Purgatory Online

Monday, September 26, 2005

The magic number is four. Any combination of Angels victories and/or A's losses totaling four over the next seven days gives the Angels the division. Angels go 4-3? Check. Angels go 2-5 and the A's 5-2? Check. Angels go 0-7 and A's go 3-4? Check.

Of course, considering that the two clubs go head-to-head over the next four games, every Angels fan out there is coming into this series with one thought: even a split's good enough. Just two games out of four and the division is won.

I am not interested in a split.

After bobbing around for nearly the entire season, the Angels finally seemed to put it together on this just-ended home stand, going 8-2 in the midst of comebacks, clutch hits, and bullpen performances the likes of which we thought gone for good. With no dominant team in the AL this year, the club that we've seen over the last 10 games is good enough to win the pennant, and I, for one, am not interested in shooting for .500 again; neither should the Angels be. In Oakland or in Anaheim, the Angels are the better team and ought to be thinking about proving it for good. Running out the clock may win football games, but there is work left to be done here, tonight and every night until that number hits zero.

And so we consider tonight's starter, Joe Blanton. Corky's splits:

vLHB - .231/.294/.357, 412 PA, 7 HR, 2.95 BB/9, 4.74 K/9, 7.78 H/9
vRHB - .246/.319/.440, 369 PA, 14 HR, 3.43 BB/9, 5.61 K/9, 8.31 H/9

It's not much to hang your hat on, but Blanton's a righty who has a tougher time with right-handed hitters, meaning that Juan Rivera - a right-handed hitter who hits right-handed pitchers well - should bear watching tonight. Blanton's got a fastball that normally tops out at around 93 mph with decent movement, and has a fairly good curve, an average slider, and an indifferent changeup. He's a rookie, and has now thrown more innings in the AL than he did last year in Triple-A, so fatigue may be something of a factor for him at this point in the season (though it hasn't really shown so far). He's also not especially athletic, and the Angels may want to put pressure on him by bunting for hits in certain situations.

I'm not sure which way Scioscia will go with Figgins tonight; both Finley and Izturis seem like possibilities in the lineup. Given Finley's home run and double on Saturday, I suspect he gets the nod:

Figgins - 3B
Cabrera - SS
Anderson - DH
Guerrero - RF
Rivera - LF
Erstad - 1B
Molina - C
Finley - CF
Kennedy - 2B