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Morales Tabbed As August Player of the Month

kmo august

Last month, it was Bobby Abreu who won the American League’s Player of the Month award.

Kendry Morales wanted to keep it within the organization.

The powerful switch-hitting Morales was recognized for a fantastic month of August yesterday, being issued his first Player of the Month award in his young career.

Minnesota Twins’ “Mr. Do-It-All” Joe Mauer finished 2nd to Morales after he posted some tremendous August numbers (.391 average, 8 home runs, 23 RBI).

Check out some of K-Mo’s numbers from 28 games played in August:

– .385 batting average

– 8 doubles

– 10 home runs

– 33 RBI

– .734 slugging percentage

His 33 RBI set a new Angels record for RBI in the month of August previously set by Bobby Bonds (31), a record that stood since 1977.

His RBI total also tied him with Ryan Howard (NL Player of the Month for August) for the most in the MLB during August.

He was tops in the MLB for August with that gaudy .734 slugging percentage.

Since the All-Star break, no player has driven in more runs than Kendry with his 45 RBI.

He had two outstanding games during August, with the first being on August 2nd, when he hit two 3-run home runs, posting a career-best 6 RBI.

He would match his top RBI mark again on August 28th as he went a perfect 5-for-5.

From start to finish, K-Mo has been en fuego.

On the season, Kendry’s hitting .313 with 30 home runs and 94 RBI, and his 69 extra-base hits is 2nd best in the American League behind only Adam Lind of the Toronto Blue Jays.

Manager Mike Scioscia strongly believes that Morales is deserving of MVP contention, and said, “If you take Kendry out of our lineup, I think you’re looking at a different offense.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself, Mike.

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Filed under Angel News, Angel Stories, August Game Recaps

Where is the Love?

kendry point

Entering this year, the departure of Mark Teixeira probably had a decent amount of Angel fans worried.

By Teixeira leaving Anaheim to sign a lucrative contract with the New York Yankees, and Casey Kotchman being shipped to Atlanta in exchange for Teixeira at the trade deadline in 2008, it opened the door for a capable, but unproven Kendry Morales to be tabbed as the Angels’ everyday first baseman.

Questions like, “can our offense possibly get any worse?”, “can we ever recover from Tex leaving us?” and maybe even, “who the heck is this Kendry Morales guy?” arose.

Entering the 2009 season, Morales had played in 127 games over the course of 3 seasons, while posting a .249 batting average to go along with 12 home runs.

Angel fans got a glimpse of what the big switch-hitting Cuban talent could do in Game 4 of last year’s ALDS against the Boston Red Sox when he hit a pinch-hit double off the Green Monster to start of the 9th inning in a 2-2 ballgame (which would end in Erick Aybar botching a suicide squeeze… you know what happens from there).

Kendry picked up where he left off with that at-bat, and has been absolutely scorching the ball throughout the entire 2009 campaign, which brings me to ask the following question, “where is the love?”

At this point, all you hear on TV or read about is “Joe Mauer or Mark Teixeira for the AL MVP? Who will it be?” and that’s it. No Morales. Not a hint that he’s even in the running for the MVP award. Nothing at all.

No disrespect to Joe Mauer, who’s put together an absolutely remarkable season (league-best .367 average and 1.044 OPS marks), and Tex who has definitely put up the numbers that Yankee fans have envisioned him doing (32 home runs, 101 RBI after Sunday’s game).

But what more do you want the guy to do? It’s hard to say that he’s been struggling at any point of this season.

He put together a career-best 20-game hit streak earlier this year. He had a 5-for-5 night a couple games back where he blasted 2 homers and drove in 6 runs. You think that would put him on the map? Nope, still no love for KMo.

Entering Sunday, KMo’s numbers look like this: a .309 batting average, 29 home runs, 91 RBI, 70 runs scored, 34 doubles, a .587 slugging percentage, and on defense (the big question mark regarding his game entering this season) he’s only had 6 errors (.994 fielding percentage).

Let’s stack those numbers up against the rest of the American League entering Sunday’s games.

His .309 batting average ties him for the 21st-best mark in the American League.

His 29 home runs ties him with Justin Morneau of the Twins and Jason Bay of the Red Sox for 5th most in the AL.

His 91 RBI is also 5th most in the AL.

His .939 OPS (on-base + slugging percentages) is the 5th highest in the AL.

His .585 slugging percentage is 2nd best.

His 65 extra-base hits gave him the 2nd most as well.

He’s up near the top for most of the power categories and it’s a shame how all of his accomplishments this year are somehow continuing to go under the radar.

Let’s get real here, Joe Mauer may just be the best player in baseball not named Albert Pujols. Not in a long, long time has a catcher come along and been able to hit like Mauer has in his young career (.326 career average, 2-time AL batting champion)… oh, and he’s only 26 years old. The sky’s the limit for this kid, and the MLB would be stupid to not begin to advertise the kid some more. He’s a player who just plays baseball the way it should be played, has no strings attached, and is easily likeable… that is, unless he’s torching your team that day, but that’s another story. He’s had an unreal year (.367 average, .435 OBP, 25 homers, 79 RBI), but his team isn’t even winning the weakest division in baseball. It just leads to the age-old argument: does it go to the best player on the best team or the league’s best player on a team that may not even make the playoffs?

Mark Teixeira has had an outstanding year following an early season slump that left many Yankee fans restless. Tex is too good of a player to stay down for that long, though, and I think all baseball fans know what kind of player he has been over the past 6 years. Tex leads the AL in RBI with 101, and his 32 home runs ranks 2nd behind Carlos Peña of the Tampa Bay Rays (37 homers). The two-time Gold Glove award winner has been exceptional at 1st base game after game for the Bronx Bombers, no surprise there. But it just seems that picking Teixeira would be the “sexy pick.” Pick the guy with the gaudiest numbers, yeah he deserves it. Not to take away from the season that Tex has been having, but if you were batting behind Derek Jeter and Johnny Damon, with Alex Rodriguez and Hideki Matsui among others hitting behind you, I’d sure hope you’re putting up numbers like that.

It’s almost as if it’s a David vs. Goliath type of situation. The Goliaths in Teixeira and Mauer are dwarfing Morales to the point where he may not even get MVP recognition by the media.

As much as I’m lobbying for Kendry to get his fair share of recognition, I truly don’t believe he’ll win the MVP award. I think Joe Mauer’s 100% got it in the bag. With the type of year he’s been having, I say how can you not vote for him? All I’m asking is that the baseball world gives KMo the respect he deserves for the season he’s been having, it is undoubtedly a season worth recognizing… especially for a guy in his first full year as an everyday player. Even 2006 MVP award-winner Justin Morneau of the Twins deserves some MVP race consideration with the year he’s been having as well.

But, hey baseball writers, all I’m asking is that you throw him a few votes, just a few! Don’t overlook our KMo!

To add to it, while writing this article, Morales hit a 3-run bomb with 2 strikes and 2 outs to put the Angels comfortably ahead 8-1 against the visiting Oakland Athletics. The Halos would go on to win today 9-1. Is that something that we haven’t seen from him this year? Nope, that’s what we’ve seen him do time and time again.

Maybe a little love shown now that he got that 30th home run? Maybe… just maybe.

As I had written back in the beginning of May in “(So Far) the Angels Look Like They Made the Right Moves“, “The future has a lot in store for KMo, and I truly believe that he could become one of the most productive offensive first baseman in the game in only a matter of years…. This kid’s gonna be something special, make no mistake about it.”

I can firmly say that I continue to stand behind those statements nearly 4 months later.

My final question that I’m asking to baseball writers is this: where would the team be if you removed that player from the lineup?

The Yankees would still be winning thanks to having 6 or more All-Stars in their lineup everyday.

The Twins would still not be leading their division.

The Angels would be nowhere near where they are today with the 2nd-best record in baseball.

That’s all I have to say.

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Filed under Angel Stories, August Game Recaps

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.

kmo abreu hk

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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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