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Torii Catches, Ervin Dominates, Garret Bats 2nd and Frankie Closes for Angels

The Angels 2008 Season was performed in a one-game Microcosm Friday night in Anaheim.

The Angels game on Friday was a complete summary of the team’s entire 2008 season. The lineup at the outset was shuffled due to injury. There was no offense to speak of for quite a while, hardly any signs of life from the bats at all. But there was great pitching, and Ervin Santana was facing a superior offensive lineup. While the bats fiddled, Ervin made sure the empire did not burn.

Santana’s line in the game: 5H, 1 ER, 7K in 8 IP

The offense was flat, making quick outs and not inspiring anyone to disbelieve batting averages of .201 and .113 for 7 and 8 hitters Jeff Mathis and Brandon Wood. The point between madness and genius was arrived at by Mike Scioscia batting DH Garret Anderson in the #2 position. What seemed ludicrously forced by injury for two at-bats seemed paved as a foundation for the rest of the season when Anderson crushed a 6th inning pitch into the RF seats for a 2-run homerun that took the lead. But offense gives and offense takes away – the Angels followed the HR by loading the bases and getting a run on a sacrifice fly by Juan Rivera. But that was all – the season of fattening up only to get what is needed continues!

And then there was the catch.

My season seats are close to the batter’s eye and are great for flyballs just to the LF side of the 400 mark on the CF wall. This was exactly the spot to where Rangers Left Fielder Marlon Byrd hit a monster flyball. With a man on 2nd base and nobody out in the top of the 7th inning, this was a disaster waiting to happen – and happening right before my eyes as it was going to go right over the wall. Before tonight, every HR saving catch I can ever recall seeing has involved the outfielder gazing up at the ball with his back against the wall, extending the palm of his glove skyward, over the fence and timing the drop of the ball into the waiting leather. Byrd’s drive was a rocket that did not afford Angels CF Torii Hunter the luxury of turning around. He jumped face-first into the wall and nabbed the ball horizontally in his glove as the sphere was going out. He then proceeded to go all Yves Klein on the wall. It was the best catch I have ever seen in person and from my perch above it, the most dramatic as well.

I have seen some great catches on television and some great ones in person. I saw Pettis, Devo, Edmonds, Erstad and Torii make some astounding catches, many of which saved games. But this one involved such complete reckless self-sacrifice, daring and an atypical precision alignment that it is just above the others.

Oh, and it saved the game, or at least saved it from being tied.

So the game had the sleek pitching, the sputteringly madness offense revealing its genius in a rally, the dramatic defense – hallmarks of the 2008 Angels.

And then there was Frankie. Francisco Rodriguez came in and struck out Josh Hamilton and Milton Bradley in embarrassing ABs before inducing a Hank Blalock groundout for his 52nd Save.

A season in one game, in one night. All in a day’s work.