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4/28-Angels Hold Off Orioles 7-5 in 1st of 2-Game Set

fuentes hunterJoe Saunders, a native of nearby Virginia, had around 20 family members in attendance at Camden Yards Tuesday to root him on, and he his squad was not about to disappoint the Saunders faithful.

Saunders came in to Tuesday’s game at a perfect 4-0 lifetime against the Baltimore Orioles, and remained perfect with today’s outcome. Saunders wouldn’t have his most brilliant outing of the year, going 6 innings, while allowing 4 runs (only 2 of them earned) on 10 hits, while punching out only 1 Oriole batter.

As I had mentioned in my article earlier today, the Angels needed to get good efforts from guys like Howie Kendrick, Kendry Morales, Chone Figgins and Mike Napoli to name a few, in order to be successful.

KMo, Figgy and Nap would each have two hits on the game, and Kendrick would have a 2-run jack for the Halos en route to a 7-5 victory.

More importantly, the bullpen did a great job of closing the door on the O’s on their 1st game of an 8-game road trip.

Joe Saunders (3-1) would be the winning pitcher in Tuesday’s contest, while Adam Eaton (1-3) would be on the losing end after giving up 5 runs in 6 innings of work.

Brian Fuentes would notch his 4th save of the year in 5 opportunities after starting the inning with a leadoff home run to Adam Jones, his 4th of the year.

The Halos move to 8-11 on the year, and Baltimore drops to 9-12, losing 10 of their last 13 games.

Game Notes

The Angels became the last team in Major League Baseball to win back-to-back games. The Angels couldn’t quite seem to ring up consecutive wins until the 18th and 19th games of the season, but for the first time this year, the Angels have a quote-unquote “winning streak” going.

The Angels would knock 7 extra-base hits in this game (6 doubles, 1 home run), with 11 hits altogether. This marks the 6th time in the last 7 games that the Angels have collectively had 10 or more hits in a single contest.

Howie Kendrick had a big 2-run homer in the 4th inning off of Eaton to tie up the game at 4-4. Kendrick would only go 1-for-4 on the night, but his tater makes it back-to-back games with a home run. 8 of HK’s 16 RBI on the season have come in the past 3 games. He’s now the club’s RBI leader with his total of 16.

Kendry Morales would go 2-for-4 with 2 doubles, 2 RBI and 1 run scored. KMo hit a crucial 2-run double in the 7th inning to push the Angels’ lead to 7-4. Morales now has 8 RBI in his last 5 games, and pushed his average up to .275 for the year.

Lots of Angels with a multi-hit game today, 4 to be exact.

Chone Figgins went 2-for-3 with 2 walks, 2 runs scored and 2 stolen bags. Mighty Maicer would go 2-for-5, with 2 runs scored and 1 RBI. The aforementioned Kendry Morales would go 2-for-4 with 2 RBI and a run scored. And lastly, Mike Napoli would go 2-for-4 as well.

The bullpen would finally look 90% competent. Not all the way, but I’d say about 90%.

Jose Arredondo would pitch a scoreless 7th inning, surrendering only 1 hit and striking out 2 Oriole hitters.

Scot Shields (…gulp) oddly enough wouldn’t even give up a hit in the 8th, but would end up walking 1 batter. More importantly, Shieldsy didn’t give up a run… and that now pushes his ERA below 10.00! Yay! Now that’s some progress/change that he can believe in.

Brian Fuentes would allow a leadoff home run in the 9th inning to an emerging player in 23-year-old Adam Jones. Jones has been off to a scorching start this year, and I’m really thinking that this kid is going to have a special career. But on to the rest of the 9th inning, Fuentes would retire the 3-4-5 hitters in Nick Markakis, Aubrey Huff and Melvin Mora, to end the game and give the Angels the 7-5 W.

The overall plate discipline from the leadoff spot to the 9-hole hitter is improving. The Angels drew 6 walks today, an overwhelming amount by Angels standards. This is a team that has had the free-swinging mentality ever since Mike Scioscia became the Halos’ skipper back in 2000. Bobby Abreu has been known throughout his career as being a guy who sees more pitches per at-bat on average than any other hitter in the league, and his eye at the plate is beginning to rub off on other guys. Chone Figgins drew only 62 walks as the leadoff hitter in 116 games last year, but this year he’s drawn 14 walks in a mere 18 contests, allowing Scioscia to let Figgy run free on the basepaths much more often.

Halo of the Game Review and Pick

4/28 Halo of the Game Pick: Chone Figgins

Stat Line: 2-3, 0 RBI, 2 R, 1 2B, 2 BB, 0 K, 0 LOB, 2 SB

Figgy got on base in 4 of his 5 plate appearances in Tuesday’s game (2 hits, 2 walks), and was able to swipe 2 bags, making him 9-for-10 in steal attempts on the year. He set the table today by getting on base, and was able to score twice, and it’s a documented fact that the Angels have a higher probability of winning if Figgins scores at least 1 run in a game compared to not scoring. Great game today on the part of Figgy.

Current Halo of the Game Hit Streak: 5 (season-high – 8 games)

Halo of the Game Season Batting Statistics

16 G – .356 avg. (21-59), 2 HR, 9 RBI, 12 R, 5 2B, 0 3B, 9 K, 10 BB, 5 SB

Tomorrow’s Halo of the Game Pick: Kendry Morales

Tomorrow’s Probables

Baltimore will send out 34-year-old Japanese right-hander Koji Uehara (4 starts: 2-1, 4.56 ERA). Uehara is labeled as a rookie despite being 34 years old, due to this being his 1st year in the MLB after spending the last 10 seasons as a member of the Yomiuri Giants. Uehara put together an impressive record of 112-62 with an ERA of 3.01 in those 10 seasons in the Japanese League.

The Halos tabbed Matt Palmer (1 start: 1-0, 6.00 ERA) as tomorrow’s starter. The 30-year-old journeyman Palmer went 6 innings in his first career start with the Angels against Detroit, giving up 4 earned runs in an eventual 10-5 Angel win last Thursday.

Tomorrow’s day game in Baltimore against the Orioles is scheduled for 9:35 a.m. Pacific time (12:35 p.m. Eastern). I’ll still be asleep, but I’m hoping I can wake up to Angel win!

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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1 day until Angels’ Season Opener

vladdy2Opening Day is now upon us! I can’t wait for the Angels to get their season off and running tomorrow. I am pretty encouraged from the numbers that the Halos have put up from this year’s Spring Training. The thing I was most impressed with was their offensive efficiency. We had been accustomed to seeing the Angels put up 10+ hits in a given game and only manufacture 2, maybe 3 runs a contest. This spring, the Angels put together a league-best record of 26-8, manufacturing,  just under 8 runs per game and scoring double digit runs in 10 contests. For a player breakdown, here are some of the players who have impressed me this spring, as well as those who left something to be desired from them.

Impressive:

Kendry Morales – 1B – Spring Stat Line: 85 ABs/.400 avg./3 HR/17 RBI/11 2B/2 3B/18 R

After the Halos lost first baseman Mark Teixeira and his fat contract in free agency to the big-name free agent black hole that is the New York Yankees, Kendry Morales now had his shot to step in as an everyday first baseman. He had been playing behind Casey Kotchman and Teixeira, leaving him virtually no shot at getting an everyday starting role until now. Kotch got sent to the Braves in the Teixeira mid-season rental deal and now Tex is off getting millions in NYC, but Kendry had put together an impressive spring to where Halo fans may feel just fine with Morales over Big Tex. He is a fine, young talent at only 25 years of age, and hits for power from both sides of the dish, something you don’t come across to often. I’m looking for KMo to show the baseball world the talent and promise that the Halos have seen all along. Heck, Mike Scoscia even said, “If we’re wrong on this guy, then it will be the worst miss we’ve ever had here.”

Erick Aybar – SS – Spring Stat Line: 54 ABs/.407 avg./3 HR/11 RBI/3 3B/15 R/5 SB

We all remember how the Angels got eliminated from the postseason last year. The botched suicide attempt. …Yeah let’s just move on from that. That’s been Erick Aybar’s mentality, and the stats don’t lie. The kid’s been doing great at the plate and has as much range in the field as any shortstop I’ve ever seen. Aybar lobbied for the starting job last year with the versatile Maicer Izturis, and that would be the case again heading in to Opening Day. We will have to wait and see tomorrow night whether or not Erick or Maicer will get the nod at short for the season opener, but Aybar made a strong case for manager Mike Scioscia to give him the job off the bat.

Jeff Mathis – C – Spring Stat Line: 53 ABs/.340 avg./4 HR/13 RBI/6 2B/14 R

Mathis, to put it lightly, has struggled mightily with the bat in his big league appearances. Mathis and the word “strikeout” have pretty much gone hand-in-hand whenever he’s been at the dish for the Halos. However, Mathis calls a great game, and last year, compared to Mike Napoli’s starts, Mathis would allow one whole run fewer than Napoli. This means, say Napoli’s pitchers had an ERA of 4 whenever he starts at catcher, that means that Mathis’s pitchers would have an ERA of 3 on his starts. Coming from a catcher himself, Halos’ skipper Mike Scioscia said, “If you string out 162 games, and you have one catcher who’s giving up one run a game less. As net runs go, he’s 162 runs ahead. There’s a defensive aspect of catching we pay a lot of attention to. I think a catcher will influence a game more with his defense than he will with his four at-bats.” Now that Mathis is hitting (go figure), and Nap had a down spring, (.179 average, striking out nearly once every three at-bats) I’m hoping that Mathis will get the opening day job, but Scioscia loved platooning the two in for one another last year. Hopefully it can just be one guy this year, but we’ll have to see how the season unfolds for both Jeff and Nap.

Other solid springs:

Brandon Wood – SS/3B – Spring Stat Line: 59 ABs/.322 avg/4 HR/13 RBI/5 2B/14 R

Played solid defense at third and short this spring, and like Mathis, had always seemed to have trouble with the bat at the big league level. Hit very well over the course of this spring training, but did not make the Opening Day 25-Man roster.

Howie Kendrick – 2B – Spring Stat Line: 62 ABs/.339 avg/2 HR/13 RBI/4 2B/15 R

One of the most gifted hitters to ever come through the Halos’ farm system, Kendrick continues to produce. Kendrick played well last year, hitting .306 with 26 doubles in 92 games, but injuries haven’t allowed him to play more than 100 games in a season since he’s been given the starting role at second.

Chone Figgins – 3B/utility – Spring Stat Line: 71 ABs/.380 avg./1 HR/10 RBI/2 3B/17 R/9 SB

Still one of the biggest threats on the basepaths in all of the Major Leagues, Figgy is still getting it done. He plays sensational defense anywhere on the field, whether it be at third, second, or in the outfield, and just has a knack of “hitting it where they ain’t.” Chone should be getting the Opening Day start at third, as he has the past few years.

Is that all you got?

Juan Rivera – OF – Spring Stat Line: 61 ABs/.230 avg./1 HR/12 RBI/3 2B/6 R

Come on now, you’re telling me a big guy like Juan Rivera slugs the same amounts of home runs in Spring Training as Chone Figgins? Sweet lord, Juan, we all know you can do better than that. Juan is still a guy with a cannon arm in the outfield, but it remains uncertain if he or Vlad will hold down the DH spot. If Juan can get a full season of hitting under his belt, he may be able to replicate and eclipse his impressive ’06 numbers (.310 avg./23 HR/85 RBI/27 2B in 124 games).

Mike Napoli – C – Spring Stat Line: 39 ABs/.179 avg/3 HR/9 RBI/1 2B/8 R

Nap has never been one to hit for a high average. He just blasts those long bombs from time-to-time. Not as good of a defensive catcher as Mathis, but certainly has had the edge on Jeff with the bat. Last year, Napoli hit .273 with 20 homers, whereas Mathis hit a dismal .194 with 9 homers in 16 more starts than Napoli. We all know the power is there, and Nap had as good of an eye at the plate as anyone in the line-up last year with the 2-month exception of Mark Teixeira, it just all depends on Scioscia’s grand scheme of things when it comes to divvying up starts between Mathis and Napoli.

Gary Matthews Jr. – OF – Spring Stat Line: 41 ABs/.244 avg/2 HR/12 RBI/2 2B/8 R

Always has been lauded for his defense, but ever since his one all-star year in Texas (which inclined the Halos to offer him a 5-year, $50 million contract), he has not done so hot with the stick. This spring is no exception. Now in the third year of that ridiculously fat contract, and $33 million still to be paid to the order of Mr. Matthews, things looked bleak for the former Gold Glover as he was given permission to leave camp for a day. Matthews said he was not told he was being traded, but Mike Scioscia said of the whole situation, “Gary has made it clear to us that he wants to play every day, but right now, that’s not where we’re at.” If he’s in the Opening Day plans, God help us all.

It’s been a great Spring Training for the Halos, but now it’s time to move on to the season that counts.

The Halos open tomorrow against the division rival Oakland Athletics at 6:05 Pacific time at the Big A.

Tomorrow’s probables are:

A’s: Dallas Braden – last year’s record: 5-4/4.14 ERA/19 games, 10 starts

Angels: Joe Saunders – ’08 All-Star selection – last year’s record: 17-7/3.41 ERA/31 games, 31 starts/1 CG

Go Halos!

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