4/6-Saunders, Kendrick Carry Halos to Opening Day Shutout of A’s

Howie AbreuWho needs Mark Teixeira and Francisco Rodriguez? Well, after one game, the Halos apparently don’t. Angel baseball is off and running on a good note this year, as the Angels blanked the A’s 3-0 for their first Opening Day shutout since 1978.

Joe Saunders, an all-star and 17-game winner in 2008 got the nod from skipper Mike Scioscia to take the mound as the Opening Day starter, and he was nothing short of spectacular. Saunders pitched 6 2/3 innings of three-hit shutout ball en route to his first victory of the season. Saunders would walk two batters and strike out two batters as well in his 6 2/3 innings of work.

Jose Arredondo, who burst onto the scene last year with 10 wins and a 1.62 ERA would come in for Saunders with two outs and strike out Jack Cust to end the 7th inning.

Scot Shields would need only need 11 pitches to get through the 8th inning unscathed, and offseason acquisition Brian Fuentes, a native of Merced, California, hammered down the A’s in the 9th to earn his first save as a Halo and secure the Angels of their first victory of the season.

An interesting little fact here, the last time a left-hander was tabbed as the Angels’ Opening Day starter was back in 2002 with Jarrod Washburn. You may also remember that the Halos would go on to win the World Series over the San Francisco Giants in an epic 7-game series…. Let’s hope history repeats itself this year!

Scoring Recap

3rd inning- With 1 out, Howie Kendrick roped a single in to right center field, plating Jeff Mathis, who led off the inning with a single from 2nd base, as well as advancing Chone Figgins to 3rd.

3rd inning- With 2 out, following a Bobby Abreu popout, Vladimir Guerrero would ground one to the right of a diving Orlando Cabrera, who would glove the ball cleanly but throw a tricky two-hopper over to Nomar Garciaparra at first, who could not come up with the ball initially, allowing Vladdy to reach safely and score Figgy from 3rd. Kendrick would advance to 2nd on the play.

5th inning- With 1 out and no one on base, Howie Kendrick would blast a Dallas Braden offering up and over that high right center porch and into the stands for a solo shot, his first and the Angels’ first homer of the year.

Player-by-Player Recap

1- 3B Chone Figgins – 0-3, 0 RBI, 1 run, 1 K, 1 BB, 1 LOB

Didn’t do much with the bat today and was kept off the basepaths, but made a fine play going to his right and firing across the diamond, showing off his unheralded arm and defensive skill. The Angels always seem to be better off whenever Figgy scores at least 1 run in a game, and tonight was no exception.

2- 2B Howie Kendrick – 2-4, 1 HR, 1 run, 1 K, 0 LOB

Offensive MVP of the game no doubt about it. Kendrick is known for being a great line drive hitter, and I was even more impressed with the way he was utilizing the opposite field today. That shows the mark of a great hitter, and for a guy who hit .360+ routinely in the minor leagues, there’s no doubt that Howie will be contending for a batting crown in his career. Made an error in the 3rd for what should have been an inning-ending double play, but made up for it with the bat in the bottom half of the inning and in the 5th as well with that solo shot.

3- RF Bobby Abreu – 1-4, 0 RBI, 0 R, 2 K, 2 LOB

This was Abreu’s first game as an Angel, and in his first at-bat, he was everything I had envisioned and hoped for. He worked the count to 3-2, and followed it up with a nice base knock right over the 2nd base bag. The rest of the game didn’t quite follow his lead. 2 strikeouts and a first-pitch popout from a guy who is notorious for seeing as many pitches as any other player in the league wasn’t exactly satisfying. Played the part defensively, but I think Abreu will do a great job as a 3-hole hitter for the Angels this year as he can get on base, drive in runs, steal bases and hit for power as well.

4- DH Vladimir Guerrero – 2-4, 1 RBI, 0 R, 0 K, 1 LOB

With his 3rd inning RBI infield single, Vladdy passed Frank Robinson for the most all-time RBI on Opening Day games in a career with 19. The Big Daddy did a good job of going back up the middle and it was encouraging to see Vladdy leg one out, seeing that his off-season knee surgeries have held up (so far). Vladdy doesn’t have the legs that he used to back in his Montreal days, but he still sure as heck can hit. Vlad will benefit big time from having a patient, experienced veteran like Bobby Abreu in front of him instead of someone like Maicer Izturis plugged into the 3-spot as we saw last year from time-to-time.

5- CF Torii Hunter – 1-4, 0 RBI, 0 R, 0 K, 2 LOB

Nothing really special or noteworthy out of the gregarious center fielder today, but he did get a base knock. No errors in the outfield for the game, and tomorrow Torii will be presented with his 8th consecutive Gold Glove award for his magnificent play in center field for the Halos throughout all of last year.

6- 1B Kendry Morales – 0-4, 0 RBI, 0 R, 1 K, 2 LOB

Not the start Kendry would’ve wanted, but that’s why he has 161 more games to make up for it. I’m still confident that Kendry can produce at a high level, and as the season goes on, he’ll be belting home runs and driving in runs from the 6th spot in the lineup with solid regularity.

7- LF Juan Rivera – 2-4, 1 2B, 0 RBI, 0 R, 0 K, 0 LOB

Juan made up for the no-show of Morales who hit in front of him. He laced a nice double in the 6th, and pitched in with a single in the 4th. Not much action in the field for Juanito, but it’s an encouraging sign to see Juan hitting already, as he never was given the opportunity to get consistent at-bats last year and find a groove.

8- C Jeff Mathis – 1-3, 0 RBI, 1 R, 1 K, 2 LOB

Jeff Mathis’ first at-bat went for a base knock. Go figure. In the one time he got on base, he ended up coming around to score, but more importantly, he caught a shutout today. Mathis called a great game and just seems to be the superior defensive and game-calling catcher compared to long-ball hitter Mike Napoli. Jeff also made a great throw-down to 3rd base to get Mark Ellis on an attempted double steal. The throw was a little high and Figgins made a nice catch and tag on the play, but Mathis had a whole lot of zip on his throw, something the Halos haven’t seen behind the dish since the days of Bengie Molina. His defense seems to be a constant, but the hitting would just be an added bonus.

9- SS Erick Aybar – 0-3, 0 RBI, 0 R, 0 K, 3 LOB

Aybar couldn’t get anything going with the bat today, but played solid defense, and started an inning-ending double play in the 2nd, when the A’s were threatening with 2 men on base. Aybar had a strong spring and I think he’s going to be a solid hitter in the 9-hole for Mike Scioscia with his speed and slap-hitting ability. Plus, Aybar is as acrobatic as they come in the field at shortstop and has incredible range.

Tonight’s MVP

Joe Saunders & Howie Kendrick

Saunders was fantastic in his 6 2/3 innings of three-hit ball en route to a team shutout of the A’s. Kendrick’s RBI single in the 3rd was all the Angels would need in the run column, but he figured a solo jack in the 5th would put away the A’s for good. This is a good sign to see Saunders dominating early considering the fact that the Halos will most likely be without John Lackey, Ervin Santana and Kelvim Escobar for April’s entirety.

Dub’s Halo of the Game Review and Pick

4/6 Halo of the Game pick: Howie Kendrick

Stat Line: 2-4, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R, 1 K 0 LOB

So far, so good! Howie was the Angels offense in this one, so I’m sure glad I picked HK47 in this one.

Current Halo of the Game Hit Streak: 1 (Every time my Halo of the Game gets a hit, it adds to the hitting streak. No hits means the streak goes back to 0 of course)

Tomorrow’s Halo of the Game pick: Vladimir Guerrero (facing a righty fireballer tomorrow, much to his liking)

Tomorrow’s Probables

A’s: Trevor Cahill. The righty will be making his MLB debut tomorrow at the ripe age of 21. This is a guy who manager Bob Geren says could become a Brandon Webb-like pitcher in the future. Throws anywhere between 88 and 95 on his fastball and throws a hard sinker, which is his #1 pitch. The Halos struggled last year when they faced a kid making his MLB debut. Chris Waters of the Baltimore Orioles 1-hit the Angels in 8 innings of work back on August 6th of last year, en route to an Angel loss.

Angels: Dustin Moseley. Moseley steps in as the #2 starter on the decimated Halos’ staff to start the season. The 27-year old righty went 2-4 last year for the Halos while posting a fat ERA of 6.79 in 12 appearances. Moseley would go 0-1 in 3 appearances against Oakland in ’08, striking out 7, while giving up 7 runs in 9 1/3 innings pitched. Moseley is undeniably not your desirable #2 starter, as a matter of fact, I’m not so sure he’s even a #6 or 7 starter when all are healthy, but it’s up to Moseley to determine his worth.

Tomorrow’s game against the A’s is scheduled to begin at 7:05 Pacific time.

Go Halos!

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