Saturday, May 30, 2009
Juan Is The Loneliest Number: Mariners 4, Angels 2
Juan Rivera hit a solo homer in the fifth against former Dirtbag (and Jered Weaver's ex-teammate) Jason Vargas. Rivera also made a fine catch to rob Russell Branyan of a homer in the ninth, but he clearly wasn't able to do the rest on his own. The Angels hit into two double plays, one of them a lineout by Bobby Abreu which was just bad luck, and there were some hard-hit outs in the eighth, too, two consecutive liners caught at first. Sometimes you're the bug, and sometimes you're the windshield, but with the Rangers winning both of their double header games against a pitiful Oakland team, the Angels look increasingly like a .500 team that's stuck in neutral.
One problem I'm increasingly having with this squad is the supposition that once all the injured players come back, the team will go right back to the best-record-in-the-AL version from 2008. Steve Bisheff's recent piece asking whether Vlad is on the decline is not a little timely; I think he is, and more, that this is a transition team. Lackey may not be back, and the Angels won't have Nick Adenhart to turn to if — more realistically, when — he goes. A few more outings like this one and Lackey might just end up a Ranger or an Astro next year. Vlad and Abreu walk, Kendrick suddenly turns into a limp puddle of helpless goo at the plate, Figgins goes away, and you're talking about a wholesale turnover of the outfield and large portions of the infield as well. Add to that the already full-blown collapse of the bullpen and a dubious rotation which will see large parts leave after this year (Lackey and Escobar for sure), and suddenly you realize this team could be to the Angels what the 2003 squad was for the Mariners: their last sniff of winning for a very long time.
Update: Attendance 38,000, and the seats far emptier than that on a Friday night. The economy's bad, and the Angels have been less-hard-hit than some other franchises, but this is a mediocre team, and those don't draw well.