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Monday, August 25, 2008

Triple Eighth: Angels 5, Twins 3

This was a damned tough game to stay through the whole way, especially since Twins starter Kevin Slowey never really let the Angels get anywhere for the first five innings despite ultimately empty threats in two of them, a two-out, second and third situation in the first, and a men on the corners with one out scenario in the fourth. Torii Hunter (strikeout swinging), Juan Rivera (popup to third on the first pitch), and Howie Kendrick (flyout to right) all failed to deliver the goods, which led to not a little gnashing of teeth.

The Angels finally broke through in the sixth with a leadoff homer by Mark Teixeira, but nothing further happened until the seventh. Juan Rivera's strikeout made it appear that the Halos were in for just another inning of the same sort of futility that had marked most of the previous six frames, but then Howie Kendrick reached on an infield single. Mike Scioscia finally got to a point where he'd seen enough of starting catcher Jeff Mathis' flailing at the plate, and had Mike Napoli pinch-hit for him. The move paid off on the first pitch, as Napoli banged it into left field for a single. That got Ron Gardenhire to yank Slowey; his replacement, Dennys Reyes, gave up a scoring groundout to Chone Figgins to pull the Angels to within a run at 3-2.

The Angels really made their big surge in the eighth, starting with a leadoff double by Mark Teixeira down the right field line. Vlad followed that up with an RBI triple off Jesse Crain, and Gary Matthews, Jr. knocked him in with a triple of his own, his first RBI since July 23. Matthews was a late entry to the game following Garret Anderson begging off due to a sore knee after the first inning; his two hits made this his most productive outing since his June 17 two-hit game against the Mets. Juan Rivera, the man whose playing time has most benefited by Matthews' absence, got a sac fly to drive in the Angels' former starting center fielder.

Ervin Santana was pretty good, going seven innings and giving up three runs while striking out ten; he kept getting into jams and the Twins mostly capitalized, so I'm not too effusive this time. Considering it was a day game, maybe I should be more forgiving.

Once more the bullpen did an outstanding job, with Jose Arredondo and Frankie pitching two scoreless innings. Arredondo was in the middle of a controversial call of a home run against Jason Kubel. Kubel belted one offering down the right field line in the eighth that was initially ruled fair, but three Angels (Mark Teixeira, right fielder Gary Matthews, Jr., and Mike Napoli) all immediately declared it foul. The umpires huddled, and came up with the right call, just a long, loud foul. Arredondo then battled back to win the at-bat, and struck out Kubel for the second out of the inning.

Frankie pitched a scoreless ninth for his 50th save despite giving up a leadoff single to Nick Punto. Every new save he notches is a franchise mark, and so it's not worth mentioning anymore until we get to the last few. Nevertheless, the bullpen emptied after the game was over and everyone came out to hug and congratulate Frankie. It was a happy scene, though for Denard Span not so much — he got ejected for arguing balls and strikes with home plate umpire Brian Gorman after he was called out looking to end the game, something that doesn't appear to have been recorded in the Yahoo box score.

Yahoo boxMLB.com recap

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Ten strikeouts, no walks. Quality start plus, and all three runs delivered by former MVP Morneau, who is now the league's second-best RBI guy.

So, yeah, I think you should be more forgiving. It's not like Ervin snuck a win out of it or anything.

Oh, and the Minnesota rotation is now very, very good. That's worth a mention. And with six guys in the lineup batting north of .300, their lineup ain't too shabby these days either.

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