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Friday, March 19, 2010

Finis, And The Kids Are Alright, Sorta: Angels 10, Brewers 5

So, the last game of the spring training stint, this time at Maryvale. Once again, we got there late for various reasons, and so decided to park on surface streets away from the main lot; this proved a good idea as well again, because we didn't have to fuss with all the lousy traffic after the game. (Of course, the neighborhood near the Maryvale park is one of Phoenix's shabbier neighborhoods, as evidenced by the number of homes with bars over their windows, and graffiti on the open walls.)

The Angels' opponent, the Milwaukee Brewers, finally had a lone good season in 2008 that got them into the postseason for the first time since 1982; in those days, they were an AL team, and thumped the Angels in three straight following two losses that should have sealed an Angels series win and their first World Series appearance ever. Instead, and as the 1986 Red Sox found out, beating the Angels in the league postseason games is no guarantee of advancement. A long stretch of misery ensued; the Brewers' first winning season since 1992 wasn't until three years ago, opening a stretch of three straight winning seasons.

But 2008 was paid for on the installment plan, as Bernie Brewer found himself overdrawn to bring in C.C. Sabathia as a short-timer, moving the blocked Matt LaPorta to the American League Cleveland franchise in exchange, where his cement hands and wickedly hot bat could have some value. After an unimpressive first-round exit, 2009 proved the hangover from that all-too-brief party. That squad wasn't horrible, but the rotation couldn't handle the twin blows of losing Sabathia and never-quite-healthy ace-in-training Ben Sheets; and the offense became a less-impressive echo of the early oughts Giants, with Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun distantly recalling Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent, and everybody else (save 3B Casey McGehee, whose career year must have shocked his former Cubs overlords) doing their best Seven Dwarfs imitations.

So what the Angels caught today was pretty much an A-list Brewers squad. Featuring Fielder, Braun, and McGehee, manager Bob Melvin filled out his starting lineup card with players whose numbers were generally below 40, save for shortstop Luis Cruz, whose 75 should be ignored because he's actually on the 25-man.

The Angels battered Jeff Suppan as though he were testing pitches, hammering him for five runs in the first, which was really the game. Three balls left the yard off Angels bats, one by Bobby Abreu in the first, another by Kendry Morales in the fifth, and the last by Peter Bourjos in the sixth. It was a genuinely long day for everyone at the park, but most especially Brewers pitching.

Angels starter Joel Pineiro got through four innings in fairly good shape, surrendering a couple runs, one each in the third and fourth. One of them should have been unearned, as I reckoned McGehee's "single" in the fourth should have been scored E5, but wasn't; and then Corey Hart made what then would have been the last out of the inning, without damage.

Unlike the usual catastrophes, the Angels' AAA squad managed to best Milwaukee's minor leaguers in late innings. This included the never-before-seen-by-me Gabe DeHoyos, who donned Piniero's 35 in the eighth in order to maximally confuse matters. A hanger-on in two prior clubs' minor league organizations (Kansas City and San Diego), he gave up two of the Brewers' runs, both on a homer to catcher George Kotteras. Kotteras, had an amazing, clean swing that just stung the ball; it seemed like every foul he hit had home run distance. Probably most famous as the PTBNL that fetched David Wells from Boston, he's 29 now and pretty long in the tooth to have a career as even a major league reserve catcher.

Jim Edmonds was there, too, for the Brew Crew, performing the role of "NRI who isn't Mike Cameron and really shouldn't be on a major league field anymore". He got a few innings in the outfield, some at first, and completed the game, providing its last out as well. He walked and struck out, but looked for the world like a veteran pretending to be a major leaguer.

So I'm ready for the Show now.

MLB.com box

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