While you were away...
The Angels marched to the forefront of Major League Baseball, triumphantly. With a pitching staff as broken and beaten and hobbled as anything imagined by Archibald Willard, they nevertheless left their boot prints all over the demoralized refuse of the Oakland A's, rendering them into a green and gold slimy slick oozing across the pavement and heading towards the gutter drain of 2014, their fans clinging to the sticky surface of hope as they, too, hurtle towards oblivion.
But when is it ever the best time to gloat? Now, when the tides might surely turn against us as hard as they turned in our favor? Or not until the very end, when the savory sensation of that critical moment has then gone cold and dry, becoming memories of lesser importance than the next exciting challenge that confronts us?
The answer is never, friends. It's never the best time to gloat. Not now, not then. Best to stay focused on the effort ahead, and fight on. Let the losers, alone, be the ones who laugh at their own fate.
But about those losers. Let's reel in the entire enchilada, shall we?
We start off with last Thursday, clinging to a single game lead over our Division rivals. Both starting pitchers (C.J. Wilson for our side) held the opposition to 3 runs, and both bullpens locked away home plate from their opponents, until the 10th inning, when a Howie Kendrick sac fly to right brought in Erick Aybar with the walk-off run as the Halos won 4-3 to double up their lead in the standings to 2 full games. With 3 games left in the head-to-head series, the worst that could happen would be for the Angels to be a single game behind when dawn broke on Labor Day.
Friday came, and Jered Weaver took the mound to face off against Jon Lester. For Weave, it was 7 innings pitched, 3 hits and 3 walks against 3 strikeouts, but zero runs granted and the Angels won 4-0, thrusting a dagger into the very heart of the blockbuster Yeonis Cespedes trade for Jon Lester. Now the lead was 3 games in the Division, and the best that Oakland could pray for would be to escape Anaheim still within reach of 1 full game.
Note, however, that with the 9 inning shut out on Friday, added to the failure to score in the last 4 frames on Thursday, the A's had gone 13 straight innings without a single run.
Saturday. The day that should have seen Garett Richards pitching for LAA, instead saw a parade of bullpen arms - 8 total, actually - combine to shut out the A;s for the second straight night, and holding them to 3 measly hits overall. The Angels scored 2 in the 4th off the OTHER Big Kahuna of the Oakland staff, Jeff Samardzija with Eric Aybar being the catalyst, and that was all that was necessary and the Angels won one of the most extraordinary pitching duels so far this century, 2 - 0. And with the second straight shut out, the A's have been held from scoring in 22 consecutive innings. Better, the Angels were now 4 games up in the AL West and assured of at least tripling the advantage in the standings that they brought into the series.
We conclude the bloodbath on Sunday. The Angels jumped out on Scott Kazmir with 6 runs in the 2nd inning, running Kaz from the field after only 3 outs recorded in the game, total. Kazmir managed to get enough fervor stirred up over his failure to con the plate umpire into not making accurate calls on balls versus strikes, that he got his own manager ejected. But the Halos were now in a laugher, one that would end in an 8-1 thrashing and seal the LAA lead in the AL West at 5 full games. Matt Shoemaker was phenomenal once again, with 7 strikeouts and 0 runs allowed over 7 full innings of work, which was important after the extensive bullpen use the night before.
Oakland did finally put up a run on the board, in the top of the 8th. So tack on 7 more innings to that scoreless streak and it had reached 29 straight. In fact, after all 4 games and 37 total innings played, Oakland managed to cross the plate in only 3 of their frames.
Brilliant, brilliant pitching throughout the entire series. But, hey Oakland, there is always that run differential!!
Meanwhile, it has become rather droll to observe the many pundits feeling a need to protest the impact of the Cespedes trade. While we watched the Halos run the bases with near impunity and the Oakland bats completely tamed, if the world don't add up, let's keep redoing the math. For the A's fans, take comfort in knowing that Adam Dunn is riding to the rescue! That's Adam Dunn and his .220/.340/.433/.773 slash line. And his commitment to retire after 25 games.
Elsewhere in the Heavens of Anaheim: That Angels have awakened the baseball world. "Dominate"......"caught fire."....."spectacular"......"Matt Shoemaker has been brilliant"..."You just can't say enough about this team right now".............Albert Pujols must be feeling better with all that Plantar Faciitis stuff of recent memory. He may not be hitting like the Pujols of yesteryear, but he still fields like it...........Don't you believe it, folks. This race in the AL West is NOT over..........Grant Green has been activated, and Saturday's starter Cory Rasmus was sent down to make room. Rasmus will be back up after rosters get expanded on Tuesday. This happened Sunday afternoon, so doesn't this mean that Rasmus is now ineligible for post-season play? Isn't the rule that he had to be on the 25-man as of midnight on August 31?..........Mike Trout's extended slump is throwing away a lot of hard-earned media goodwill...........
Around Baseball: Speed Demon...Aroldis Chapman is on the verge of becoming the first pitcher since the implementation of PitchF/X in 2006 to average - average! - over 100mph for every fastball thrown in a season............Who needs bullpens? A Japanese High School Semi-Final match just concluded, lasting 50 innings over 4 days to determine the team to be sent on to the Finals. And both starting pitchers went the distance!...........Poor New York Yankees. They find themselves visiting another stadium and, well, how can they possibly be expected to compete when they are forced to survive in visitors quarters?..........The Mets have fired one of the trailblazers in baseball ticketing and marketing, basically because she is forced to sell tickets for, and market, the Mets............Why is it that everywhere Nolan Ryan goes, rancor in the front office suddenly appears?..........I know you people are all going to feel real sad about this..........
Moreno-Carpino Shame Update
135 games lost to the opportunity of remembrance, sharing our 2014 journey with the legacy of one of our earliest warriors.
1 game set aside for honor.
26 more games to be added to the "Lost" list.
Here is a close-up of the official patch, worn for a few hours for one game.
Our patch is HERE. All cotton, embroidered, iron-on. And they are free with a SASE. Just email your request to me and join your fellow HH'ers in the campaign. I am starting to see more and more photos from you with your patch attached! Keep up the good work!!