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Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Losses Mount Despite The Win: Angels 5, Mariners 1 (10 Innings)

For seven and a third innings the Angels scored not at all against Felix Hernandez. That is, the Angels largely waited for mistakes that didn't happen. Jered Weaver held up his end of the bargain, and this game came perilously close to bearing the title "E-Bar", because it was an Erick Aybar error that drove in the game's only run for the M's, that in the fourth. Aybar tried to make an off-balance throw from just back of second base, and having missed the double play, he also missed Kendry Morales by a mile or more, heaving a bullet into the stands. With only a man on first, Jose Lopez, the Aybar two-base error cost the Angels a run, because he had been running on the pitch.

Meantime, the Angels mostly singled, outhitting the M's throughout the game, and even Bobby Wilson had a hopeful two-out double in the second that falsely portended better to come. A good part of that was undoubtedly because of Torii Hunter's early exit from the game, taking a 95 MPH fastball to the hand in the first inning; he stayed on the basepaths, but then was immediately lifted for Reggie Willits. (X-rays subsequently turned up negative, but the damage to Torii's swing has yet to be assessed.) The Angels finally did bust through with Bobby Abreu's one-out, eighth-inning homer, but did nothing further that inning. In the ninth, Hideki Matsui started the inning with a walk, and Howie Kendrick — and what the hell is wrong with him? — damn near bunted into a double play, pushing the ball straight toward the pitcher.

And thus did Brandon League snuff out a ninth inning rally, sending the game to extras. Shockingly — though maybe not so, given the M's weak offense — both Francisco Rodriguez (whom the M's have seen exactly once before) and Brian Fuentes (who faced two lefties, exactly his strength) pitched well, with Fuentes even claiming a pair of looking strikeouts.

The tenth inning was an adventure in raised, dashed, and raised expectations. Once Maicer Izturis got aboard on a one-out double, I figured, oh, this is how the game ends, with an Abreu double in the gap. Well, no, but Bobby did reach — with an intentional walk. Reggie Willits then tried to hit his way on, but then it was ex-Angel Chone Figgins' turn to hurt his team. Figgy bobbled a routine grounder hit straight to him, and with the speedy Willits bearing down on first, everyone was presently safe.

That of course brought Kendry to the plate. At first, his grand slam didn't seem like it would clear the fence; but it kept carrying and carrying, and finally left the yard, much to the astonishment and joy of everyone in the stands. And then he lept into the dogpile at home plate ... and never came up again, until they hauled him off on a litter. It was an immensely sad moment, and the house took forever to clear, as much of the assembled crowd stayed on, hoping to catch a glimpse of him rising.

That sight never came. One consequence, we learned in the postgame broadcast, is that the Angels have henceforth banned walkoff dogpiles of this sort, and I wouldn't be too surprised to learn of MLB taking up this matter as a matter of custom. We all shuffled off, heads low, the talk among the fans in somber voices, as though we'd seen a drive-by shooting.

Update: Sam Miller of the Register cites a Jon Heyman report that Kendry's ankle is broken. What I want to know is, how does a national reporter like Heyman scoop all the local press? I'm waiting for the team's announcement, or something from the Times or Register.

Update 2: Heyman says further Kendry will miss 10-12 weeks. That would be August or September. Ow.

ESPN BoxAngels recap

Finally, I wanted to touch on two unrelated park issues that came up, one from yesterday's game that I forgot to write about, and one from today's:

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When Willits got on, at first I felt bad for Figgins, then I thought, this guy, Morales, is just the one I want batting in this situation.

I hope Napoli picked up a first base glove after the game.

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