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Sunday, September 14, 2008

B Team Sweep: Angels 4, Mariners 3

The time for clucking about the Mariners near-epochal badness is over; it was well demonstrated by the All-Star break, and even by the end of May, when they were an abysmal 20-35. From there, they proceeded to three straight 16-loss months. Yeah.

Interestingly, the Angels somehow managed to miss Old Friend Jarrod Washburn, who was apparently out with an abdominal strain, while the M's patched together a rotation in his absence without using up a pointless DL slot. (Incidentally, Washburn was apparently upset that trade rumors that had him going to Minnesota for Boof Bonser turned out to be nothing. Bet the M's are now, too.)

The Angels didn't exactly stomp on the M's, but then Vlad was taking a game off, as were Torii Hunter and Juan Rivera. Figgins was back in leadoff, and the Angels had their B team working the bottom of the order, with Freddy Sandoval getting his first major league start, the Brandon Wood/Sean Rodriguez keystone combo up the middle, and Gary Matthews, Jr. starting in center.

One of the two things that bothered me about this game — it's hard to complain about wins — is that for the second day in a row, an Angels infielder misjudged a playable pop fly. Today it was Sandoval, who just didn't go back far enough before pausing to jump on Jose Lopez' two-out RBI single in the sixth that tied the game. Brandon Wood made the same mistake yesterday, and it looks like Alfredo Griffin could stand to do some work with both.

The other irritation was watching Scot Shields stumble through the Mariners' 3-4-5 hitters, getting Adrian Beltre and Jose Lopez out and still giving up a run on a stolen base to Raul Ibanez and an RBI single to pinch-hitter Miguel Cairo. It was just a sloppy performance all around, and you could pretty much tell from the first pitch to Ibanez that his A command was elsewhere.

That out of the way: the Angels pounced on Felix Hernandez for two runs immediately in the first, and for a time it looked like that would be enough with Ervin Santana on the mound. The M's looked like they wouldn't do much against Santana, who cruised in the second through fifth, and even collected his 200th strikeout of the season, against Brian LaHair. Seattle finally re-tied the game in the sixth following a leadoff walk to Jeremy Reed, who eventually scored on Jose Lopez's single.

The Angels scarcely touched Hernandez after the first, getting only three singles off him, and two of those failing to make it out of the infield. (One of those infield squibbers was Freddy Sandoval's first major league hit.) But finally the Halos broke through in the sixth, when Mark Teixeira took Hernandez deep on a 1-2 count pitch to knock in his 30th home run of the season and his 200th career dinger to re-tie the game. The Angels squandered another scoring opportunity as Matthews followed that up with a one-out hustle double, only to find himself eventually stranded as none of Wood (flied out to right), Sandoval (walked), and Jeff Mathis (grounded out to short) were able to get a clutch hit to push the team ahead.

As it happened, that might have been a blessing in disguise. Shields' wobble prevented Frankie from getting called in for the ninth, and the M's didn't seem all that intent on sending J.J. Putz to the mound to keep the tie. That left Roy Corcoran, who had pitched a clean eighth, to do the job. He got pinch-hitter Reggie Willits to bounce out harmlessly as the ninth inning's leadoff man, but thereafter nothing went right for him; Sean Rodriguez wailed the first pitch he saw into the high wall in right, over the head of a leaping Ichiro. The Mariners' right fielder bounced off the wall one way, while the ball bounced back the other. By that time, Rodriguez was already rounding second, and coasted into third with a stand-up triple.

The Mariners' plans then became obvious; they rounded up one of their outfielders, and played the five-man infield, with three on the right to face switch-hitting Chone Figgins batting left-handed. It scarcely mattered; he welted the first offering deep into right field, well over the heads of the drawn-in, two-man outfield, away to victory, and a mobbed reception by his joyous teammates.

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Nice report.

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