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Saturday, June 14, 2008

Well, The Offense Scored Four Runs: Braves 9, Angels 4

Ervin Santana didn't really unravel until the fifth; he worked around leadoff hits in the first and third, the latter a double by Brandon Jones, and neither scored. But you could tell Santana wasn't quite himself the whole time, and when his big fifth inning implosion hit, it was like watching a horror movie when the teenaged blond opens the door where the chainsaw murderer has been lying in wait and you know he's lying in wait but she doesn't and then you ask yourself what the am I doing watching something this nasty?

So, yeah, I was trying to bite my tongue as Santana gave up four consecutive singles, one of them an infield single on centerfielder Gregor Blanco's bunt attempt that Mike Napoli threw offline. Santana struck out Kelly Johnson, but he walked Chipper Jones to score a run, and then plunked Mark Teixeira on the first pitch in the next at-bat. Brian McCann pasted an RBI single to continue the bleeding, and next thing you know, it's 4-2 Braves and suddenly the Angels looked very mortal.

That extended to the next frame, when Santana gave up a pair of homers, the first to Brandon Jones, who ended the day only a triple shy of the cycle, and the second to Johnson. (Incidentally: two Jones and a Johnson — could the Braves possibly find more boring names for their players? It's a good thing they're carrying a Francoeur and a Blanco, because too much of that and next thing you know it's like the town meeting scene in Blazing Saddles.)

The Angels, bless 'em, did manage to score some runs, though not without stupidity involved; Gary Matthews, Jr. reached on a triple and ran on contact — right at third, erasing him in a ridiculous and humiliating 5-2-5 rundown that had no effect whatsoever because he wasn't able to keep the play going long enough for Mike Napoli to advance past first. Luckily, the Angels managed to get a pair out of that two-out situation on Maicer Izturis' generously-credited double (it really should have been a single and second on the throw), but that was all they got that frame.

It stayed that way through the eighth thanks to some excellent work by young Charlie Morton, making his major league debut. He got behind batters in the count early in the game, but managed to right himself, getting three 1-2-3 innings in the game. It's exactly this kind of circumstance that drives me nuts, but in the Angels' defense, when a pitcher's new like that, nobody really has a good idea of how to deal with him.

Justin Speier imploded again, and just after it looked like he might have another good night, retiring the first two batters he faced in the eighth. Blanco's second infield single of the game seemed to unglue him, as he then walked three straight batters to give up the Braves' seventh run, and Darren O'Day coughed up an RBI single to Teixeira for two more. 6-3 was a ballgame, but 9-3 wasn't, and that hit chased most folks from the stands. More left in the bottom of the frame after Casey Kotchman lined out to second to end the inning following Torii Hunter's second consecutive double of the game.

Because of the frustrated offense, I found the radio team of Steve Physioc and Rex Hudler intensely irritating in this one; they kept wondering why it was such a mystery that the team wasn't hitting. I figured the injuries to Figgins and Kendrick would play into that, but no, not a word; and when they talked about the outfield, no mention of its age (hullo, GA, hullo Vlad) or dubious (cough GMJ cough) construction. In other words, this was at least within the realm of very reasonable possibilities for the year; and while I understand that, as part of the team selling the team, as it were, they can't say such stuff, with the Angels losing I just ran out of patience with such obvious cluelessness.

Darren Oliver had another good outing, and barring the bases-loaded situation, so did Darren O'Day. Even eighth-inning replacement Jeff Mathis (note to Mike Napoli: start hitting, and soon, Love, Mike Scioscia) drove in a late-game run off Will Ohman in the ninth. Kendrick had a couple hard-hit balls, and though he's not getting results, it's reasonable to think they'll come soon enough. In Howie we trust, or something to that effect.

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