The Angels finally come home tomorrow from a road trip that started out amazing, but then quickly devolved into a string of pitiful and vexing losses, and the return to the Big A couldn't come sooner. They had trouble scoring against the lowly Twins, then after one decent offensive outburst against the White Sox, they gave us two feeble offensive performances in a row. Angels fans had run out of the fuel built up in the frenzied Athletics series, and at best were running on lethargic fumes coming into today's game. Was one more measly road win before plodding home too much to ask?
If you simplify the formula used to win baseball games down to it's essence, you basically have two ingredients: good pitching and good hitting. Easy enough, right? Except for when your cadaverous lineup continually wastes great starts by guys like Garrett Richards and Matt Shoemaker, which has been the reoccurring theme here on this hellish road trip.
Today was almost setting up to be a repeat of that dreaded ritual, as Jered Weaver took the hill and once again looked like the Weaver of old. He was absolutely crushing it today, and really didn't get into any sort of predicament until the seventh inning. Before that, he had six innings of two-hit baseball, no runs and all on only 83 pitches. Weaver threw lots of fastballs, and was getting up in the mid 80s on many of them, something that should quell some fears of Angels fans everywhere. So with a showing from Good Weaver, it would only be on the Angels' batters to do their job and they'd have themselves a more joyous plane ride home.
John Danks got the ball for Chicago today, and he wasn't any slouch himself. He was locked in a pitching duel with Weaver for a good chunk of the game, until Mike Trout decided to do a Mike Trout thing in the fifth. With a man on, and two outs, Trout took a Danks four seam fastball deep to left center and put the Angels on the board. The two-run blast was just what the Halos doctor ordered. On top of giving his team a great chance to win today, Trout has been slowly creeping back to his old, amazing ways the last couple days. He had three hits in yesterday's game, and got on base safely multiple times in today's contest. If there was an adjustment to be made, let's just hope this is all a sign that he did indeed attend to it and he shall now begin to rake like a man possessed. Please?
So, with some actual run supoort, Jered Weaver had himself a shot at a W. Of course, the White Sox wouldn't make it easy on him. While he was throwing darts through his first six innings, he got into a little bit of trouble in the seventh. Melky Cabrera took a change-up deep and gave the Sox their first run of the day, but Weaver seemed undeterred and eventually got out of the side without further incident. There it was...a 2-1 Halos lead, heading into the last two innings, Weaver done for the day. The recipe was coming together, it just needed a dash of bullpen help...but if you've been paying attention to this club, you'll know that's easier said than done.
The ninth turned out to be quite the nail-biter, but some gutsy moves by Scioscia may have been the deciding factor. In the top of the ninth, with Kole Calhoun on third, Mike Scioscia had Carlos Perez attempt a suicide squeeze not once but TWICE...the second time was the charm, thankfully, and the Halos got a HUGE insurance run. It was huge because in the bottom of the ninth, with closer Huston Street pitching, Todd Frazier knocked out a solo homer and what would have been a game tying shot ended up just bringing them within one. Well played Scioscia; also, let's not do that any more, Street.
Okay, so the bullpen once again made things more scary than they need to be, including a game-ending Austin Jackson fly ball that was a couple feet short of being a game-changing homer, but who cares? They got the win and they did so by checking off all the important boxes. Great outing by Weaver? Check. Mike Trout bomb? Check. Gutsy manufacturing of runs by Scioscia? Check. It was a good day for the Angels, no matter how close they were to ending this first road trip of 2016 on a deflating, demoralizing moment.
A sweep in Oakland, got swept in Minnesota and a split in Chicago. Could have been better...could have easily been worse. The good news? Mike Trout is heating up and the starting pitching is doing their job. Now it's on the lineup to get more hits, and the bullpen to do a better job of battening down the hatches. The ingredients are there, they just need to get cooking.