential error turns out to be a positive for the Yankees. Amazing how that works out.

There is no greater weapon in sports than Rivera.

How does Vladimir Guerrero get doubled up on that flyball to right? The play was happening right in front of him. It’s inexcusable.

Did anyone else have flashbacks to the 2006 World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and Detroit Tigers when the Angels couldn’t field those bunts in the eighth?

Why didn’t Scott Kazmir start the eighth inning? He was ready and the Yankees had Robinson Cano, Nick Swisher and Cabrera coming up.

Cano had a nice defensive game last night. Considering he didn’t show up in Game Two, he kind of owed it to the Yankees.

Some team is still going to give Figgins a four-year, $42 million deal and still regret it from the first day.

Do you know that phrase in baseball “Stay within yourself?” Apparently Torii Hunter has never heard of that phrase. He goes for the downs on every swing in the playoffs.

Why does Mike Scioscia continue to pinch-hit Gary Matthews Jr. for Mike Napoli? Napoli is a much better hitter than Matthews–even against a righty in Rivera.

Why did Scioscia pinch-hit Macier Izturis for Jeff Mathis in the seventh? I don’t care what the matchup is, Mathis is the hottest hitter on the planet outside of Rodriguez right now. Let the guy hit.

Hero for Game Six – Andy Pettitte

Goat for Game Six – Joe Saunders

Series MVP – CC Sabathia

I will be doing a World Series preview tomorrow.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

Angels Win Wild Game Five, Force Game Six In The Bronx

October 23, 2009

Mike Scioscia and Joe Girardi played a game of “What ever you can do, I can do worse.”

In one of the worst managed playoff games in quite some time, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim outlasted the New York Yankees 7-6 to take Game Five of their best-of-seven ALCS and force a Game Six in the Bronx Saturday night.

This was a game that really had three parts to it.

The first part was the Angels ambushed Yankees’ starter AJ Burnett for four runs in the first inning. A walk to Chone Figgins, a double to Bobby Abreu, a single by Torii Hunter, a single by Vladimir Guerrero, and a single by Kendry Morales.

Five batters into the game and just like that, the Angels had four runs. I really thought Burnett wouldn’t make it out of the second inning.

Which leads me to the second part of the game.

From the second inning to the sixth, this game was a pitcher’s duel. Burnett and John Lackey were matching each other goose egg for goose egg.

And let me give credit to Burnett. I was really surprised he settled down and pitched into the seventh inning. I didn’t think he had that type of bounce back ability in him.

Then comes the third part of this game and this is when the wheels start to come off for Scioscia and Girardi.

The last three innings of this game were managed so poorly, you would have thought this was never a playoff game. Let’s take a look at the managerial decisions that transpired from the top of the seventh on.

Top of the seventh – Scioscia takes out Lackey

After the Angels had their *Mark Langston moment on a 3-2 count to Jorge Posada, the Yankees had bases loaded and two outs with Mark Teixeira coming to the plate.

Lackey should have never been taken out last night

Lackey should have never been taken out last night

Scioscia decides to take out his ace after only 104 pitches with the Angels’ season on the line to bring in Darren Oliver. Are you kidding me?

As Scioscia was approaching the mound, you can see Lackey saying “This is mine.” I’ll be writing another story on Lackey later, but that moment was pretty cool.

There is no way you can take your ace out in that spot. You just can’t. And for what? To bring in Darren freakin’ Oliver?

It’s not like Scioscia was bringing in Dennis Eckersley. There is a reason why Oliver has been on like 20 teams in his career.

And when did Teixeira become a worse hitter right-handed? Here is Teixeira’s OPS splits from the regular season.

Teixeira’s OPS LH – .951

Teixeira’s OPS RH – .911

Not much difference from left to right.

This was without a shadow of a doubt the single worst managerial decision of the postseason.

Of course, Oliver serves up a double on the first pitch to Teixeira and a single to Hideki Matsui. All of a sudden the game went from 4-0 Angels to 6-4 Yankees in a matter of five minutes.

Bottom of the seventh – Girardi leaves in Burnett too long.

First, I have no problem with Burnett starting the inning. I thought he should have been given every opportunity to go as long as he can, as he was getting people out.

But once he served up a single to Jeff “Mike Piazza” Mathis, he should have been out of the game. I thought it was going to be one of those let him pitch until someone gets on situation.

If anyone has watched the Yankees all year, that is how Girardi manages. But I really think all the overmanaging talk from Game Three really was in Girardi’s head.

He was trying so hard not to overmanage, that he actually undermanaged in this situation. Once Mathis got the hit, Girardi should have gone to Phil Hughes or Damaso Marte.

Instead, Burnett is left out there and he proceeds to walk Erick Aybar. That’s when the wheels came off for the Yankees.

Once the Angels got two on and nobody out, the crowd got back into it and from their Hughes unraveled.

Bottom of the seventh – Hughes pitches around Hunter to get to Guerrero.

Did the Yankees not watch Game Three of the ALDS between the Angels and the Boston Red Sox?

I really didn’t understand this move. And don’t tell me they weren’t pitching around Hunter. When you throw a 3-0 slider–you are pitching around a batter.

When did Hunter become Frank Robinson? He can be pitched to. He doesn’t work the count and we have seen in big spots in this postseason, he will chase balls that aren’t strikes.

This move almost worked until Hughes had mental breakdown on the mound. He threw a Papelbon-esque 0-2 fastball right down the middle and Guerrero singled up the middle.

Bottom of the eighth – Girardi goes to Joba Chamberlain instead of Dave Robertson

Did Robertson sleep with Girardi’s wife or something? This guy is pitching lights out in the postseason (three innings, two hits and zero runs) and he continues to sit on the bench.

At what point is Girardi going to realize that Chamberlain isn’t very good. Mr. Mediocre has given up seven hits in 2.2 innings of work and has a WHIP of 2.63.

A 2.63 WHIP is below replacement level. I really don’t understand the infatuation with this guy. He can’t start and now he can’t relieve.

What exactly does he do well?

Bottom of the ninth – Scioscia takes out Jered Weaver.

I am a firm believer that you should always go to your closer in save situations only if he is a top-flight closer.

If you have a Mariano Rivera, Jonathan Papelbon, Joe Nathan, etc…That guy pitches the ninth no matter what.

However, when you have a closer like Brian Fuentes, I think you have to go with the hot hand. And the hot hand last night was Weaver.

This guy came into the eighth and just steamrolled the Yankees. I would have left him in for the ninth.

Fuentes is unreliable at this point. You have no idea what on earth he is going to do out there.

And I will say this, once Scioscia made the decision to bring Fuentes into the game, I had no problem with walking Alex Rodriguez with two outs and nobody on base. It was the right move.

Fuentes went on to save the game, but not before giving every Angels fan a heart attack. If you are an Angels fan and you don’t get nervous when Fuentes pitches then:

A. You don’t have a pulse.

B. No other closer will make you nervous ever again.

Now we have a Game Six. If you are a Yankees fan, you have to be a little worried. A late-90’s Yankee championship team doesn’t lose that game last night.

Game Six is Saturday at 7:57 ET.

Hero for Game Five – Kendry Morales

Goat for Game Five – Phil Hughes

Series MVP – CC Sabathia

*Mark Langston moment. In Game One of the 1998 World Series, with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Langston was in the game for the San Diego Padres facing Tino Martinez in a tie game.

With two strikes, Langston throws a ball right down the middle, but the pitch was called a ball. It was an awful call.

The next pitch Martinez rips a grand slam and the game was over and the Padres never recovered.

Joe Girardi Overmanages, Angels Take Game Three

October 20, 2009

If you are going to be uptight, nervous, and overmanage in the postseason, you better win. Time and time again, New York Yankees manager has overmanaged in this postseason and the Yankees’ talent has bailed him out.

Today, there was nobody to bail Girardi out.

Girardi overmanaged yet again

Girardi overmanaged yet again

In the bottom of the 11th this afternoon in Anaheim, with the score tied at four, Girardi took RHP David Robertson out of the game with two outs and nobody on base. Why Girardi took Robertson out is anyone’s guess.

Robertson, who led all American League pitchers in K/9 with12.98 was cruising along. He had thrown only 11 pitches and six of them were for strikes. There was absolutely no reason to take him out–especially since a right-handed batter was coming up in Howie Kendrick.

Girardi took Robertson out to bring in Alfredo Aceves. Aceves proceeds to give up a single to Kendrick and then a double to Jeff Mathis–game over.

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim win 5-4 and now they are back in the ALCS.

I guess we can stop called Aceves “Ace.” That might be the worst nickname in sports. Aceves as “Ace?” Come on. Does CC Sabathia say “Hey Ace what’s up? and start laughing?

Here is what has to kill you if you are a Yankee fan. Robertson is just better than Aceves. He is better and it is not even close. There is no way Girardi could possibly think that Aceves gaves the Yankees a better chance to win the game than Robertson does.

I can’t wait to hear Girardi get ripped in the newspaper and on the radio tomorrow in New York. If I was Girardi, I would block out all forms of media tomorrow. It’s going to get ugly.

Here are some other observations from today’s game:

Why did Girardi pinch-hit for Mariano Rivera in the 10th with Francisco Cervelli? There were two outs and nobody on. Let Rivera hit and use him for another inning. Just stupid managing on Girardi’s part.

How great has Jeff Mathis been for the Angels? He is a lifetime .200 hitter and he has been hitting the ball all over the ballpark in the ALCS.

Did Bobby Abreu go to the Nick Punto school of baserunning? It was such an awful baserunning play, that I thought that would have taken all the wind out of the Angels sails.

Girardi just made another pitching change. He just summoned Eric Plunk out of the pen.

On that play, it wasn’t a great play by Derek Jeter. It was a great play by Mark Teixeira backing up second base. Being the cutoff man and turning around and throwing to Teixeira isn’t a great play. Let’s give other people credit when it’s due.

Why do pitchers continue to challenge Alex Rodriguez when they are behind in the count? Just walk him at that point. Hideki Matsui hasn’t done a thing this postseason.

I loved how Jered Weaver begged Mike Scioscia to stay in the game. I thought that was awesome. I wish more pitchers were like Weaver.

Did Jeter’s HR remind anyone else of Game 4 of the 2000 World Series?

Didn’t you just know that the Angels weren’t going to score with first and third with nobody out in the 10th. It was almost inevitable.

If Torii Hunter is up in a big spot–don’t throw him a strike. Hunter is so anxious to be the hero, he will just swing at anything.

If Joba Chamberlain was playing in Pittsburgh, he would be a nobody. Mr. Mediocre nearly gave the game away for the Yankees as he gave up a triple, sac fly, and a double in one third of an inning. Remember, this is the same organization that hyped up Russ Davis as the next Mike Schmidt.

Vladimir Guerrero’s sixth inning, two-run HR saved the series for the Angels. The Angels were 10 outs away from their season essentially being over and Guerrero tied the game and gave the Angels a new life.

Girardi just made another pitching change.

Besides Girardi, the other concern you have if you are a Yankee fan is that they are having a hard time scoring if they don’t hit a HR. Something to watch for in the remainder of the series.

Somebody should tell Kendry Morales and Juan Rivera the ALCS started. These two were a combined 0-for-10 today and have a combined .077 average for the ALCS.

Hero for Game 3 – Jeff Mathis

Goat for Game 3 – Alfredo Aceves

Series MVP – Alex Rodriguez

Game 4 is Tuesday at 7:57 ET.

CC Sabathia Dominates Angels: Yankees Take Game One

October 17, 2009

Here is what I wrote in my American League Championship Series Preview and Prediction post:

“But things are starting to break for the Yankees like they did in the 90’s. You can’t beat the unexplained. There will be a Joe Mauer foul ball or Nick Punto baserunning moment for the Angels in this series.”

It took all of five batters for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim to have their Nick Punto moment.

That coupled with a dominating performance from CC Sabathia made a cold night in the Bronx even colder for the Angels.

Big CC was on his game last night

Big CC was on his game last night

The New York Yankees beat the Angels last night 4-1 behind Sabathia’s eight solid innings and some surprisingly bad Angels defense to take a 1-0 lead in their best-of-seven ALCS.

This game really reminded me of an NCAA tournament game where it’s a No. 13 seed plays a No. 4 seed.

The No. 13 seed plays all nervous through the first five minutes, makes silly mistakes, eventually settles down, gets somewhat back into the game, but at the end of the day the No. 3 seeds imposses their will and wins the game.

That was this game.

For an Angels team that is a veteran playoff team, they played like a bunch of amateurs last night. The bottom of the first inning set the tone for this game.

With Derek Jeter on first base, Johnny Damon hit a flare down the leftfield line. Jeter went to third and Damon made a wide turn but stopped at first base.

Juan Rivera decides to throw the ball to nobody in particular and allows Damon to advance to second. Who was he throwing to? He threw the ball between second and third.

As bad of a play that was, things only got worse for the Angels. Now here comes there Punto bonehead moment of the evening.

After Alex Rodriguez’s sac fly made it 1-0 Yankees, Hideki Matsui came up with a runner on second with two outs.

Matsui hit a little pop up behind third. Chone Figgins and Erick Aybar stare at each other and let the ball drop in. Damon scored and it was 2-0 Yankees.

I really thought John Lackey was going to punch Aybar after the inning. This was such a bonehead play that you would never think it would happen to the Angels.

Unfortunetly for the Angels, this wasn’t the last bonehead play of the evening.

In the bottom of the sixth, Lackey inexplicably walked Melky Cabrera with two outs. I say inexplicably because you can’t walk someone like Cabrera with two outs and no runners on base.

Let him earn his way on. He is a fourth outfielder and Lackey is throwing 3-2 curveballs to Cabrera. Terrible pitch selection.

With Cabrera now on first, Lackey tried to pick him off and throws the ball into rightfield. What was Lackey thinking? Cabrera had a two foot lead at best.

Now with Cabrera on second, Jeter lines a single up the middle. Torii Hunter charges the ball, but the ball hits off the heel of his glove, and rolls behind him. Cabrera scored to make it 4-1.

With Sabathia on top of his game, four runs was more than enough. Sabathia scattered four hits, walked one and struckout seven in eight solid innings of work.

The key for Sabathia in this game was that he was locating his fastball. Up, down, in, and out, Sabathia threw his fastball where ever he wanted to.This was by far and away the best start of Sabathia’s postseason career.

The Angels want to run on the Yankees, but if you don’t get anyone on base, it’s hard to steal. Chone Figgins, Bobby Abreu, and Erick Aybar–the three Angels who can steal a base, went 0-11 with three strikeouts.

And how about Chone Figgins? Can this guy get any worse? He is now 0-16 this postseason. The Angels won’t win this series if he doesn’t get on track.

Game Two is a must win game for the Angels. I don’t think they can go back to Anaheim down 0-2 and win this series.

Game Two is scheduled for today at 7:57 ET. It’s supposed to rain tonight, but right now as of 11:15 am ET in New York, it’s not raining. I went to get bagels this morning and it’s pretty cold however.

Of course, if the game tonight does get rained out, I will keep everyone updated.

Hero for Game One – CC Sabathia

Goat for Game One – Chone Figgins

Series MVP – CC Sabathia

Boston’s Bullpen Implodes, Angels Sweep Red Sox

October 12, 2009

The Boston Red Sox had not one, not two, but three opportunities with two strikes and two outs in the bottom of the ninth with a two run lead to close out the game and couldn’t get the job done.

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim stunned Red Sox Nation by scoring three runs with two outs off closer Jonathan Papelbon to win 7-6 and sweep their best-of-five ALDS 3-0.

For 162 games in the regular season, Red Sox manager Terry  “>Francona went to his bullpen and for 162 games, they delivered. In game 165 however, Francona’s reliable bullpen imploded.

The Red Sox went into the eighth inning with a 5-2 lead thanks to some clutch hitting from Dustin Pedroia (two-run double in the third) and JD Drew (two-run HR in the fourth and some solid relief work from Daniel Bard (two innings, no hits, no runs, and two K’s).

It was all set up perfectly for the Red Sox. They would go to Billy Wagner in the eighth and then to Papelbon in the ninth. Wagner and Papelbon would get the final six outs and the Red Sox would live to see another day.

There was no celebrating for Papelbon today

There was no celebrating for Papelbon today

Well, things didn’t work out that way.

Wagner and his 9.28 lifetime postseason ERA entered the game in the eighth. I remember taking my dad to Game One of the 2006 NLDS between the New York Mets and Los Angeles Dodgers.

Billy Wagner came into that game to close out the Dodgers in ninth with a two-run lead. What I remember most about when Wagner came into the game was the uneasyness of the Shea Stadium crowd when he came out of the rightfield bullpen.

I felt the same uneasyness when Wagner came into the game today against the Angels. It’s never easy in the postseason with him. It always seems there are runners on base when he pitches.

Which is odd for a guy who used to throw 99 mph and now still throws 95.

Wagner allowed a double to Bobby Abreu and walked Vladimir Guerrero. To be fair to Wagner, the Abreu double was not really a double. Kevin Youkilis tried to make a do or die play along the first base line and the ball hit off his glove and went into the Sox dugout for ground-rule double.

Wagner left the game with two outs in the eighth with runners on second and third. Francona called on Papelbon to try to get four outs.  

Papelbon came in and on his first pitch gave up a two-run single to Juan Rivera to make the score 5-4. Reggie Willits came on to pinch-run for Rivera and got promptly picked off first.

I have no idea why Mike Scioscia has a man crush on Willits. Everytime I see this guy play he never does anything right. I’ll put him in the Brett Gardner and Carlos Gomez category until I see otherwise.

In the bottom of the eighth, the Red Sox even got an insurance run to make it 6-4 on a Mike Lowell single that scored pinch runner Joey Gathright. At that point, you definitely thought there would be a Game Four tomorrow night at Fenway.

In the ninth, Papelbon got the first two outs rather easily. He got Maicer Izturis to foul out to Victor Martinez and then got Gary Matthews Jr. flew out to Jacoby Ellsbury.

Then the nightmare began.

Papelbon had Erick Aybar 0-2 and with Martinez setting up for a high and inside waste pitch, Papelbon decided to throw a fastball right down the middle. Aybar promptly singled up the middle.

Papelbon had a 3-2 count on Chone Figgins and walked Figgins. That was the killer AB in this inning for the Red Sox. I am sorry, but there is no way on this earth you can walk Figgins in that spot.

He was o-for-600 in the series, can’t hit a HR, and he had looked clueless his last two AB’s. Papelbon can’t walk a guy like that.

Up came Abreu and you just knew Abreu was going to get a hit. I just want to say something about Abreu. He has proved me wrong.

I watched him for the last couple of years with the New York Yankees and what I saw was a guy who produced “empty stats.” He would always have great numbers, but I never thought he was a winning ball player.

However, with the Angels, he has become the leader of the team and their MVP. Just like with Izturis and Figgins, Papelbon had two strikes on Abreu. And just like with the two batters before, Papelbon couldn’t put away Abreu.

Abreu doubled off the monster and now the game was 6-5 Red Sox. Francona decided to intentionally walk Torii Hunter to get to Guerrero.

No complaints there. I would have done the same thing. Hunter is 3-for-5 with a HR lifetime off of Papelbon and Guerrero is a shell of his former self.

The move backfired. On the first pitch, Guerrero ripped a single to center and the Angels took a 7-6 lead.

I could have woken up in the morning with my upper lip stapled to my pillow and I would have been less shocked than I was when I watched what unfolded in the ninth.

Even when the Angels had the bases loaded, I still thought the Red Sox would get out of the inning. After all, if you have watched Papelbon all season, this was par for the course.

I can’t tell you how many times he loaded the bases during the regular season, only to see him get out of the jam. Today, it was not meant to be.

Listen, it was bound to happen with Papelbon. He can into this game with 26 consecutive scoreless innings in the postseason. He was bound to blow a save sooner or later.

Even Mariano Rivera has blown his fair share of saves in the postseason.

The Red Sox went quietly in the ninth and the Angels finally beat their arch nemesis in the playoffs. Going into this series, everyone talked about how the Red Sox had the advantage in the bullpen.

Unfortunately for the Red Sox, today their bullpen became their weakness.

John Lackey Shuts Down Lifeless Red Sox

October 9, 2009

This is why I put very little stock in how teams and players are playing heading into the postseason.

In John Lackey’s last three starts of the regular season, he gave up 21 hits and 12 runs in 12 innings pitched. Last night in Game One of the American League Division Series against the Boston Red Sox, Lackey looked like Ed Walsh reincarnate (it’s an obscure reference, but go look him up on Baseball-Reference.com).

Lackey dominated the Red Sox

Lackey dominated the Red Sox

Lackey completely shut down the Red Sox for seven and a third innings in the Los Angeles of Anaheim’s 5-0 victory. Lackey scattered four hits, struckout four and gave up zero runs in those seven and a third innings of work.

Was Lackey that dominant or were the Red Sox just lifeless last night? I think it was a combination of both. Listen, any great pitching performance will make any offense look lifeless.

However, I thought the Red Sox were a step behind the Angels all night.

For those of you who don’t watch the Red Sox on a regular basis, here is something you should know. With their offense–it’s all or nothing.

If one guy or two guys get shutdown, the whole team is going down with the ship. Which is really odd considering that the Red Sox have Jason Bay hitting sixth and JD Drew hitting eighth. Bay and Drew were one and two amongst AL outfielders in OPS in the regular season.

Last night, the whole team went down with the ship.

Outside of Lackey, there were two other stars of the games for the Angels. The first other star was, of course, Torii Hunter. Hunter delivered the big blow of the game with a three-run homerun in the bottom of the fifth against Jon Lester.

The way the Red Sox were swinging the bats, you kind of got the feeling that the three runs would be all the Angels would need.

The second, other star of the game for the Angels was Bobby Abreu. Both innings in which the Angels scored (the fifth and seventh) involved Abreu walks. He worked the count all night, saw a game high 25 pitches and walked all four times he was up last night.

Game Two is tonight at 9:37 ET. Is this a must win game for the Red Sox? I  think it is. It will be very difficult to win three games in a row versus the Angels, and in two of those games you have uncertainty with Clay Buchholz and Daisuke Matsuzaka on the mound.

One last note on this game. I am not one to blame umpire of referees for losses. It’s silly and just more of an excuse to blame the umps or refs. Well, unless it was the Los Angeles Lakers and Sacramento Kings back in 2002. We all know what went on there, but that is another story.

Did the umps help the Red Sox in this game? Absolutely not. They were not the reason the Red Sox lost. However, CB Bucknor should not be umpiring a playoff game.

How is this guy umpiring a playoff game? He is universally known as the worst umpire in baseball. As Peter Gammons said on Mike and Mike this morning, Bucknor looked “overmatched.”

Never a good thing for an umpire to be during a playoff series.

The Los Angeles Angels Of Anaheim Clinch Playoff Spot

September 29, 2009

With their 11-0 whitewashing of the Texas Rangers last night, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim clinched a spot in the 2009 postseason and their third straight AL West title.

If there was a year the Angels were going to stumble and not make the playoffs, this was it. They had the horrific tragedy of Nick Adenhart in April, it seemed like their entire starting rotation was on the DL in April and May, Brian Fuentes is their closer, their bullpen has been a mess all season, Torii Hunter has spent time on the DL, and Vladimir Guerrero runs like Mark Eaton at this stage of his career.

Abreu has been the Angels MVP in 2009

Abreu has been the Angels MVP in 2009

But under the steady hand of Mike Scioscia, the Angels stayed the course, played great baseball, and proved once again why they are one of the best run organizations in baseball.

The Angels organization has gotten to a point where they can lose Mark Teixeira in the offseason, plug in Kendry Morales, and Morales turns in an MVP season. Next year, when they lose Chone Figgins to free agency, they will probably plug in Brandon Wood and I am guessing Wood comes through with a big year.

My point is that the Angels have become an organization of interchangeable parts. No matter who they plug in, they believe that person will succeed.

That is the mark of a great organization.

Going into the playoffs the Angels biggest concern is their bullpen. It’s usually their offense which is the concern, but not this year. Their offense, led by Bobby Abreu and the before mentioned Figgins is just fine.

But unlike in past years, this year their bullpen is the Angels biggest problem. I have a hard time believing Brian Fuentes is a championship closer. I also have a hard time believing Darren Oliver can get a lefty out in a big spot in the postseason.

However, like past years the Angels will play the Boston Red Sox in the ALDS. Can the Angels finally beat the Red Sox in the first round of the playoffs?

It remains to be seen.