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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Embree Little Thing He Does Is Magic: Angels 5, A's 3

Given the Angels' precarious offense lately, you can understand why I felt like leaving this game after the first two innings; Ervin Santana's wobbly first and second narrowly avoided becoming multi-run disasters, with the third threatening to be a repeat of the first. But Santana then remembered he was pitching in front of a friendly crowd at home, and settled down for four scoreless and relatively uneventful (if pitch-filled) innings. The good news was that the hardest-hit ball he surrendered was a double, held harmless in the third, and no baserunner got past first the rest of the night.

Rich Harden, by contrast, started out strong and got better and worse by turns, the Angels scraping a couple runs off him in the third. He even obligingly walked a batter that frame, Chone Figgins in his only time on base the whole game; he did not score, which was pretty typical of the Angels offenses of late. But he plunked Gary Matthews, Jr., and Howie Kendrick drove him to second on a double; Jeff Mathis got Matthews home on a sac fly, and Casey Kotchman tied the game on a scoring groundout to second.

There things stood for some time, though as I said, he was uneven; at one point in the game, he had thrown as many balls as strikes, or nearly so. He continued to get into jams, and twice the Angels got a pair on, and twice they failed to cash them in, with one out in the fourth and two outs in the fifth. Such are the problems caused by the singles offense. The A's yanked Harden after the fifth, and then brought in their circus freakshow submariner, Brad Zeigler, who promptly mowed down all six Angels he faced, striking out three. The last, Jeff Mathis, went down on three straight pitches, an embarrassing showing.

Scot Shields then gave up what appeared for the world to be the winning run in the top of the eighth on a monster solo shot by Mark Ellis that landed in the second bullpen. I mean, really — Mark Ellis? But I suppose he's got eight homers before this game, so some respect is called for. Yet aside from that gaffe (apparently set up on a tee according to the radio callers, down the middle of the plate), Shields was efficient as he has been lately.

Once Bob Geren had shot his Ziegler wad, he decided to go with a platoon matchup for Casey Kotchman, bringing in lefty Alan Embree. As is usually the case with Kotchman and lefty-lefty relievers, that proved a mistake, because Kotch hammered a 1-2 pitch into the right field corner for a generously scored (to the opposition) ground rule double. I say it was generously scored because that had a chance to be a triple, even with Kotchman's underwhelming speed. Izturis then bunted Kotch over, which brought Vlad to the plate. Now, Vlad was fairly well neutralized the whole game, but he this time managed a clean single to left through a drawn-in infield. Shockingly enough, Geren left Embree out for Hunter, striking him out; but that was not the biggest surprise of the night. No, it was the second reversal of the alleged platoon advantage, when Garret Anderson unloaded on a 3-1 pitch into the right-field tunnel to give the Angels the lead. It was his first homer since June 10, and it felt longer.

Frankie pitched a clean save, and after the heart attacks earlier in the game, it was a good thing, too.

Yahoo boxMLB.com recap

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It's the wonders of Garret batting sixth.

It really is.
A couple of corrections, if you don't mind: GA homered to right, not left. Also, Shields pitched the 8th, not the 7th. It wound up being a pretty solid outing for Santana - 7IP, only 2 runs, and 7 strikeouts.
Corrections made; I guess I should be excited about that because (a) I still have readers who care enough to mention it, and (b) I only made two mistakes!

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