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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Jon Garland Is Like A Box Of Chocolates: A's 14, Angels 2

Not literally, of course, but in two ways, Jon Garland does resemble the Gumpian box:
  1. "You never know what you're gonna get."
  2. In that he resembles something, soft, squishy, and brown, though in this case wholly inedible.
It's hard to put my head around just how awful Garland was in this one. Garland gave up a freak triple in the first to Frank Thomas, f'r chrissakes, a man who owns a career eleven, and hadn't hit one in six years. At the end of the day, Thomas was a measely home run away from the cycle. Garland gave up bloops (Thomas' triple), bleeders, and blasts (homers to Daric Barton and Jack Hannahan). Hard-hit balls to guys like Thomas are forgivable; multiple home runs to guys with sub-.500 slugging averages in the hitter-friendly PCL are not.

So it went with Garland. Those of us in the stands were encouraged by the early traction the offense got against Chad Gaudin, a pitcher they've typically teed off on before. The Halos recovered the first run in the second inning on a Torii Hunter single and a two base error during Robb Quinlan's at-bat, when Gaudin threw away a pickoff toss and Q knocked Hunter in with an RBI single. But that was, really, it for Angels-style baseball, because no other Angel batter got past second, save for Mike Napoli and his majestic blast that glided over the centerfield wall.

The rest, of course, was so much forgettable dross, with the A's posting an ungodly eight runs in the seventh, as Garland struggled to make outs, or count his fingers, or whatever it is he was doing out there on the mound. Maybe it involved swatting away the innumerable bugs that plagued us all night long. Even in our vantage from the cheap seats in 524, hundreds of these tiny bugs lit all over us (I was wearing shorts so it was even more noticeable) all night long. I slapped at my exposed skin constantly throughout the night, the bugs not biting but providing a constant nuisance — much like the Angels' pitching in this game. I can only imagine how much worse both must have been at field level.

Regardless of the awfulness of the insects, after Garland faced Thomas to lead off the seventh and surrendered a double in the gap, that called out Chris Bootcheck. Bootcheck, we learned from the radio broadcast, was among those touched by the same flu that knocked out Jeff Mathis, a leftover from the Boston trip. (This ailment prompted some roster moves that sent Jose Arredondo and Rich Thompson down to Salt Lake, and recalled catcher Bobby Wilson and SS/3B Brandon Wood.) If he was infected, it showed up in his pitching right away, as he gave up a two-run jack to Emil Brown, and didn't retire a batter until he got Mark Ellis to strike out looking, six batters later. Bootcheck left the game with a tail-between-legs ERA of 37.80 according to the Yahoo box score, the scoreboard reckoning it as 43.20. In the end, the last out of the inning was recorded by Darren O'Day, who didn't face another batter lest the inflamed ERA disease infect him, too.

All the buggery going on in the background meant that Robb Quinlan got a rare start, and he actually didn't do too badly offensively considering the barnacles growing on his bat, but he might have had a hand in extending the obscene seventh inning by failing to make a good throw on Denorfia's infield bouncer. Erick Aybar also uncorked a bad throw in the third on Ellis's infield hit, pulling Casey Kotchman off the bag; Kotch, at least, recovered to get the ball rather than letting it fly into the stands.

This kind of mayhem is pretty damned unusual. In fact, the A's have not beaten the Angels by 12 or more runs since an 18-2 shellacking at Anaheim Stadium on June 27, 1996 that included a very functional Jason Giambi, pre-Cardinals Mark McGwire, Scott Brosius before the Yankees polluted him, and seven home runs (two by Brosius). The last time the Angels were blown out at home in April by any team by 12 or more runs was on April 27, 1994, in which the Orioles whipped the Angels 13-1; the only Anderson in the game was Brady, and he wore a Baltimore uniform.

All of this is to say, these are pretty inauspicious signs, but it's not like the Angels are without depth. If Garland continues to be this awful (and he's been pretty much Jeff Weaver, 2008, albeit with more good outings than the Angels got from Jeff), Nick Adenhart beckons, incomplete as he might be.

Bobby Wilson made his major league debut and got a hit in his first at bat, in the ninth against reliever Dallas Braden. Go him.

I also note, with some sadness but also recognizing the thing's inevitability, a few scattered boos when Garret Anderson struck out to lead off the ninth. Patience is running thin.

Yahoo boxRecap

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