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Monday, March 21, 2011

Kissing Your Sister, Who Won't Be On The 25-Man Roster: Angels 6, Rockies 6 (10 Innings)

Last year, the Rockies won ten straight starting on September 3, and 13 of 15. It looked, briefly, as though a repeat of the 2007 late-season juggernaut might be on its way. Sadly for Colorado fans, that wasn't happening: Arizona, who had spent the season from May 5 on in fifth place (and despite a managerial change from unknown A.J. Hinch to the iconic Kirk Gibson), suddenly learned how to bang on the Rockies, sweeping them in Phoenix. That kicked off a stretch in which they lost 14 of 15, including two starts by their charismatic, articulate staff ace, Ubaldo Jimenez.

The Rockies' moment is something like "now", though they're in a bit of a fix for the rotation slots behind Jimenez; last year, the only starter with a winning record was the fairly undistinguished (10-9, 4.81 ERA) Jason Hammel. That's one reason we likely saw Esmil Rogers on the mound for the Rocks yesterday, who did a creditable job through the order once, and then proceeded to get lit up in his last three innings, failing to make an out in the sixth.

But as bad as that all was for the Rockies, their bullpen limited the late-innings AAA lineup remaining for the Angels to only a double. Angels pitching looked far worse in the early going, as starter Matt Palmer did nothing to buy himself closer to the rotation with a horrific first inning that saw him give up seven straight hits, one of them a three-run jack. He settled down in the second, retiring the side in order for the only time in the game, but returned to the suck which was his pre-Angels career in the third with a leadoff home run to franchise icon Troy Tulowitzki, Tulo's second of the game.

Once Palmer left the game, things settled down. No Rockies baserunner even got as far as third base, a pleasant change from the earlier merry-go-round. Of those on the mound after, only Hisanori Takahashi, Fernando Rodney, and Jordan Walden were locks to make the team. Walden was something of a surprise to me, because the Angels were so mired in disaster last year that I more or less stopped paying attention to them. One consequence was that I missed Walden's 15-inning late-season callup, which was very successful (2.35 ERA, 0-1, 1 SV). While I expect young Walden to eventually regress, he may yet prove me wrong: he has yet to allow an earned run in six spring training appearances this year. More outings like yesterday's are cause for hope after last year's wretched bullpen.

MLB recap

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