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Lackey Notches 100th Career Win

lackey 100

It seems like the milestones have come pouring in for Angels players this year.

Vladdy hits home run #400 of his career.

Vlad and Figgy get their 1,000th career hits in their Angels careers.

Bobby Abreu hits home run #250 and picks up career hit #2,000.

The list goes on.

This time, it wasn’t a positional player reaching a noteworthy milestone.

Staff ace John Lackey picked up his 100th career win on Sunday vs. Oakland in typical John Lackey fashion. He fired 8 innings of 1-run ball (the run he allowed was also unearned), scattering 5 hits and punching out 6 Oakland batters in a 9-1 rout in the Angels’ favor.

Lackey became only the 5th pitcher to garner 100 wins with the Angels organization, joining the likes of Chuck Finley, Nolan Ryan, Frank Tanana, and Mike Witt… that’s some pretty good company right there.

Lackey was drafted in the 2nd round back in the 1999 MLB Draft by the Angels out of Grayson County College in Denison, Texas, a team that Lackey helped win the Junior College World Series that same year.

Angel fans remember John Lackey being the young man who Mike Scioscia controversially made the Game 7 starter of the 2002 World Series, at the time he had just turned 24 years of age.

“Big John” threw 5 innings of 1 run ball (like his 100th win, the run was also unearned), helping catapult the Angels to their first World Championship in franchise history. Lackey became the first rookie pitcher to win a World Series Game 7 since Babe Adams of the 1909 Pittsburgh Pirates (roughly 93 years if you’re counting, give or take a few days).

The two seasons following the ’02 championship run would be difficult for Lackey. He was on the losing ended 29 times during the course of the 2003 and 2004 seasons, with ERAs of 4.63 and 4.67 respectively.

But 2005 would be Lackey’s turning point in his career. He went 14-5 with a career-high 199 strikeouts on the year, while getting his ERA to a respectable 3.45 mark.

He would continue to develop into a staff ace through 2006, and 2007 would be Lackey’s best season on the bump. He would compile a 19-9 record with a fantastic ERA of 3.01. He’d throw a career-high 224 innings and strike out a total of 179 batters and walk a then-career best 52. Lackey would finish 3rd in AL Cy Young voting.

The ’08 and ’09 seasons each started with injury troubles for Lackey, but he would remain (and continues to remain) a vital piece to the Angels’ rotation and deep playoff run aspirations.

Congratulations, John. Don’t stop now! (… oh, and even though your contract is up after this year, how about you come on back and keep winning more games!)

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Don’t Worry, We Got Your Back

figgy maicer

The morning of July 10th seemed like the Angels’ 2009 fortunes were going to take another turn for the worst, and reasonably so.

Torii Hunter and Vladimir Guerrero, the Angels’ hottest hitter on the season and their .300+ avg., 30+ homer, 100+ RBI man respectively were placed on the Disabled List. Neither was expected back until sometime in August (expected to miss roughly 20 games, potentially more barring setbacks).

Their consolation? A 3-game series with the New York Yankees before the All-Star Break.

Fantastic.

They had gotten whomped by the Texas Rangers 8-1 the night before and had gone 4-5 entering the series with the Bronx Bombers.

The Halos had a record of 46-37 when Vlad and Mr. Hunter hit the DL, but for whatever reason, that may have been the best news the organization had received all year, believe it or not.

The Angels would go on to sweep the Yankees to go in to the All-Star Break with a 49-37 record, with the offense averaging just under 10 runs per game during the course of that 3-game set.

The Halos would have 3 representatives on the American League All-Star team in St. Louis in Brian Fuentes, Torii Hunter (withdrew due to injury), and of course Chone Figgins and his day-of-the-game addition to the squad.

Following the All-Star Break, the Angels would pick up right where they left off following the series with the Yankees, and that was hitting the ball hard, and scoring runs in bunches.

They would go 6-1 on a road trip beginning the 2nd half of the season, and would go 9-1 in their first 10 games of the 2nd half.

Until Vlad’s return to the lineup on August 4th, the Angels had compiled an eye-opening record of 17-3 that caught the baseball world’s attention. 10 of those games also were with the Angels’ lineup missing Juan Rivera, possibly the hottest hitter in all of baseball that many have never heard of.

How could they play their best ball all year without their regular 3, 4, and 5 hitters in the lineup?

In my opinion, most teams would go into a tailspin if they were without their 3 best hitters in the lineup. The offense would become anemic. They’d be lucky to post a 2-spot in the run column. You’d see that team slip farther down in the standings, unsure if they’d be able to make a late run at a division title.

Not this team. No way, no how.

First and foremost, winning 17 of 20 games without one of the lead guys in the MVP race (Hunter, who hit .305, with 17 home runs and 65 RBI before hitting the DL) as well as one of the most naturally gifted hitters the MLB has ever witnessed is a testament to one thing and one thing alone, the depth of the organization.

Torii Hunter’s out. Alright, time for Mike Scioscia to show his faith in Gary Matthews Jr. who had displeased the organization so much in 2007 that it made the Angels bring in Torii Hunter to relieve him of his everyday center field duties by Opening Day of 2008 (Matthews had hit a dismal .252 in ’07, one year following his All-Star year in Texas where he hit .313. He’d hit at any even worse .242 mark in 2008).

Vladimir Guerrero’s out. This was probably the most comfortable move for Scioscia to make considering Vladdy had been DH-ing the majority of the year. He gave Mike Napoli consistent at-bats as the designated hitter, and Nap came up with plenty of big hits, including a walk-off knock back on July 24th against the Twins (it marked the Angels’ 9th time the Angels had come back to win in their past 12 victories). Nap’s currently hitting at a .291 mark with 16 home runs, giving the Angels some great pop from the 5 or 6 spot in the lineup.

Juan Rivera’s out. Now time to really dig deep and pluck a head out of your selection of pine-riders. Now was a time to give the Angels’ notorious “guy who plays like once every 2 weeks” Robb Quinlan a spot in the everyday lineup for a small period of time. Quinny had been hitting a mere .222 in limited at-bats before being called to more often by Mike Scioscia. When the month of July had ended, Quinny had hit .350 for month (7-for-20) with 2 home runs, 6 RBI and 6 runs scored. That’s just Robb doing what he’s always done during his 6 1/2 years as an Angel, and that’s getting the job done when his name is called.

Another guy who had to be called upon was Reggie Willits, who up until the New York series had started only 1 game over the course of the ’09 season. Willits, who finished 5th in Rookie of the Year voting in 2007 after hitting .293 with 27 stolen bases, hit the “sophomore wall” in ’08, hitting .194 in limited at-bats. Willits had a fantastic series in Kansas City, which featured him going 5-for-12 with 2 RBI, 5 runs scored, and a stolen base.

All of these players stepped up and picked up the slack for the aforementioned absent players.

And since we’re talking about players who have stepped it up, it would be impossible not to mention both Kendry Morales and Bobby Abreu, who both put together some monster numbers in July.

Kendry hit .326 for July, belting 7 home runs, and posting 20 RBI. His success would even trickle into August, where in the first 2 games played in August, he’d smack 3 more dingers. His hot hitting wouldn’t go unnoticed, as he would earn American League Player of the Week honors for the 1st time in his career during the week of July 27th to August 2nd. During that 6-game stretch, Kendry went 11-26 (a .423 average), blasting 5 home runs and driving in 13 runs.

As if it was hard enough to top hot hitting like that, Bobby Abreu one-upped KMo.

Abreu earned July’s Player of the Month honors after he hit .380, with a league-best 28 RBI for the month. Abreu also jacked what would turn out to be the game-winning homer back on July 19th against the Oakland Athletics.

Abreu’s 77 RBI ranks him 4th in the American League and 8th league-wide. His .322 batting average ranks him 6th in the AL and 11th league-wide. His .416 on-base percentage is 3rd in the AL and 7th in the MLB.

Let’s not fail to mention a few other players who have stepped up in a major way since the start of July.

Returning to the majors after a dismal start (.231 average through June 11th-last game before demotion to AAA), Howie Kendrick was ready to show that his ice cold start was a mere fluke. His July numbers let Angel fans know that the real Howie was back. Kendrick hit a sizzling .387, with 2 home runs, 15 RBI, and 13 runs scored in the 18 games he appeared in during the month of July. He’s now raised his average 41 points (currently hitting .272) since his demotion to AAA Salt Lake in mid-June.

And arguably the hottest hitter across all of baseball for month of July had to be shortstop Erick Aybar who hit a ridiculous .414 (yes, you saw that right, .414) over the course of the month. His totals for July were: 1 home run, 17 runs scored, and 18 RBI, more than double the total of his next highest RBI total for a month (9 RBI in June).

The Angels are currently tops in the majors in hits (1,062), with a league-best .289 team average (next highest is the LA Dodgers at a .279 mark). They trail the Yankees by 2 runs for the most runs in all of the MLB (averaging about 5.7 runs scored per game). Their .352 team OBP is 3rd best in the MLB.

A surprising statistic has to be that the Angels now rank 4th in the MLB with a .449 slugging percentage (they were 15th in ’08, 17th in ’07, 18th in ’06, 19th in ’05), and this was all after losing one of the most talented power-hitting sluggers in all of the game in Mark Teixeira, as well as the franchise’s RBI leader in Garret Anderson. The normally free-swinging “go ahead and give it a rip” Angels also rank 17th in walks taken after ranking 25th out of 30 last year (you can thank the plate discipline of Bobby Abreu and Chone Figgins for that). The Halos also have struck out fewer times than 24 other teams league-wide.

To really put in perspective how hot this lineup has been all year, take a look at the top 17 batting averages in the American League, and look at how many Angels pop up.

6- Bobby Abreu – .322 avg.

10- Juan Rivera- .314 avg.

12- Erick Aybar- .311 avg.

17- Chone Figgins – .305 avg.

That’s 4 Angels in the top 17. No other team currently has more than 2.

The depth that the Angels’ organization has prided itself in ever since the new millennium rolled around continues to pay dividends. Depth can help win championships, only time will tell if the Angels’ remarkably deep bench can contribute to a World Series Championship. At this rate, I can’t quite tell if another team rivals the Angels’ depth from player #1 down to player #25 on their 25-man roster.

The losses of Hunter and Guerrero over that stretch could turn out to be the biggest blessing in disguise in the history of the Angels’ franchise.

It’s not too often that a team can feel confident when they lose an MVP-caliber player and a potential Hall of Famer for a month due to injury. How many other teams can say that?

I can’t exactly speak for the others, but I can confidently say that the Angels can.

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4/26-Kendrick, Weaver Star In 8-0 Whooping of Mariners

hunter kendrickThe Angels came in to the game with a 1-4 record against the Mariners so far this season, and more importantly, a starting pitcher who had started the season in the initial 5-man rotation.

The Halos dropped the first 2 games of the series against Seattle with Shane Loux and Anthony Ortega (start was his MLB debut) as the starters on Friday and Saturday respectively, and Jered Weaver was the scheduled starter for the Angels on Sunday against former Angel Jarrod Washburn who had started the year on a tear for the M’s.

Weaver (2-1) was nothing short of brilliant, as he went 7 innings, allowing no runs on 3 hits, while striking out 5. Weaver now is 1-1 on the year against Seattle.

Washburn (3-1) got taxed early and would give up 6 runs on 8 hits in 5 1/3 innings of work, his shortest outing of the year. Wash would go 6 innings in his last outing against the Angels, giving up 2 runs on 4 hits in an eventual 11-3 Seattle win.

The Angels move to 7-11 and the Mariners drop to 12-7 on the year.

Game Notes

Howie Kendrick came alive. After his average dipped to .200 after the April 23rd game against Detroit, Kendrick is 6-for-11 in his past 3 games with 6 RBI. Kendrick went 3-for-5 tonight with 4 RBI, including a 2-run homer in the 2nd inning. He also would pitch in with 2 more run-scoring singles on the game as well, pushing his average to .258. This is the level that members of the Angel organization know Kendrick is capable of producing on day in and day out.

Jered Weaver put forth another sensational outing, going 7 scoreless innings tonight, while allowing only 3 hits. 5 K’s for Weav to only 2 walks, and he also did a good job of keeping his pitch count manageable so he could go 7 strong innings today. He got some run support today, and when the offense is good, starting pitching is good and bullpen is good (this may have been the first time that all 3 did well in a game this year), Weaver had the win well in hand.

Bobby Abreu chipped in with a 2-for-4 effort with 1 run scored and 1 RBI, raising his club-leading average to .375. I’ve been so impressed with Abreu to start this season, and for being a $5,000,000 off-season pickup, he’s been worth every penny so far.

Torii Hunter would go 3-for-5 on the day with 1 RBI and 2 runs scored, pushing up his average to .338.

The offense has been producing of late, scoring 8 or more runs in 4 of the last 5 games, after scoring 8+ runs once in the 13 games prior to that 5-game stretch this season.

The bullpen would really have had to implode in order to screw up this one. Scoreless innings have been hard to come by for Angel relievers, but Scot Shields and Brian Fuentes would each pitch a scoreless inning in this one… thankfully.

Chone Figgins and Kendry Morales each got the day off today from Mike Scioscia, as they are set to start up an 8-game road trip starting Tuesday. Brandon Wood took Figgins’ place at 3rd today, going 1-for-4 with a run scored and Robb Quinlan would also go 1-for-4 in Morales’ place.

Juan Rivera jacked his first home run of the year in the 4th inning off of Jarrod Washburn. Juanito is batting .309 for the year and seems to be hitting the ball the way he was back in that productive ’06 season.

Halo of the Game Review and Pick

4/26 Halo of the Game Pick: Bobby Abreu

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

Abreu has gone hitless in only 3 of the 18 games he’s played in this year, and leads the team with a .375 batting average after a 2-for-4 effort Sunday night. His plate discipline has been great and it seems like with him in the lineup, the Angels are drawing more walks instead of sticking to that free-swinging/”swing away whenever in the count” mentality that has gotten the Angels nowhere in the playoffs the past few years. Still searching for his first homer on the season, but he no doubt has had a huge impact on the Angels offense this year.

Current Halo of the Game Hit Streak: 4

Halo of the Game Season Batting Statistics:

15 G – .339 avg. (19-56), 2 HR, 9 RBI, 10 R, 4 2B, 0 3B, 9 K, 8 BB, 3 SB

Tuesday’s Halo of the Game Pick: Chone Figgins

The Angels are off tomorrow, and will now go on the road for 8 straight games, with a two-game set at Baltimore to start it off.

Go Halos!

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4/12-Vlad’s Late Homer Propels Angels to 5-4 Win

cleared benchesIt was Easter Sunday at the Big A, but in the bottom of the 1st inning, the game was nothing close to peaceful. Both benches cleared after Josh Beckett sailed a fastball over Bobby Abreu’s head while he was calling for time. Torii Hunter, Justin Speier and hitting coach Mickey Hatcher would all be ejected.

In the bottom of the 2nd with Kevin Youkilis batting, Mike Scioscia would yell something from the dugout at home plate umpire Joe West, only to be tossed on the spot.

Dustin Moseley would earn the win today for the Halos, going 5 2/3 innings while giving up 3 runs (2 earned) on 6 hits while striking out 3.

Josh Beckett would move to 1-1 on the season with the loss. Beckett would go 6 innings and give up 4 runs on 8 hits with 5 punchouts.

Jose Arredondo would allow no runs in his 1 1/3 innings of work, as would Scot Shields. Shields would load the bases with 1 out, but end up coming out of the inning unscathed, to set up Brian Fuentes for his 2nd save of the season in 3 chances.

Scoring Recap

2nd inning- After the Mike Scioscia ejection, Kevin Youkilis would hit a solo homer to left field, to put the Red Sox on top early on Easter Sunday, 1-0.

J.D. Drew would make it back-to-back jacks, hitting a home run to right field off Moseley to give the Red Sox a 2-0 advantage in the early goings.

3rd inning- With 1 out, Maicer Izturis would score from 2nd on a Howie Kendrick single into right field to pull the Angels to within 1 run. On the play, Chone Figgins would advance to 3rd base, and Kendrick would end up at 2nd on the throw (official scoring: Kendrick single). 2-1 BoSox.

The next batter would be Bobby Abreu, who would drop a single into shallow right field, scoring both Figgy and Kendrick to put the Angels from down 1 to up 1. 3-2 Halos.

5th inning- With 1 outs and Maicer Izturis on 2nd base because of a Josh Beckett balk, Kendrick would come through again with a single into left center, scoring Izturis, but resulting in Kendrick being tagged out at 2nd after trying to leg out his single into a 2-bagger. 4-2 Angels now.

6th inning- On a double steal with Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis on the basepaths, Pedroia would score and Youkilis would take 3rd on a throwing error by Angels catcher Mike Napoli. The Red Sox would now cut the lead to 1 with the Halos in front 4-3.

8th inning- In need of a little breathing room considering the way the bullpen has been in the early goings of the season, Vladimir Guerrero would belt his first homer of the year into left field. The Big Daddy’s solo dinger would give the Angels a much-needed 2-run cushion by a score of 5-3 with the Halos in front.

9th inning- David Ortiz would knock a single the opposite way, scoring Nick Green from 2nd base to bring Boston to within 1, but that’s the closest they’d get. The Halos win it 5-4, and take the series 2 games to 1.

Player-by-Player Recap

1- 3B Chone Figgins – 1-2, 0 RBI, 1 R, 1 K, 2 BB, 1 SB/1 CS, 1 LOB

Figgy got on base in 3 of his 4 plate appearances, which is exactly what Mike Scioscia wants out of his speedy leadoff man. Figgins would steal his 5th base in 6 starts today, as well as get caught stealing for the first time on the year. Not much else you can ask out of Figgins if he’s getting on base 75% of the times he’s up.

2- 2B Howie Kendrick – 3-4, 2 RBI, 1 3B, 1 R, 0 K, 0 BB, 1 LOB

Kendrick came up with 2 huge knocks today, in his first productive game since Opening Night. He would have 2 run-scoring singles that would prove to be crucial to the outcome of today’s ballgame. He helped turn 2 double plays today as well in the field and was instrumental to the Angels’ success in this contest. Good work, Howie.

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

Abreu’s one knock of the game was a big one, scoring two on a single of his back in the 3rd inning. Abreu would get the last laugh with Red Sox starter Josh Beckett, as he hurled one over Abreu’s head in the first inning, sparking both benches to be cleared. Abreu’s squad came out on top in today’s game, and his doinker into shallow right was a big reason why.

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

The Big Daddy would come up big in the bottom of the 8th inning and jack his first homer of the year to give the Angels a 5-3 edge, and that added run would be enormously important since Boston would counter with a run of their own in the top of the 9th. Vladdy posted his 3rd multi-hit game of the season today, and his homer would ensure the Angels of the W.

5- CF Torii Hunter (ejected in 1st inning, no plate appearances)

Replaced by: Gary Matthews Jr. – 1-4, 0 RBI, 0 R, 0 K, 0 BB, 1 LOB

Matthews had to step in for the tossed Torii Hunter, going 1-4 in a game that you kind of forgot Matthews was even playing in. Nothing spectacular, but hey, he was in the lineup in a winning effort. I guess $10,000,000 a year for being a 5th outfielder ain’t too bad after all.

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

Kendry was in the Easter spirit, as we found an egg in his hit basket today. Kendry put up an 0-fer today after going 2-4 in yesterday’s ballgame, but is still yet to make an error on the season at first base. We all know his talent at the plate, but his defense had been under intense scrutiny ever since the Halos brought him over from Cuba. So far, so good with the leather.

7- C Mike Napoli – 0-3, 0 RBI, 0 R, 1 K, 1 BB, 0 LOB

So Nap goes 3-for-3 with 2 home runs and a double yesterday, and the Angels lose. Today, he puts up an 0-for-3 showing and the Angels win. Reverse psychology maybe? Is the “less is more” theory in play with Napoli? Either way, Nap gets his first win of the year in his 3 starts, even though he did make an error that would cost the Halos a run. So go figure this, yesterday, Kendry and Nap go 5-7 with 2 home runs and 2 doubles, leading to a Halo loss. Today, they go a combined 0-7 and are winners. That’s a head-scratcher.

8- LF Juan Rivera – 0-3, 0 RBI, 0 R, 2 K, 0 BB, 2 LOB

Rough day at the dish for Juan, and that’s about all you can say. He’s currently 4-of-19 on the season at the plate with 1 run scored and 1 extra-base hit. Juan better get it in gear, because I don’t want to see Mr. Matthews Jr. inserted into the lineup with too much frequency… actually with no frequency whatsoever would probably be in the club’s best interest.

9- SS Maicer Izturis – 2-3, 0 RBI, 2 R, 0 K, 0 BB, 0 LOB

Mike Scioscia got a lot of production out of his 9 spot today, and Mighty Maicer would come around to score 2 of the Angels’ 5 runs on the afternoon. Maicer would make an uncharacteristic error in the 5th, but the Angels finally got some production out of their shortstop spot in the lineup today.

Today’s MVP

Vladimir Guerrero

His 8th inning blast would be a game-changer, and an ultimate game-clincher. The Big Daddy picked the perfect time for his first round-tripper of the season, because that extra run would be much needed by Halos closer Brian Fuentes in that 9th inning.

Halo of the Game Review and Pick

4/12 Halo of the Game Pick: Bobby Abreu

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

Abreu’s 2-run single in the 3rd would give the Angels their first lead of the game, and a lead that they’d hold on to for the rest of the contest. Abreu now is in a tie for the club’s RBI lead with 6 runs driven in, and has an RBI in 4 of his first 6 games in a Halo uniform.

Current Halo of the Game Hit Streak: 6

Halo of the Game Season Hitting Statistics:

.333 avg. (8-24), 1 HR, 5 RBI, 3 R, 2 2B, 0 3B, 5 K, 2 BB, 1 SB

Tomorrow’s Halo of the Game Pick: Erick Aybar

Tuesday’s Probables

Mariners: Carlos Silva. Silva went 5 innings, giving up 6 runs on 8 hits (2 of them home runs) to the Twins in his first outing of the year, picking up right where he left off the year before. Silva went 4-15 with a 6.46 ERA in 28 games for the M’s in 2008. The Angels offense hasn’t been overly impressive to begin the season, but they have to be licking their chops at the thought of facing a guy who serves up an awful lot of meatballs on the mound.

Angels: Shane Loux. Loux will be making his first start of the year Tuesday, as well as his first major league start since the year 2003. The 29-year-old right-hander was born in Rapid City, South Dakota and graduated from Highland High School in Gilbert Arizona. Loux was in the minor leagues between 2003 and his return in 2008, and now finds himself as another Angel with an opportunity to prove his worth as a valuable member to the Angels’ staff.

The Halos are off tomorrow as they travel to Seattle to take on the Mariners for a 3-game set.

Go Halos!

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