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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Vlad Wreckses Texas: Angels 8, Rangers 3

Those inclined to drink deep at the wellhead of nostalgia got their fill and then some tonight, especially if, as we are, you happened to be season ticket holders attending both games. Tonight's big attraction before the game was Tim Salmon bobblehead night and another round of Salmonalia for those folks who missed last year's two-day farewell to number 15, an event that was handled well without crossing into treacle or bathos. Salmon's a fine player who owns the Angels career home run record, famously with 299.

Next on the list is Garret Anderson, with 241, but he got his in 7,441 at-bats, opposite Timmy's 7,039, meaning it's somewhat unlikely he'll surpass Timmy. But perhaps most surprising to me is that Vlad isn't even in the top ten. He certainly did his best in tonight's game, lifting a leadoff solo shot over the fence in the third for his 105th as an Angel, the 339th of his career. He's only ten away from surpassing Darin Erstad, and assuming he whacks thirty this year, he ought to muscle his way past Doug Decinces, and — some people will definitely enjoy this — knock Jim Edmonds out of the franchise top ten. It's been suggested that Vlad's on his way to Cooperstown, and of all the Angels I can think of, he's got the best pedigree; certainly the (now somewhat obsolete) HOF Monitor thinks he should be a lock.

As for the here-and-now of the game, once more it was the Vlad Show at the plate. Whatever worries I had about his health — well-founded or not — he sure snapped out of his spring funk, and went 4-4 with an intentional pass, driving in three and scoring a pair. It's all part of a long string of bedevilment this Angel has provided the Rangers over the years, including a 4-4 game on April 11, 2006, in which his plate perfection harmed the Rangers but little thanks to weak performances by Garret Anderson and Juan Rivera, and because all his hits were singles. But the Rangers, then under Buck Showalter, decided to beat up some on the Angels and starter Vicente Padilla (coincidentally pitching for the Rangers tonight) went after Vlad, plunking him on August 15, 2006, and later hit Juan Rivera. I assume it was some kind of retribution; in fact, it turned out that Padilla led the league in hit batsmen last year, and has been in the top three two other seasons as well.

Padilla didn't hit anyone today, though Kotchman did take an 88-MPH fastball to the ribs from C.J. Wilson. Kotchman never crossed the plate, but Shea Hillenbrand, who had a leadoff single just ahead of him, did make it home on Howie Kendrick's ensuing single. Perhaps the Rangers learned something about "pitching inside", as the euphemism goes.

Before I leave the game, I should also point out that Gary Matthews, Jr. had a fine game, too, getting on base all but one appearance, scoring two runs, and even knocking one in himself. He's starting the season on a hot streak, something that's good to see for your leadoff man. About the only real stinkbomb to mar the Angels' performance was Howie Kendrick's misplay of Eric Young's fifth-inning grounder right to him that took a funny hop, and subsequently allowed an unearned run.

As for the other fielding, Matthew, Jr. only made two putouts, and Kelvim mostly had his infield to thank or blame for the rest. Mike Napoli fielded Michael Young's swinging bunt in the third and threw him out on a great sprint from behind the plate; in the fifth, Napoli again had a chance to catch a pop behind the dish, only this time he didn't blow it. And if Kendrick had misplayed Young's fifth-inning grounder, he also had a hard time with a hot smash off Blalock's bat in the fourth that a more sure-handed fielder would have turned into two outs. On the plus side of the ledger, I should mention that the Ted Williams shift foiled Mark Teixeira twice. Positioning pays off.

Kelvim Escobar pitched an acceptable game despite walking more (5) than he struck out (4), and also despite radar readings that I never saw reach 90 MPH. Nonetheless, he must have been overjoyed to see his offense put up early and crooked numbers. So many games last year he got shafted thanks to poor run support. I hope he gets his speed numbers back up soon; it's probably part of the reason the Rangers hit him as well as they did.

Finally, I should mention we saw a scrum on field level, usually the last place you expect such things to happen; the miscreant, even stranger to tell, was wearing Angel red, and had been tackled by five police with even more security people standing around, as many as ten. We may hear about this in the police blotter tomorrow.

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Comments:
I was watching/listening to the rangers telecast and the gun was saying 91-95mph for escobar.

Fun game to watch either way. You gotta love the Rangers RF misplaying the ball pretty horribly on that cabrera line drive. I think it was Cruz? Anyway, it rolled all the way to the wall.
 
I was at the game and watching the scoreboard in right field show the pitch speeds. According to that, Escobar hit 94 several times early although he did seem to lose his velocity after the second inning.

Overall a very enjoyable game.

Nice to see the Angels, primarily Matthews and Kotchman, getting walks. Too many wlaks by Angel pitching last night but Spier and Shields were lights out.
 
I really hate using expressions like this, but it is just so perfectly apt: Vicente Padilla is Vlad Guerrero's little b*tch.

Padilla is really a gutless sissy.

I think it took him about 45 minutes just to pitch to Garret Anderson in the first inning, taking about 12 minutes between each pitch. Didn't I read somewhere that there's a new rule (or an older rule that was heretofore not enforced) requiring pitchers to pitch within a certain timeframe or a ball would be called? If they had been enforcing that rule last night, Padilla would have walked in about three or four more runs. Pathetic.
 
I was also at the game, sitting in the cheap seats in left. My wife asked the same question about Padilla's time between pitches, I believe that the new rule only applies when the bases are empty.

From my vantage point, I swear Padilla threw three pitches up and in to Vlad, very upsetting (not to Vlad). That didn't seem to bother Vlad, though, as he kept hammering the ball. I was hoping for some retaliation, too many pitches too close to our only big weapon. Was this simply due to my crappy seats, or was Padilla throwing too close to Vlad?
 
From my vantage point, approximately behind the plate (§416 to be precise), there was only one pitch that was really up and in...the one that drew the ire of the crowd.
 

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