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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Going For The Juggler: Angels 10, Mariners 6

Wow. An epic collapse, a slow-and-steady comeback, a lead erased, and a sudden, late-innings offensive outburst to grab a four-game lead in the AL West.

It's almost too dizzying to think about.

Look, Santana's implosion was hardly unexpected. No, this isn't his last appearance in an Angels uniform, because Salt Lake's schedule has only a week or so to go. What happens, he gets one Sunday start and comes back up? Would that fix him? Of course not. That's a subject for next year, but he's almost certainly out of the rotation after this game. He gave up a leadoff triple to Ichiro, and that really set the tone, for he only made his first out after facing six batters, ultimately giving up four runs on two triples, a double, a single, and two walks.

The Angels, of course, have seen five-run deficits before and not flinched, and in the postseason, too. But first they needed to shut down the Mariners and stop the bleeding. To rescue rode Dustin Moseley, whose 54-pitch, 5.1-inning game was nothing short of miraculous, facing the minimum in three different innings. As a result, Moseley is expected to return to the rotation as the Angels' fifth starter.

Meantime, the Angels girded themselves to the task of getting back in the game, a job started by Howie Kendrick's leadoff walk in the third. Jeff Mathis followed that up by plunking a single into right, but Jose Guillen then made one of those mistakes that Angels baseball is supposed to induce. With Kendrick breaking for third, Guillen's throw was offline and ended up ricocheting up into left field foul territory, and Howie tore off running for home, scoring the Angels' first run.

The Angels posted two more in the fourth on consecutive two-out homers by Gary Matthews, Jr. and Kendry Morales, two of the Angels' switch-hitters taking Jeff Weaver deep into the right-field bleachers. In the bottom half of the frame, Jeff Mathis threw out Kenji Johjima trying to steal, one of two baserunners caught stealing in the game. More impressive was his throwdown on Ichiro in the seventh: had Ichiro succeeded, the Mariners would have had their speediest baserunner in scoring position with their second-best average hitter at the plate. As it turned out, Jose Vidro struck out to end the frame with the score tied 6-6.

Matthews led off the eighth with a single followed by a stolen base where, as yesterday, he somehow missed a tag, and wouldn't you know it but Kendry cashed him in with a ball walloped in the gap. What ensued was an epic collapse of the Mariners' bullpen, perhaps partly due to poor usage: Brandon Morrow, recently struggling, then walked and singled the bases loaded. Rick White, who's been tough on Vlad (2-for-12 career), came in only to deliver a two-out, two-run RBI single. That apparently rattled him, because White then uncorked a wild pitch that advanced Orlando Cabrera and Vlad to third and second respectively. Who else but the Angels' Mr. Clutch, Maicer Izturis, came through with yet another RBI single to push OCab across, though it ultimately meant Vlad got caught at the plate.

And that, really, was the ballgame. Justin Speier was leaky but effective enough; Scot Shields put up another good game with two zero frames. Vlad went 4-for-5 with three RBIs, Kendry Morales went 3-for-5 hitting in the seven hole, missing the cycle by a triple, and even Jeff Mathis went 2-for-3. The sum product of all that offense is that the Angels get some real breathing room in the division race. The M's, on the other hand, have to contend with a 5-3 Yankees win that edges the Mariners to only one game atop the Wild Card standings. As Rex put it in the postgame wrap, tomorrow the Angels go for the juggler. I'm not sure what that means, but I like the sound of it.

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What do the Angels do with Santana at this point, other than regret not being able to trade him last year? He can't start this season, and he needs more than a good spring training to show he can be a starter for this team. Can he start next year in the minors or is he out of options? Do they just DFA him?
Matthews didn't double; he walked and stole second. Mathis wasn't 2 for 5; he was 2 for 3. Vlad didn't go 4 for 4, he went 4 for 5.
Rob, I really hate to sound nit-picky, but the implication of the sentence quoted below is that Morales & Matthews, Jr., are the Angels' only two switch-hitters. Maicer Izturis also qualifies (all three have a name beginning with M, interestingly enough), as do Willits & Figgins.

"The Angels posted two more in the fourth on consecutive two-out homers by Gary Matthews, Jr. and Kendry Morales, the Angels' two switch-hitters taking Jeff Weaver deep into the right-field bleachers."
Corrections to all those duly made, though I certainly didn't intend to imply that the Angels only had two switch hitters. The numerical errors are the ones that really annoy me most of all.
Again, my apologies if my criticism was too nitpicky or snarky.
No, not at all; unclear usage is another problem I sometimes have.

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