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Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Starting Well: Angels 6, Twins 3

Jered Weaver threw a quality start, though not without its hitches; he squeaked out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth, one of two the Angels evaded on the night. This isn't the 2002 Twins lineup anymore, and they've got some guys who can really hurt you, Joe Mauer, in particular, who won the AL batting title three of the last four years, and led the league in the all the slash stats (Avg./OBP/SLG) last year. I'd have to look it up but I doubt that's ever been done by a catcher in history.

Between him, Justin Morneau, and Michael Cuddyer, the Twins have something that resembles a solid offense, last year posting an above-league-average 103 OPS+. While they won't blow anybody over (there are too many other iffy positions, in particular, shortstop and third aren't too hot), they also aren't pushovers.

Weaver held all that offensive prowess off pretty effectively, with arguably Justin Morneau's infield single being misjudged by the official scorer; Brandon Wood overran the ball, and it bounced under his glove and behind him. I scribbled it in as an E5 on my scorecard, anyway, only to have the scoreboard overrule me. Anyway, Weaver got his trademark strikeouts, including five against left-handed batters (two on leadoff man Denard Span alone), previously his nemesis. A righty, Delmon Young, gave him the most trouble, yanking a ball out of the yard to temporarily tie the game 2-2 in the second.

Wood complicated his bad defensive game with a terrible night at the plate, going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts in his 2010 opener. I can't say I was all that surprised.

After Young's two-run second-inning outburst, the Angels immediately untied the game in the third with an uncharacteristic Jeff Mathis solo blast in the left field power alley. Twins starter Scott Baker, who has has had a lot of trouble with the Angels over the years, left the game after only 4.2 innings, the knockout blow being Hideki Matsui's RBI single.

Matsui himself had a fine night, blowing away pretty much everyone's expectations with a pair of RBIs (he led off the eighth with a solo homer against reliever Jose Mijares) and the aforesaid single, the former being the winning run. The Japanese sporting press was out in force, and I encountered some of them in the concourse near the home plate Angels store. I did spy one guy wearing a hiragana (I believe) Matsui uniform who wasn't Japanese; but the evidence for a large-scale outpouring of instant Matsui love as measured by visible merch was largely missing.

Fernando Rodney managed a scoreless eighth, and somehow immediately validated my feeling of his signing being a mistake. Even though he only surendered a leadoff walk, it was four straight, and while he faced the minimum, it somehow felt like a lot more at the time. He reminded me instantly of Esteban Yan, both physically and in the sloppy way he pitched.

Finally, another word on the food: I checked out CHIX in section 103: even their salad has chicken "twists" which are breaded and fried. Thanks, no, I'll be trying elsewhere. I ended up getting a chicken sausage dog at one of the adjoining stands, discarding the bun as is my recent wont.

ESPN BoxMLB.com recap

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Jason Kubel is no slouch, either. That is indeed a pretty strong lineup the Twinkies have put together. Lost in the Matsui hoopla (I loved the "Matsuiland" in a Disney-ish font, with halo over the "a" in Matsui) was the fine night had by Kendry Morales, who homered from the right side (his allegedly non-power side).
I second the opinions on Morales and Wood. Kendry certainly looks comfortable at the plate. I am quite excited to see what he does this year. Wood, however, looks exactly the same: swinging for the fences and striking out. Maybe if Morales, Matsui and Rivera can put up good power numbers, the Angels won't need to worry about getting that from Wood and they can try Izturis at 3rd like he played a few years back.
And I didn't say anything about K-Mo's blast... tsk. Between my day job, converting a semi-feral dog to domesticity, running in the mornings, and blogging about two teams, I can see it's going to be a tough season.
Sorry, Rob. I wasn't meaning to bust your chops; just adding my $0.02.
Oh, I know. Thanks for pointing it out, though.
Agreed on the Twins offense. I really had overlooked it until last night. If they can get something out of Delmon Young (and why not? the guy is still only 24 yrs old), they have a pretty fearsome 3-7.

And we're both on the same page with Rodney. Esteban Yan is exactly who I compared him to the day we acquired him.

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