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Friday, October 23, 2009

I Will Survive (Bad Management): Angels 7, Yankees 6

The dubious umpiring continued in this series — this time it was strike calls. The Yankee fans, I understand, were upset about one in the sequence to Mark Teixeira early in the game, and then Lackey got riled about one to Jorge Posada in the seventh. Well, here's Teix (pitch 3 was a foul ball, incidentally):

And here's Posada:

So, yeah, I would say that Lackey had a legitimate beef with home plate umpire Fieldin Culbreath. The situation in fact has gotten so dire that MLB is switching umpiring crews for the World Series, going only with crew chiefs. Of course, the one that got the separate AP story was Dale Scott incorrectly calling Johnny Damon out at first as the final out of the third inning. Well, okay; it was a bang-bang play, and those are a little easier to take than the idiocy that happened in Tuesday's game, when third base umpire Tim McClelland missed Mike Napoli's double tag, instead calling the play he thought should have happened.

But back to this one — somewhat belatedly, because it's been busy around here, and I'm getting ridiculously sleep-deprived. The Angels got to A.J. Burnett early and hard, banging him around for four in the first, a total that could have been far higher had Juan Rivera not bounced into an inning-ending double play. Burnett then proceeded to post scoreless innings through the fateful seventh, matching Lackey more or less pitch for pitch, with Lackey eventually electing to go for more strikeouts and running up his pitch count in doing so.

He appeared to get in some real trouble in the sixth, giving up a two-out double to A-Rod, and walking Matsui, but he got Cano on a 6-4 force to end the frame. The seventh started with a two-pitch flyball out to center off the bat of the badly slumping Nick Swisher, but that was the end of Lackey's ease. Jorge Posada entered the game as a pinch-hitter for Jose Molina, who had only managed two at-bats without consequence. Posada then got his fateful called ball four, which led to a meltdown inning by the Angels, and another lightning-fast rally by the Yanks.

Yanking Lackey led to a lot of second-guessing, but like the Register's Sam Miller, I agreed with it at the time; Lackey has a habit of imploding, Oliver had been very good against left- and right-handed batters, and Lackey was struggling to get that last out. Unfortunately, Darren Oliver surrendered a first-pitch double to Teixeira, sending the Yankees fans in attendance into war whoops, as though they had just won the World Series itself.

That final out didn't come until an agonizing four batters and three runs later. It was then that the Angels showed that they had some offensive oomph and resiliency of their own, what with the Rally Monkey coming preemptively up for another shot at the game. Jeff Mathis led off the frame with his third hit of the game, a line drive single, and Eric Aybar worked a full-count walk, prompting Joe Girardi with the hook. Phil Hughes came in, and gave up a 1-4 sac bunt to Figgins, but got Bobby Abreu on a routine grounder to first, with no advance by Mathis because the ball was hit so fast.

Inexplicably, Girardi then came in and pulled Hughes for Joba Chamberlain. Now, Rory Markus had observed that Joba Chamberlain had thrown a very wild set of warmup tosses from the mound, and sure enough, he walked Torii Hunter on five pitches, setting the stage for a huge, game-tying RBI single by Vlad. Kendry Morales drove in the go-ahead run with another single to put men on the corners, but then Maicer Izturis struck out in his final at-bat of an 0-for-4 game. That the Angels answered the Yankees' two-out rally with one of their own was especially satisfying.

But one decision I really detested that Miller didn't get to was Mike Scioscia going with lefty Brian Fuentes over Jered Weaver for the ninth. Now, Weaver had been called on to pitch the top of the eighth, and he did so brilliantly, retiring the 8-9-1 batters in order, including two strikeouts. Now, perhaps Scioscia was looking at Weaver's recent performance against the top of the Yankees' order, having given up homers to Jeter, A-Rod, and Damon in Game 3, or his general, historical difficulties against left-handers (career .267 vs. lefties, .232 vs. righties).

Either way, Fuentes came in and immediately shocked the holy hell out of me by getting the first two batters out in succession, eliciting a hard lineout to Morales from Damon (lucky for him, because otherwise it would have been a double down the line), and a flyball out off Teixeira's bat to Hunter. Now, some people had a beef with the intentional pass to A-Rod, but not me, because Fuentes gave up about 200 more points of OPS to righties than lefties this year.

But then he walked Matsui, and when he plunked Cano to load the bases, it was clearly time for another terrible Yankees rally. Mercifully, Nick Swisher was the next batter up, and if ever there were a guy in a dreadful funk, it's Swisher. After working the count full, Swisher popped one up to Erick Aybar at short — requiring a long running catch, but not enough to really make you question whether he was gonna get it. Even more galling was the fact that the pitch Fuentes threw was a fat one elevated over the middle of the plate — a gift returned, unopened.

So, the Angels managed to get in a win, and force a game six. The moron bandwagoner Yankee fans were shut up, if briefly, and perhaps giving the local jackasses enough to think about that maybe next year they'll behave themselves in our yard. (Of course, that didn't stop one drunken Halo fan from screaming "Not in our housh" out on Katella.) Really, this is about as much as I had hoped for; notwithstanding a little wishcasting from the local sportswriters, if the Yanks take it in six, I'll be neither surprised nor disappointed. They gave the Bombers a good scare, and that, to me, is plenty.

ESPN BoxAngels recap

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"Phil Hughes came in, and gave up a 1-4 sac bunt to Figgins, but got Bobby Abreu on a routine grounder to third, with no advance by Mathis because the ball was hit so fast."

Abreu actually hit a routine grounder to first with Mathis scoring and Aybar advancing to third. My stack of 109 scoresheets from games I have attended in 2009 is less than six inches away from my keyboard. If a blog is about a game I went to I don't have to go to baseballreference.com for the play-by-play! Great summary you have here for ALCS Game 5, Rob!

I know the odds are about 1 out of 6 that the Angels will advance to the World Series. The Angels chance is way better than 27 other teams. My calendar still has "WS # 1, Phil @ LAA" listed for Wednesday October 28th. Tell me the time and I will be there!
D'oh! I got the "3" in my scorecard and mentally put a "rd" after it.
And, yeah, I've still got WS tickets ready to go in case. One benefit of being a season ticket holder, I guess.

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