Where do I begin? I was pretty content writing about the promising Opening Week the Angels had just concluded and then Sunday’s game happened. What in the what? It was crazy, unexpected, exhilarating & flat out awesome. I believe I mentioned not too long ago this team has something going for itself that I can’t put my finger on but whatever it is, it’s been fun to watch thus far. The Angels have had some wacky games during my first 7 seasons and even made attempts at comebacks in the 9th but what happened on Sunday ranks right up there with one of the best moments I’ve experienced as the Angels TV announcer.
Of course all anyone is going to remember about Opening Week is the final game of the series against the Mariners and they should. But there were 6 other games played during the week and it all began in Oakland a week ago today. The Halos split the four-game series against the Athletics and I thought it was kind of a mixed bag for both teams. With the A’s, you never know what you’re going to get. Somehow they seem to have the ability to bring an eclectic group of guys together year in and year out and find a way to battle you every single pitch, inning & game. This year’s edition came out swinging the bats like no other and using the long ball with some regularity (6 HR’s in the series).
The Angels had Rickie Nolasco, Matt Shoemaker, Garrett Richards and Tyler Skaggs start the first four games of the year and with each starter, there were some really good parts to go along with a hiccup here and there. In Nolasco’s case on Opening Day, it was just 2 pitches that made the difference…breaking balls that were hit out for HR’s. He had a really good sinker working and was surprised a bit to see him go away from it but overall it was an encouraging first start.
In Shoemaker’s case, it was his first time on an MLB mound since being hit in the head by Kyle Seager’s line drive last September. The Cobbler’s early fastballs were firm (lower 90’s) and that could easily have been attributed to the adrenaline that I’m sure was pumping. In the end, and as Mike Scioscia stated after the game, just a little too much traffic on the base paths for a Shoemaker game. Shoe ended up with a no-decision because of the Angels first 9th inning rally, their first of the year. Danny Espinosa’s 3-run HR on an 0-2 pitch off Ryan Dull put the Angels up for good.
We all know Garrett Richards came out of his first start because of a biceps cramp (he’s currently on the 10-day DL and will miss one start) but prior to his departure in game 3 of the season, he looked like the same guy we’ve seen before. There was no hesitation in his delivery and the baseball was coming out of his hand nicely. Mid to upper 90’s with his fastball and sharp tilt on his breaking pitches. It’s unfortunate his night was cut short but then again, he’s on a pitch count and would’ve been getting pretty close to the end of his night (76 pitches in 4.1 IP/4 K’s/1 BB/3 H). Credit veteran catcher, Martin Maldonado, on noticing the fact Richards’ was shaking his arm after his last pitch of the game. Wonder if he hadn’t, whether anyone else picked up on it or whether Richards himself would’ve said anything. Either way, best to be cautious now and not let things get out of control with someone who’s extremely important to this team. His teammates picked him up with the team’s first shutout of the season.
So on Thursday, the Angels went into the afternoon game looking for a series win and they sent Tyler Skaggs to the bump. Tyler made just 10 starts last year as he battled to get back from the Tommy John surgery that was performed a couple of years ago. Like Nolasco, Skaggs threw the ball well but had that one inning where things got away from him and he allowed 4 runs to score in the 3rd. That inning, coupled with Angels’ inability to solve Andrew Triggs, cost them the final game of the series, earning the split. Skaggs ended up going 5.2 IP/5 H/5 R/3 BB/5 K in taking the loss.
As for the weekend series against the Mariners? Well, I don’t know that I can mention anything about the weekend that won’t be glossed over because of Sunday’s miraculous win the in the 9th. The Mariners, with all of their off-season moves, have been picked for the post-season by some prognosticators. They’ve clearly stumbled out of the gate through their 4 games in Houston plus the sweep at the hands of the Angels but don’t sleep on the M’s…their offense is going to be good once it gets going. The Angels were simply better this weekend…11 hits in Friday night’s win (Jesse Chavez’ debut and W), 13 hits on Saturday night (Nolasco became first Angels starter to work 6 innings in a no decision) and another 11 hits in Sunday’s finale. During that stretch, Yunel Escobar had back to back 3-hit games and Albert Pujols not only picked up his first 3-hit game of the season on Saturday, but also hit career HR #592 in Sunday’s 9th inning to kick off the rally (Pujols’ 2-RBI 1B in his 2nd 9th inning AB tied the score at 9). This weekend, if it wasn’t one guy, there was another one waiting to pick him up and so far, they’ve rolled along in this fashion and that’s what good teams are capable of doing.
So the Halos are 5-2 after one week of extremely exciting play. Yes, it’s one week and it definitely beats last year’s opening week (2-4 v Cubs/Rangers). Who really knows what will happen down the road but like I’ve said before and I’ll repeat once again, NOBODY picked this team to do anything in 2017. So maybe if they play with this chip on their shoulder and continue to bond the way they have to date, it’s possible yesterday’s 9th inning won’t be the last of the memorable moments of 2017…jut remember, there’s a LONG way to go but I’m liking what I’m seeing.
As always, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Just livin’ the dream…
Cover photo courtesy of Angels team photographer, Jordan Naholowa’a Murph.