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Sunday, June 03, 2012

The Mike Trout Umpire Distortion Field: Angels 3, Rangers 2

The win Friday — glorious and fully unexpected as it was, given the Angels' wretched futility earlier in the year — was nothing compared to the insanity of yesterday's game. If there has been a game — not just this season, but at any time in my Angels fandom — where the Angels capitalized on such a combination of bad defense and umpire blown calls, I cannot recall it.

The headline bill was one of a star pitching matchup, with the Rangers' young ace Yu Darvish pitted against their former ace and current Angel C.J. Wilson. (I once harbored hopes that the Angels or Dodgers might sign Darvish as a Japanese amateur. Fat chance.) For the first five innings this held true, but things took a weird turn in the sixth, when leadoff man Albert Pujols hit what looked for the world like a routine pop out to first baseman Mike Napoli. Only, Napoli lost the ball in the lights, or something, because the ball dropped untouched by either him or right fielder Nelson Cruz, only a dozen or two feet away. Pujols then alertly ran to second, converting the break into a two-base error. Two batters later, Mark Trumbo bounced to third, and Adrian Beltre dropped the ball out of his glove, giving Trumbo the base, allowing Pujols to score.

The Rangers got that gift run back in the top of the seventh in a fairly conventional way, with Jordan Walden loading the bases, and Bobby Cassevah allowing Nelson Cruz to score on David Murphy's sac fly with one out. Walden really begins to call for a AAA stint except for the fact that the Angels have few better options right now.

But then to the truly weird parts of this game. In the bottom of the seventh, Erick Aybar reached on what was judged a bunt single to Darvish, but IMO could have equally have been an error; it seemed to me Darvish just utterly failed to field his position. Either way, it sparked a rally that Bobby Wilson did his best to squelch immediately by striking out bunting to give up an out for no reason.

But that brought up Mike Trout. In case you missed Jeff Nelson's excellent piece in SB Nation recently, Mike Trout is like a video game in "god mode", i.e. the state where you can do anything to your opponent and he can do nothing in response. Trout reached in the most Mike Trout possible way — an infield single to shortstop Elvis Andrus, but really, it was more like

Trout: bounces out to short
Andrus: Wow, that Trout guy is really fast. Say, what's this white, round thing in my hand?
Because you know, Mike Trout is just so good he warps the nature of time and space around him. This, as it turns out, is a helpful property to have if you are a baseball player, because it also works on umpires. As it happens, Andrus thought there was a runner's interference call on Aybar, and so held on to the ball instead of throwing to first. "I learned something tonight," Andrus said, but after it was too late.

Trouty eventually made it to third on Alberto Callaspo's unexpected RBI single, and then Kendrys Morales hit a liner to medium right. Cruz fielded the ball, threw a dart back to home plate — and Trout tagged and scored. At least, that's the official version of events, because Rangers catcher Yorvit Torrealba was quite certain he had tagged out Trout in a close play at the plate. Home plate umpire Tim McClelland almost immediately ejected him for arguing, which led to a fairly laughable situation because Torrealba didn't realize he had been tossed. So Torrealba continued to vent, Donald Duck-like, with Ron Washington coming over to plead his case in vain.

The Angels gave one back in the eighth thanks in part to a dumb throw by Torii Hunter that ended up in the dugout and scored Elvis Andrus, but outside of a nail-biting ninth (the Rangers loaded the bases for the second time, but failed to score), that was the game — which ended on Josh Hamilton's swinging strikeout. The radio guys mentioned that Hamilton was holding his elbow in the dugout after his prior at bat; perhaps a check swing took something out of him? If he's injured to affect his swing in today's game, I wouldn't object...

Update: As 60ft6in mentions in the comments, Pujols swiped third in the sixth, which proved critical, as Beltre's double-clutch allowed him to score. The Rangers now have allowed 26 unearned runs in their last 29 games; as Buster Olney tweeted, the 1998 Yankees allowed 37 all year.

ESPN BoxAngels recap

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Please don't forget Albert Pujols sixth inning steal of third on the third strike pitch to Kendrys Morales with hot cornerman Adrian Beltre shifted to the shortstop position. Yorvit Torrealba made no throw to third. If he had tried to hit a moving target (Beltre) the ball may well have gone down the left field line allowing Pujols to score. Sometimes that exaggerated shift with runners on base will come back to bite you!
You know, I had forgotten about that. Pujols' steal was a real "welcome to the bigs, rook!" moment from a guy who doesn't swipe that many anymore.
"Donald Duck-like." Brilliant! That's precisely what his tantrum looked like.

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