Sunday, May 24, 2009
Palmer Implodes In The Daylight, Angels Win Anyway: Angels 10, Dodgers 7
The whole Hoffmann clan is in the stands, so they got to see their son go yard in his third major league at bat, and his first start.
Top 3rd: The Angels get one back following a perfect bunt single by Erick Aybar, and a long double in the left field corner by Robb Quinlan. What's he doing playing first and starting? Hitting like a house afire, apparently. It's 4-1 Dodgers, and Matt Palmer tries to recall bunting practice from his days in the Giants organizations — and fails, striking out swinging.
Figgins squeaked out a check swing on an 0-2 pitch practically at his shoe tops, worked the count even, and then smacked one up the middle to cash in Quinlan, to make it 4-2 Dodgers. They nicked Bills, who still had only one out.
Bobby Abreu hits into an odd 3-6-3 double play where James Loney fielded the ball (Abreu misread it as a foul), stepped on the bag, and got Figgins in a rundown. An inglorious end to a good rally.
Bottom 4th: The Angels got a real scare as Torii Hunter made an excellent running catch on Matt Kemp's hard liner to center — and then bounced off the outfield wall, fully extended. He landed on his back, held up the ball in his glove, wincing, and that brought out trainer Ned Bergert and a number of the infielders. Hunter got back up, but it was a significant scare. The Dodgers did nothing else, and it's still 4-2 Dodgers.
Top 6th: Figgins start the frame off with a leadoff walk; following a single up the right field line to Abreu, and Torii Hunter cashed him in on a single. A wild pitch sent both Hunter and Abreu to second and third respectively. Juan Rivera singled home Abreu, and Kendry Morales sacrificed home Hunter from third to make it 5-4 Angels, the first time they've held the lead in this game. There's only one out, and Billingsley has thrown over 20 pitches to make it.
Bills gets Napoli to strike out, and retires Erick Aybar on a 4-3 groundout after a protracted 11-pitch at-bat. It's been a tough game for Billingsley, who's thrown 108 pitches.
Bottom 6th: Mike Scioscia's seen enough of Palmer; despite his fairly low pitch count (82 pitches through five), he's out of the game in favor of Jason Bulger, who got Casey Blake on three pitches, bouncing out on a 4-3 groundout. Bulger then dispatched Kemp and Hoffmann on strikeouts, and it's a clean inning for the Angels' relief corps, something they haven't had a lot of lately. (Update: must have missed the fifth inning pitching change, as Palmer didn't survive that inning; Bulger got the call that frame, not starting this one.)
Top 7th: Quinlan worked reliever Cory Wade, just entering the game for Billingsley, for a single. Reggie Willits struck out after a dropped foul error by Blake, but then Figgins doubled, and then Wade intentionally walked Abreu. That brought Torii Hunter to the plate, and he knocked in a pair on an RBI single, 7-4 Angels. Juan Rivera hit an infield popup to make the second out of the frame, and that chased Wade. Joe Torre then decided to bring in lefty Will Ohman to turn around Kendry Morales. Morales popped out to shallow right, but as a trio of Dodgers came in to field the pop, Jamie Hoffman crossed in front of his infielder and in so doing clocked Orlando Hudson with his elbow, knocking Hudson's cap off. Hudson walked off the field under his own power, but 55,000 people in the stadium (and a lot more watching the game on TV) breathed a sigh of relief.
Bottom 7th: Justin Speier relieved Bulger, and Speier got Castro and pinch-hitter Andre Ethier to strike out. On the first pitch, Pierre punished a hanger inside for a double, but Martin hit a 1-1 pitch for a routine flyball out in center, caught by Reggie Willits, who replaced Hunter there.
Top 8th: Guillermo Mota gave up a one-out walk to Erick Aybar, and then Quinlan hit into what could have been an inning-ending double play. It appeared at first as though both players might be safe, but second base umpire Mike Reilly called Aybar out for leaving the basepaths (he was running on the grass to avoid the tag at second). That brought Scioscia out from the dugout, and as Vinny put it, "I haven't seen him run that fast in a long time... Mike is ready for the marathon."
Scioscia jawed with the umpire, lost the argument, and then Willits tapped out weakly to third to end the frame. Still 7-4 Angels.
Bottom 8th: If Hudson suffered any ill effects from Hoffmann's unintentional assault, he didn't show it, as he singled against Darren Oliver. Casey Blake put men on the corners with nobody out on a long single in the left field gap.
Oliver seemed to be a bit off his game, throwing the first two pitches out of the zone to James Loney, who ultimately got a sac fly off him to make it 7-5. Matt Kemp took a 1-2 count pitch over the head of shortstop Aybar, putting the tying runners aboard with only one out. Oliver then faced Hoffman, and the age of the Angels' outfield showed as Abreu couldn't catch up to a little popping fly in right center. The ball scooted away and back of him, cashing in another run to make it 7-6 Angels. Oliver intentionally walked Castro to load the bases, bringing up pinch-hitter Rafael Furcal. Furcal then hit into a force at the plate that could have been two but Kendry failed to return to the bag for the double play. Pierre lined out to second to end the frame, but the Dodgers are only a home run away from tying it. Too bad they haven't been hitting any lately.
Top 9th: Brent Leach retired Chone Figgins on a 6-3 groundout, but then Bobby Abreu tripled. That chased Leach, but an odd thing happened: Ramon Troncoso was brought in and immediately intentionally walked Gary Matthews, Jr. As so often happens when pitchers are asked to give up an intentional pass, something bad happened in the next at-bat, namely Juan Rivera hitting an RBI single through the right side. 8-6 Angels, and there's only one out. Kendry Morales then did his bit to help out closer Fuentes by banging out another right side groundball single for a 9-6 Angels lead.
Mike Napoli somehow banged out an infield single as Furcal couldn't get the handle on a fairly routine ball hit to short; by the time the ball arrived at first, Napoli was well past the bag. Troncoso's nightmare inning continued as Aybar drove in Rivera on a scoring fly ball, 10-6, leaving runners on the corners for Q. Despite going to a 3-0 count, Tron Tron worked his way back and whiffed Q on a high heater. Even though Billingsley is on the hook for the loss, in all likelihood, the real blame belongs with Troncoso — and Joe Torre for not having his exiting reliever intentionally walk the next batter instead.
Bottom 9th: Angels closer Brian Fuentes got Martin to ground out, but then seemed to have trouble finding the plate, and caught too much of it to give up a one-out double in the gap to Hudson. Fuentes got Blake 1-2, but then Blake doubled the opposite way on a belt-high fastball on the outer half to make it 10-7. Loney then tapped to first, leaving Matt Kemp to keep the Dodgers' hopes alive. Kemp rolled out to second, and Aybar just nipped the speedy Kemp to end the game. Matt Palmer doesn't get the win, but Bulger gets his second win of the year. Amazingly, the Angels took this road series against the Dodgers, one I figured they might get swept in.