While you were away...you didn't miss much.
The Angels, now crowned AL West Champs and working to keep things fresh and lined up properly for the start of the ALDS, have only to worry about whether or not they hold on to the AL win lead over Baltimore and retain home field advantage throughout the playoffs. But with Baltimore tending to lose 3 time zones ahead of us - contending with their own AL East title hangover - there is no real sense of urgency with the Halos. And they are playing like it.
Friday Night the weekend series started out bright and fresh, with a red hot Texas Rangers team rolling into town on the heels of 6 straight wins against the credible Braves and A's. And then Hector Santiago took the mound for the first pitch. The bad news was that Santiago was a complete cluster with his start. The good news is that Mike Scioscia didn't let him stick around to see his 4th out before he could do more damage. The bad news is that in those 3 outs he did witness, he did far more damage than was even necessary. Hector surrendered 7 runs, 6 of them earned, 5 of those while he was still on the mound. The rout was on, and the Rangers would end up with a 12-3 victory.
Saturday Night was more pleasurable, as the Halos ran out to an 8-0 lead, with Mike Trout experiencing a walk (and scored), a 2-run homer (and scored), a triple (and scored), a strikeout looking (didn't score), and 4 put-outs in center field (nobody scoring). Jered Weaver tucked away his 18th win of the season - tops in the AL - by pitching into the 8th inning, being tabbed with 3 runs off of 5 hits against 7 strikeouts. Weaver is certainly not messing around, and has a chance to get to 19 wins later this week. The Rangers did mount an attack, but fell short as Joe Smith and Huston Street shut things down completely and the Angels took the second game by a final score of 8-5.
Sunday Afternoon was a tough nut. The Angels bullpen worked its way through 9 full innings of work and gave up only 2 runs, 1 off of Fernando Salas in the 6th when Erick Aybar missed a chance for an easy out at 2nd base to escape a 2-out, bases loaded situation. And another 1 off of Huston Street in the 9th as Ryan Rua hits the first home run of his career. Normally, this would be considered an awesome job by the subs forced to fill in for the missing Garrett Richards, but on this day those 2 runs were fatal. The Angels scored only 1 run themselves, as Albert Pujols singled in Chris Iannetta in the 6th, and the Rangers took the rubber match 2-1, taking the series 2 games to 1.
So that is it. The next game to be played in Anaheim will be Game 1 of the 2014 ALDS, which will take place Thursday, October 2. Game time still to be determined. Meanwhile we head off to Oakland. The last time we were there, we left clutching a 1 game lead in the AL West. That was 29 days ago. We return 10 1/2 games up and have a chance to really mess with their heads and crush their souls. In the trio battle for the two EC spots (ignoring the Tigers for the moment) Oakland is only 1/2 a game up on the Royals and 2 games up on the Mariners, so it's possible that the end of this series could see Oakland on the outside of the playoff race altogether, looking in.
Elsewhere in the Heavens of Anaheim: Don't be too pissy about the play of the team right now. Home field advantage in the playoffs is huge, but so is knowing what players will be taken into the playoffs. There are still questions, some of which need time to be answered.............Mike Trout proves that he is better than any other man, using the legendary challenge put forth by the gods of Olympus: Touch The Head of Adrian Beltre............Mike Scioscia is considering the possibility of coming to the same conclusion many of us arrived at a couple of weeks ago. That is, use a 3-man rotation in the playoffs. At least, during the best of 5 ALDS, anyway. Pretty clever of him, considering that he is down to only 2 on which that he can even think about relying............On Friday the Angels went over 3 million in attendance again (the 12th straight season), and rank only 2nd in the AL at about 100,000 behind the Yankees.............Hank Conger gives Jered Weaver nearly 6 extra strikes out of every 100 chances just because of Hank's ability to frame Weaver's pitches. That is one of the very best in baseball.
Around Baseball: Bud Black is sticking with the Padres...........The Cardinals are getting blown out by a virus, at a very bad point in the season. Sure, they have clinched a playoff spot, but there is still a division title AND home field advantage in the National League playoffs at stake..........Just a thought, but a healthy Texas Rangers team led by a decision-maker who is a complete knucklehead might make for a formidable opponent in the AL West next year.............Curious. Could the exodus of Cuban baseball players kill the system that creates Cuban baseball players?..........Joe Maddon's brilliance is being thwarted. Even he cannot figure out how to resurrect offenses in today's MLB..........Remember how Seattle mowed down LAA batters with a parade of lefties? Remember alos how Jerry Dipoto threw in Randal Grichuk to the Peter Bourjos for David Freese trade? Well, here is food for thought...........Waldo, there. Turns out he is a Royals fan.
Moreno-Carpino Shame Update
155 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.
6 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. Or, do as DowningRules did, and join me for lunch and get them in person!
Ladies and gentlemen, we are on the verge of a new standard. As we motor to the end days of the 2014 regular season, we also round of a new harvest of baseball records. Some of those are team-based, some are personal. Some are career landmarks, some are seasonal. Some are positive, and some are embarrassing.
This one is personal, seasonal, and embarrassing. And it belongs to Albert Pujols.
Pujols has mastered the art of Grounding Into Double Plays. Already this season, he has 28. And there are 9 more games to polish up that number. In all of Major League Baseball, Pujols trails only Miami's Casey McGehee, who sits at 30. And McGehee is hanging tough, collecting one yesterday to remain ahead of Pujols' own Sunday giddieyup.
So, right off the bat, Pujols is chasing the MLB title for 2014 G.I DiPshit of the Year.
But let us recognize the achievement of already eclipsing the LA Angels Franchise record for single-season GIDP once held by the immortal Vladimir Guerrero. Vlad's mark of 27 had stood since 2008. Yes, folks, Pujols has just placed his stamp into the LAA record books. Some kind of congratulations are in order.
Maybe we should delay the celebration for just a moment or two longer...because...Al is also on the brink of his personal best. In The Year of Our Selig 2007, Pujols tied with Carlos Lee of the Houston Astros with 27 total GDP's, leading all of baseball then. Impressive but, as this year has shown, we know he can still do better. In 2011 Pujols took sole possession of the MLB GIDP crown when he hobbled into 29.
So here we are. Pujols has 28 GIDP's for 2014. That is the new all-time single-season record for LAA, 1 off Pujol's own single-season record, and only 2 behind the current MLB leader. And we have 9 games to go!