Purgatory Online

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

If one doesn't consider the Red Sox games, the Angels have won thirteen of their last fourteen. It was great to see them shake the dirt of Fenway Park off of their spikes and sweep Cleveland.

And that play...man.

Top of the eighth, with the Angels clinging to a 2-1 lead. Lackey's pitched well, but is tiring, and gives up a leadoff double to Ronnie Belliard. Matt Lawton then grounds out to first, advancing Belliard to third. Scioscia removes Lackey, and the ESPN cameras catch Lack angrily saying "Goddammit!" as he sees Scioscia heading towards him. The Angels need a strikeout, however, and so it's Frankie Rodriguez in relief.

It quickly becomes apparent that Rodriguez has his A-plus-plus stuff. His breaking pitches are untouchable, 2002 ALCS good. He strikes out Omar Vizquel on three consecutive pitches to record the second out and remove the possiblity of a sacrifice, then quickly throws two strikes past Travis Hafner. As Rodriguez begins his delivery of what must surely be strike three, Molina shifts up in his crouch and I scream "block the pitch, Bengie!"

Sure enough, the ball breaks down and out of the strike zone. Hafner checks his swing in time, and the ball bounces, ricochets off of Molina's shin guard, and rolls about twelve feet to the third-base side of the plate. Belliard, who has a good lead, breaks for home.

Molina reaches the ball, grabs it, and flips a no-look toss over his shoulder to Rodriguez, who has hurtled plateward from the mound. Belliard begins his slide. Rodriguez slides in front of the plate, knocking Belliard to the side, catches the ball, reaches under his own leg, and applies the tag. Belliard never touches the plate, and is the third out of the inning. Joe Morgan is heard to say "Wow! Oh, wow!"

I know, I know. You know all this already. I don't care.

Anyway, Rodriguez retired the side in order in the ninth, preserving the Angels' sweep of the Indians. After yesterday's off-day, the Halos head into the last of their interdivisional games tonight - they'll have three with Toronto, three with Chicago, and then head to Seattle for the beginning of interdivisional play.

It's fairly obvious at this point that the Angels' best chance at the postseason this year will be the division title. Dropping three games to Boston dealt a severe blow to their wildcard chances; Boston has eight games remaining with teams that are over .500, while Anaheim has sixteen. Additionally, of course, the Angels have six games left with Oakland, and none left with Boston.

That suits me fine. There may be some Angels fans who are ambivalent about the Boston-Oakland series going on right now, but, as for me, I'm cheering every time Manny and Ortiz go yahd. After the A's loss last night, the Angels moved to within two games in the loss column.

Tonight's games:

Toronto at Anaheim (Dave Bush at Bartolo Colon), 10:05 pm ET - If Colon can find the strike zone, he should be able to go after most of the lineup and work around Delgado. Bush is having a fine rookie season, and the Angels will be able to use Jose Guillen if he can return tonight. The Angels have a huge bullpen advantage, so as long as Colon can limit the Blue Jays to four or fewer runs in the first six innings, the Angels should have a good chance at this one.

Boston at Oakland (Lowe at Redman), 10:05 pm ET - In advance of tomorrow night's Clash of the Titans, when Pedro Martinez faces Tim Hudson, the Red Sox will try to keep the ball rolling for Derek Lowe. Lowe has pitched pretty well over the last few weeks, and kept a pretty tight lid on the Angels in his last start. Redman, meanwhile, has been terrible at home in 2004. Check it:

Away - 102.2 IP, 2.98 ERA, .249 BAA, .716 OPSA
Home - 61.1 IP, 7.04 ERA, .347 BAA, .989 OPSA

I mean, Jeez. Now, that's a significantly higher number of innings pitched on the road for Redman, but here are the teams he's faced at home this year:

Seattle (6.0 and 6.1 IP)
Anaheim (5.1)
Minnesota (5.0)
Detroit (5.0 and 4.0)
ChiSox (6.0 and 7.0)
Toronto (5.0)
Pittsburgh (5.0)
San Francisco (4.2)
Tampa Bay (2.0)

So it's not like he happened to catch the Yankees in Oakland three times or anything. That's five starts against winning teams and seven against losing teams. Let's hope Boston can take advantage.