I certainly picked a perfect time to start the blog back up. I’d like to first apologize for being away from the blog since Spring Training. I’ve been working on a couple of minor projects that have kept me from committing to writing on a full time basis. That said, I now have the time to kick-start this sucker back up. So here goes nothing…
It turned out to be a pretty good weekend for the Halos in Seattle. Coming off a 1-5 home stand (Houston/Cleveland) and in the midst of a 4-game losing streak, the last thing you wanted to see kicking off the road trip was Felix Hernandez getting the start after he had been knocked around in his previous one by the Rangers. What we ended up with on Friday was a pretty good pitching matchup as Garrett Richards was more than up to the task.
The one thing that stood out with Richards was the fact he put himself in many ‘hitters counts’, while still managing to get back “into” counts and finishing things off (he threw 1st pitch strikes to just 9 of the 26 batters he faced). While his fastball command was a little off, his breaking ball was fantastic. He picked up four strikeouts on the night with two of them looking (Kyle Seager and Raul Ibañez after falling behind in the count and then dropping the hammer on them on 3-2).
With each passing start, we continue to see the maturation process of a big league starter. Richards threw the ball well out of spring training and the back and forth during the early part of the season (from bullpen to the rotation and back) seemed to get him out of whack. But since re-joining the rotation, he looks a lot more comfortable and at-ease with the task at hand. Interesting stat on Richards: In his previous 5 starts, Richards in ODD innings had allowed 12 earned runs in 17 innings pitched (6.35 ERA) with opponents hitting .343 against him and in EVEN innings, he had allowed 0 earned runs in 15 innings pitched (that would be a 0.00 ERA) with opponents hitting just .167 (STATS LLC). To me, the shows a pattern of letting down and not being able to continue what he started in the previous inning. I bring it up because on Friday we didn’t even come close to seeing any of that develop. He stepped up like a bulldog and locked horns with King Felix and came out with his 4th win of the season.
On Saturday night, it was about the return of Jason Vargas to face his former team. Vargas was coming off a pretty decent start against the Indians in which he allowed 3 runs in 5 1/3 innings in an eventual no-decision. On Saturday he had his change-up working, picking up 5 K’s in 6 1/3 while allowing just one run. Mike Trout helped Vargas out early, homering early to put the Angels up in the 1st and the lefty made it that stand up.
It’s been a weird season for Vargas. He started the season slowly, absolutely dealt in the month of May (A.L. Pitcher of the Month) to making just 3 starts in June before having to be shut down due to the blood clot issue. Saturday’s start was his 3rd in August and while he’s just 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA this month, I think he’ll continue to get stronger over the next 5 weeks before hitting free agency this winter. Personally speaking, I’d love to have the lefty back in this rotation. Great guy and competitor and I love the fact he throws from the “other” side.
On Sunday, it was all about the “ace” and the 2-out hit. The Angels went into Sunday’s game looking for the sweep (their first since June – Detroit & Houston) and they had Jered Weaver on the bump. Weaver had not pitched well at Safeco in his last 3 starts but he certainly had it working today. The only blemish for Weaver was the Dustin Ackley HR in the 2nd inning that gave the Mariners a 1-0 lead. From that point on, Weaver went old-school…8 K’s with 0 walks in picking up his 8th win of the year.
Of course, Weaver did finally receive some run support in Seattle this time around. In his previous 3 start at Safeco, he had a total of 0 runs of support. That wasn’t the case on Sunday as the Angels struck for 4 in the 4th off Aaron Harang and then tacked on 3 more against the M’s starter to provide the Angels enough for the sweep.
As many know, the Angels have struggled for a good chunk of the season with RISP (runners in scoring position). That hadn’t changed much over the weekend. As a matter of fact, the Angels were 1 for 10 with RISP through the 1st two games of the series and yet won those games. It’s the old adage…if you pitch and play defense, you usually have a good chance of winning games and the Angels did. On Sunday, it was the 2-out hit that was prevalent for this team as 10 of the 14 hits they picked up came with 2-outs and they finished 5 for 10 with RISP.
Like I said, it was a good weekend. Now it’s off to Tampa for a 3-game series that begins on Tuesday night (off-day on Monday). It’s never easy in St. Pete but hopefully the weekend sweep helps this team build some momentum on this long road trip.
One last thing…over the last couple of days there has been number of different stories about the Angels that have come out discussing things from the front office to clubhouse confrontations. All I’ll say is this, there isn’t a professional team around that doesn’t go through some sort of rift through the course of a season. If it’s something that’s out in the open (field/bullpen/dugout), then I understand it being talked about. But when things occur in the confines of the clubhouse (especially in a team meeting setting), then they should remain behind closed doors…it’s the point of a “closed-door meeting.” Oh, I almost forgot…if you’re going to speak to the media and offer stories and be quoted while doing so, then at least have the courage & professionalism to attach your name to it. That is all.
As always, feel free to reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Just livin’ the dream…