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4/8-Oakland Rallies for Six Runs in Final Two Innings, Angel Bullpen Falters Again

nomarIf only this one could’ve ended after 7 innings. The A’s were held scoreless through the first 7 frames, but found a way to manufacture 6 runs in the final two innings to come out with a 6-4 win, moving to 2-1 on the season.

The Halos, meanwhile, would take a 4-run lead into the 8th inning, only to have Oakland put up 3 in the inning to move it to 4-3.

Brian Fuentes would come in to try to close it out in the 9th and would get two outs relatively quickly. Kurt Suzuki would tap a little dribbler down the first base line, but Napoli did not call off a charging Brian Fuentes, leading to no out on the play. Nomar Garciaparra would pinch hit and single in the game-tying run. Mark Ellis and Matt Holliday would follow Garciaparra’s lead and hit back-to-back run-scoring singles, to give Oakland a 6-4 lead heading into the Halos’ final AB’s.

The Angels would be unable to muster up a noteworthy rally and drop the game by a score of 6-4.

It’s unfortunate because Angels starter Nick Adenhart rebounded from a shaky 1st inning, and would throw 6 innings of scoreless baseball, scattering 7 hits, walking 3 batters and striking out 5. I was impressed with the way of how he performed under pressure situations, especially when he dug himself into some pretty deep holes. But, he got out of them and remained composed, and overall I was really impressed with the way he performed, and I’m looking forward for what the future has in store for this kid.

Scoring Recap

4th inning- With no outs, Juan Rivera knocked a base hit into right center, scoring Torii Hunter who led the inning off with a base knock, and also advancing Kendry Morales to 2nd base. Angels up 1-0.

Following up Rivera’s knock, Mike Napoli would club one into right center for a double after center fielder Rajai Davis couldn’t quite glove the deep knock. Kendry Morales would score on the play, and Juan Rivera would end up on 3rd. Angels now make it 2-0.

Erick Aybar would bat next and hit a sacrifice fly to center field to bring in Rivera. The Halos would be done scoring for the inning, but lead the game 3-0.

7th inning- After Chone Figgins walked to start the inning, he then stole 2nd and advanced to 3rd on a throwing error by catcher Kurt Suzuki, Bobby Abreu would lift a sacrifice fly into right field to score Figgy, making it a 4-0 Halo advantage.

8th inning- From here on out, it would be all Oakland. Following two singles against Jose Arredondo to start the inning, Scot Shields would come in to the game, strike out the first batter he faced, and then allow Mark Ellis to ground into a run-scoring fielder’s choice to 3rd base. Chone Figgins chose to throw home when he could’ve gone across the diamond to get an out but elected not to. This would bite the Angels in the behind later on.

With two outs, leadoff man Ryan Sweeney, who would go 3-5 for the game, would lace a single to center field, scoring both Kurt Suzuki and Mark Ellis, cutting the Angel lead to 1, by a score of 4-3 after 8 innings.

9th inning- Brian Fuentes would come in to try to get the save, and would end up recording two outs until Kurt Suzuki would tap one down the first base line for an infield single. This was a ball where Mike Napoli should have called off Fuentes and thrown to first, but instead neither player would be able to get a clean grip and Suzuki would be safe. Nomar Garciaparra would pinch hit for Travis Buck and promptly knock a clean single into left field to knot the game up at 4.

The next batter was Mark Ellis who would hit an infield single to a diving Erick Aybar, who would have no chance of throwing out Ellis. Kurt Suzuki would score on the play, and Garciaparra would move to 2nd, giving the A’s their first lead of the game, 5-4.

Following up Ellis was big offseason splash Matt Holliday, who knocked a long single to center field, scoring Kurt Suzuki, and giving the A’s their second straight 6-4 victory over the Halos.

Player-by-Player Recap

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

Figgy would reach base in 3 of his 5 plate appearances, but still does not look like his normal self with the bat. He’s 2 for 10 to start the season, has 2 stolen bags in his first 3 games, so he’s still making the most of his limited on-base opportunities. Defensive decision-making in the 8th inning on the throw home was a horrible decision. With a 4 run lead, you get the sure out and let the run score, the Halos got neither, and that would just prolong the inning and ultimately, end up in a loss.

2- 2B Howie Kendrick – 1-5, 0 RBI, 0 R, 1 K, 0 BB, 4 LOB

Kendrick still couldn’t get anything going today, making him 1 for 9 in his past 2 games. Had that big Opening Day game where he was the offensive spark, but in the past 2 he hasn’t been able to spark up anything offensively.

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

Abreu has a hit in each of his first 3 games as a Halo, but is batting just 3 for 13 overall. He’s doing a good job of sacrificing runs in for the Angels who have not looked all that impressive through their first 3 games, but give Abreu more time, and if Figgy and Howie can start to get on base and give Abreu RBI opportunities, he will come through as he has year after year throughout his career.

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

The Big Daddy posted a nice, fat bagel across the board today, and actually swung at a pitch that bounced maybe 7 feet in front of the plate. Hey, that’s Vladdy though, he’s been known to golf balls off the dirt into the bleachers 400 feet away. Not a good game for him, but he doesn’t stay in offensive funks for too long.

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

Hunter continues to make good contact with the ball, but just can’t seem to find any holes in the defense. He’s putting good wood on the pitches he sees, and it’s only a matter of time for when a 1-4 showing turns into a 3-4 outing. Keep the faith, Torii.

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

Kendry has been the most productive hitter for the Halos through the first 3 (.364 batting average), but he must really want his 1-5 guys to start getting on base. Tonight, the 1-5 hitters went a combined 4-20. I think Kendry is still going to be the catalyst to this team’s success for the season, but you can only do so much when you have limited RBI opportunities. He’s done very well in his first 3 games in my opinion and has played adequate defense as well, and has had back-to-back multi-hit games.

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

Juan and Kendry had as many hits (4) as the 1-5 hitters had, and nearly half the total of hits for the entire team in this one. He made up for his 0-4 showing yesterday and looked comfortable with the bat tonight. He benefited from Kendry’s ability to get on base, and looked like the Juan that Halo fans got accustomed to seeing back in 2006.

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

Nap got his first start of the year tonight at catcher, and would hit a deep double into right center today for his first hit of the year. However, Napoli also showed me why I’d rather have Jeff Mathis in the game at catcher than him. Mathis just has better control of his pitchers and has better control of the game. Nap also allowed a stolen base tonight, Mathis didn’t allow any stolen bags in his 2 starts this season. Plus, Napoli’s decision-making ability is sub-par at best. Memo to Mike Scioscia: start Mathis tomorrow. Please.

9- SS Erick Aybar – 0-3, 1 RBI, 0 R, 2 K, 0 BB, 1 RBI

He currently has the honor of having the lowest batting average of any of the Halo starters thus far with a .125 average. Got his first RBI of the year, but hasn’t done much with the stick so far. His defense has been impressive so far, and has played flawlessly in the field.

Tonight’s MVP

Nick Adenhart

The 22-year-old righty had a shaky first inning, but would rebound to throw 6 solid innings of scoreless ball. His composure impressed me, and he has come along way from how he threw in the big leagues last year. Adenhart earned a win tonight with his ability to get out of jams, but unfortunately, the bullpen thought otherwise and tanked it in the final two frames. Starting pitching has been solid so far, but the bullpen is costing the Angels some early victories. Better early than late I suppose. But kudos to Nick for a solid first outing of the year, and I now can see how much promise there is in this youngster. His fastball was about 92-93 mph all game, and his curve at times was an absolute knee buckler… his future looks very bright.

Dub’s Halo of the Game Review and Pick

4/8 Halo of the Game Pick: Torii Hunter

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

Nothing special by any means out of Torii tonight and starts the season with 3 hits in his first 13 at-bats. Torii’s offense will pick up sooner than later, but he improved the HotG streak.

Current Halo of the Game Hit Streak: 3

Halo of the Game Season Hitting Statistics:

.333 avg. (4-12), 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R, 0 2B, 0 3B, 2 K, 1 BB, 0 SB

Tomorrow’s Halo of the Game Pick: Chone Figgins

Tomorrow’s Probables

A’s: Brett Anderson. The 21-year-old lefty will be making his MLB debut tomorrow, the second A’s pitcher to do so in this series. Anderson was a part of the bronze medal-winning team USA team at the Beijing Olympics. Threw one inning in the 2008 Futures Game in Yankee Stadium, a game which recognizes the top up-and-coming players in all of baseball. Anderson is arguably the top pitcher coming out of their farm system and some say that he has the ability, and the stuff, to become great in time.

Angels: Jered Weaver. Last year’s Opening Day starter for the Halos due to injuries to John Lackey and Kelvim Escobar, Weaver would end up going 11-10 with a 4.33 ERA, striking out 152 batters in 176 2/3 innings of work. The lanky 26-year-old right hander aims to get the Angels back on track, in hopes to salvage a series split with the A’s, who currently hold a 2-1 win advantage over the Halos.

Tomorrow’s game against the A’s is scheduled for 7:25 p.m. Pacific time.

Go Halos!

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4/7-Cust, A’s Get Revenge On Halos, Even Series to 1-1

suzuki a'sOn Opening Day, the A’s could only muster up 3 hits as a collective unit. Today, they more than quintupled that. Jack Cust led the way for the Athletics with 3 hits and 2 RBI en route to a 6-4 Oakland victory, knotting up the series at 1 apiece. Cust, Ryan Sweeney and Jason Giambi would combine for 9 of Oakland’s 16 hits in the game. The Halos, on the other hand, would manage 8 hits on the game, but would end up leaving 18 men on base.

21-year old Trevor Cahill made his major league debut for Oakland tonight, receiving a No Decision after throwing 5 innings, while giving up 3 runs (2 of them earned) on 5 hits. Cahill would also strike out 1 batter and walk 5.

Michael Wuertz, who would end up with the victory for the A’s, would give up one hit and strike out two Halos in the 6th.

Santiago Casilla would throw two hitless innings, and after Brad Ziegler would surrender one run in the 9th to make it 6-4 in Oakland’s favor, he would go on to shut the door on the Angels by striking out Vladimir Guerrero and Torii Hunter to end the game.

Scoring Recap

1st inning- With 1 out, after Figgins walked, stole 2nd, and advanced to 3rd on a Howie Kendrick flyout, Bobby Abreu grounded out to 2nd base, scoring Figgins to put the Halos on the board first. That’s Halo baseball right there, finding a way to manufacture runs. The Angels would hold the early 1-0 advantage.

2nd inning- After Jeff Mathis led off the inning with a double and got sacrificed to third on an Erick Aybar bunt, Travis Cahill would let one get away, and catcher Kurt Suzuki couldn’t body up the wild pitch, allowing Mathis to score, making it 2-0 Angels in the early going.

4th inning- Oakland finally gets on the board. Nomar Garciaparra started off the inning with a single, followed by an Eric Chavez groundout which would advance Garciaparra to 2nd now with 1 out. Jack Cust would lace a long single to right field, plating Garciaparra for Oakland’s first run of the game, and of the season. It’s now 2-1 Angels.

Kurt Suzuki would single up the middle against Dustin Moseley, giving the A’s runners on 1st and 3rd with 1 out. Travis Buck would follow with an RBI groundout to first, scoring cust and advancing Suzuki to 2nd. The score is now knotted up at 2-2.

The next batter would be Mark Ellis, who would knock one up the middle which would bring in Suzuki to give the A’s the lead by a score of 3-2.

5th inning- Vladimir Guerrero would start the inning by  reaching on an error by Jack Cust. He would be thrown out on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Torii Hunter, who would end up at 2nd after the play was over. With one away, Kendry Morales would slap a base hit into center, to tie it up at 3-3. Kendry received his first RBI of the year on the play.

7th inning- With reliever Kevin Jepsen relieving Dustin Moseley after throwing a whopping 105 pitches (70 for strikes) in 6 innings, he would surrender two runs, the first coming on a fielder’s choice to first baseman Kendry Morales off the bat of Eric Chavez, scoring leadoff man Ryan Sweeney and advancing Jason Giambi from 2nd to 3rd. The A’s would re-take the lead 4-3.

Jack Cust would follow that right up with a base knock of his own, scoring Jason Giambi from 3rd base. The A’s are now up by a score of 5-3, and that’s all they’d need.

8th inning- Veteran left hander Darren Oliver would relieve Jepsen of his duties in the 8th, but would also end up surrendering a run of his own. After retiring the first two batters, Oliver would allow a double to Ryan Sweeney and issue a walk to Orlando Cabrera, setting up an RBI opportunity for Jason Giambi. The hefty lefty Giambi would promptly rope a double the opposite way, scoring Sweeney to give the A’s a 6-3 advantage.

9th inning- Bobby Abreu would come up with 1 out and speedster Chone Figgins on 2nd, and nail a Brad Ziegler offering into left field, scoring Figgy from 2nd to make the score 6-4 with the A’s in front. The score would go final as such.

Player-by-Player Recap

1- 3B Chone Figgins – 1-4, 0 RBI, 2 R, 0 K, 1 BB, 1 SB, 2 LOB

Figgy finally got his first knock of the year in the 9th and would also get his first stolen bag as well. Chone would score twice and play flawless D at 3rd in this one.

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

Howie had a little Opening Day hangover today. Yesterday’s MVP of the game put up an 0-fer and was a complete nonfactor in this one, but did contribute to the eventual manufacturing of the Angels’ first run of the game back in the 1st inning, where he moved Figgins over to 3rd, eventually to be brought in on a Bobby Abreu RBI groundout.

3- RF Bobby Abreu – 1-5, 2 RBI, 0 R, 1 K, 0 BB, 2 LOB

Abreu earned his first Halo RBIs today, as he had an RBI groundout in the 1st and a run-scoring single in the 9th. 1-5 isn’t stellar by any means, but the fact that he can pull 2 RBI out of a 1-5 day makes his day slightly better. Because otherwise, a 1-5 day isn’t too impressive.

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

The Big Daddy got a base knock in his first at-bat and wouldn’t reach base via a clean base knock for the rest of the game (he would reach on an error and on a walk, however). Vlad didn’t have many potential run-scoring plate appearances in this one, and we all know Vlad’s capabilities with runners in scoring position. No need to fret over Vlad’s stat line when the 1-3 hitters go a combined 2-13 in front of him. He bats 4th for a reason, and if the guys in front of him can’t produce, there is going to have to be a lineup shift from Mike Scioscia (yes, I know it’s the 2nd game of the season, but if it doesn’t work out, things will have to change up).

5- Torii Hunter – 1-5, 0 RBI, 1 R, 1 K, 0 BB, 3 LOB

Nothing special from Torii today. His one base knock was an absolute rope back in the 1st inning that would go for a double, but he was unable to reach base in any of his final 4 AB’s of the game. Not a good sign when your 1-5 hitters go 4-22. Yikes.

6- Kendry Morales – 2-3, 1 RBI, 1 2B, 0 R, 0 K, 1 BB, 0 LOB

KMo was the only Halo with multiple hits today, and was the only other Angel outside of Jeff Mathis to not strand a runner on base (but hey, he didn’t have many chances to strand runners considering the way the 1-5 hitters performed at the plate today). Kendry would get his first RBI of the year today, and bounced back from his 0-4 day at the plate on Opening Night.

7- Juan Rivera – 0-4, 0 RBI, 0 R, 1 K, 0 BB, 6 LOB

Oh boy, not a good day for Juan with runners on board, but that was really the story of the Angels’ offense tonight in general. Continuing the trend of playing the opposite of how you did yesterday, much like Howie (better yesterday) and Kendry (better today), Juan put up a big ol’ goose egg in the hit department tonight. Only he and Howie went hitless for the Halos tonight.

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

Two-game hitting streak for Mathis now… must be a career long. Sorry, Jeff, but it wouldn’t surprise me. Jeff had a nice-looking double back in the 2nd, and would allow no stolen bases in this one. Doing his part so far from the 8-hole in the lineup, and any offensive contribution, in my opinion, is just a gift from God.

9- Erick Aybar– 1-2, 0 RBI, 1 2B, 0 R, 0 K, 1 BB, 1 LOB

Aybar had an 0-fer yesterday, but had a nice liner into right in the 6th that would go for a 2-bagger. No errors in the field today, and contributed with a sacrifice that would ultimately plate a run. Reached base twice in 4 plate appearances, that’s a great contribution from a guy batting last in your lineup in my eyes.

Tonight’s MVP

Kendry Morales

If “runners left on base” were a person, they’d have tonight’s MVP locked up, no doubt about it. Morales was the only half-way competent hitter in the lineup for the Halos tonight as he went 2-3. Dustin Moseley played the part tonight as a fill-in #2 hurler, going 6 innings and giving up 3 runs, while striking out 4, walking none, and scattering 9 hits. It could’ve been much worse for Moseley, but he threw scoreless innings in 5 of the 6 he went tonight, and surrendered all 3 of his earned runs in the 4th inning. Kevin Jepsen would blow it in the 7th in a relief effort, and ultimately give the A’s the victory after giving up 2 runs in that 7th inning.

Dub’s Halo of the Game Review and Pick

4/7 Halo of the Game Pick: Vladimir Guerrero

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

Not the best game for the Big Daddy, but he did knock a single through the infield in the 1st. But with that hit, he does extend the HotG hitting streak in the early goings of this season.

Current Halo of the Game Hit Streak: 2

Halo of the Game Season Hitting Statistics:

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

Tomorrow’s Halo of the Game pick: Torii Hunter

Tomorrow’s Probables

A’s: Dana Eveland. The 25-year old lefty will be making his first start of the season tomorrow, after compiling a 9-9 record last year in 29 starts, 1 of those being a complete game. Eveland would put up a 4.34 ERA in 168 innings of work, while striking out 118 batters, and walking 77. Hitters hit .269 off of Eveland in the 2008 season. Eveland came over to the Athletics from the Arizona Diamondbacks in late 2007 in the Dan Haren deal. He went 0-2 in 3 starts against the Halos last year.

Angels: Nick Adenhart. A talented and highly touted pitching prospect at the ripe age of 22 will be making only his 4th career start, as he made 3 last year. The righty went 1-0 with a lofty ERA of 9.00, giving up 12 runs in 12 innings of action. Adenhart struggled with his command last year in his limited appearances, walking 13 and striking out only 4. Adenhart had a solid spring, going 3-0 with a 3.12 in Cactus League play, and would issue only 5 walks compared to 18 punchouts. Adenhart brings a lot of promise to the table, and I’m interested to see how he’ll fare out in the bigs this year.

Tomorrow’s game against the A’s is scheduled for 7:05 Pacific time.

Go Halos!

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Offseason Review and Opening Day Preview

SaundersThe Halos and Athletics will open their season at the Big A Monday Night, with the first pitch scheduled for 6:05 p.m. Pacific time. Either the Angels or the Athletics have won the American League West division for each of the past 7 years, and 8 of the past 9.

Last year, the Halos ran away with the division, finishing with a league-best record of 100 wins and 62 losses. The A’s, on the other hand finished third at 75-86, 3 1/2 games behind the 2nd place Texas Rangers, and a whopping 24 1/2 games behind the first place Halos.

The A’s brought in one of the league’s best bats in Matt Holliday, but were forced to part ways with their young closer Huston street, a highly touted outfield prospect in Carlos Gonzalez, as well as pitcher Greg Smith. They also brought back former MVP Jason Giambi (who won it as an Athletic back in 2000), a solid shortstop and great character guy in Orlando Cabrera, and Nomar Garciaparra, a guy who can still put up solid numbers if he’s healthy (but he’s also a guy who has played half the season or less in 4 of the past 6 seasons).

The Halos, on the other hand, lost the free agency market’s most sought-after bat in first baseman Mark Teixeira to the New York Yankees, the single-season saves record holder and constant at closer for the past 4 years in Francisco Rodriguez, lifelong Angel Garret Anderson to the Braves, as well as a solid end-of-the-rotation starter in Jon Garland to the Diamondbacks to name a few. The Halos would end up re-signing outfielder Juan Rivera to a 3-year deal, bringing in former Colorado Rockies closer and a Southern California native in Brian Fuentes, extending starter Ervin Santana’s deal for an additional 4 years, bringing in a free agent outfield bat in veteran Bobby Abreu and let’s not forget to mention maybe the smartest move of the offseason for the Halos, extending skipper Mike Scioscia’s contract through the 2018 season.

This seems to be a year where the youngsters will determine how successful the Angels will be. Guys like Kendry Morales (the powerful, switch-hitting 25-year old first baseman who has some huge shoes to fill at first base as he takes over for Mark Teixeira), Howie Kendrick (a guy who has hit well in the regular season and improved his defense over the years, but has struggled mightily in postseason play), Jeff Mathis (a kid who calls a great game behind the dish for the Halos but has been almost an automatic out in each of the past 2 seasons) and even Brandon Wood (that is, if he can even get a shot at the Bigs this year).

Vladimir Guerrero isn’t getting any younger, and the Halos will be without their top three starters (outside of Joe Saunders) in John Lackey (elbow, out through April), Ervin Santana (elbow, out at least a month) and Kelvim Escobar (initially thought that he would be out through the All-Star break, but reports have it that he is months ahead of schedule after recovering from a torn labrum that forced him to miss all of last season). This marks the second straight year that the Halos start the year with Big John and Kelvim on the disabled list. Guys like Nick Adenhart, Dustin Moseley and even Shane Loux seem to be the frontrunners to take the rotational spots, all three are quite unproven heading in to this year, causing many to raise red flags in regards to the Halos taking the AL West crown again this year.

I look for the Angels and A’s to battle for the top spot for the majority of the season, and I really think the A’s are going to surprise a lot of people this year. If they can stay healthy, they may give the Angels a run for their money at the AL West’s top spot.

On to the Opening Day probable starters:

The A’s will send out Dallas Braden, a 25-year old lefty who has been continually sent up and down between the majors and AAA over the past 2 seasons. He was a guy who went in to Spring Training as the A’s projected 4th starter in the rotation, but pitched very well over the course of the spring, and due to an injury to their #1 starter Justin Duchscherer, an Opening Day start fell into Braden’s lap. Braden pitched in 19 games last year, 10 of them starts, putting together a record of 5-4 with an ERA of 4.14. Braden would tally 71 2/3 innings in the 2008 campaign, striking out 41 batters and walking 25. Braden has been pitching to contact much more of late, something that the Angels’ lineup will either live or die by, considering how many of the Angels hitters have that aggressive plate mentality. Braden went 1-0 in 5 appearances against the Angels last year with an ERA of 2.08.

The Angels also throw out a lefty in Joe Saunders, a guy who the Halos would send to the 2008 All-Star Game after an impressive yet surprising season. Saunders would finish the season at 17-7 in 31 starts, while tallying 198 innings pitched. Saunders would strike out 103 hitters and walk 53 over the course of the ’08 campaign. Make no mistake about it, Saunders’ strongest month of the season was April, a month in which he went 5-0 in six starts with a low ERA of 2.08. He would go 3-1 in his 4 starts against the A’s last year, with an ERA of 3.18, and is 5-2 in his career against Oakland.

Halo of the Game:

Whoever the “Halo of the Game” is, is an offensive player that I will be following for the course of the upcoming game, and after the game has ended, I will review my selection of the player with how they fared for the game. I thought this would be a fun game to play over the course of the year and see how my picks do. I will be keeping a tally of batting average, home runs, RBI, doubles, triples and maybe a few other categories. The first Halo of the Game will be 2nd baseman Howie Kendrick.

Go Halos!

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