Angels 2 Athletics 1
I believe it was the late, unbelievably great Hunter S. Thompson who once wrote “once you get locked into a serious pitching duel, the tendency is to push it as far as you can.” Or maybe he didn’t write that, at least not exactly in that wording, but I feel like the basic spirit, the over-indulgence to the point of recklessness, centered on two opposing-but-necessary forces, works for describing this game.
We saw one hell of a pitching duel, there is no question about that, and you know what? I like that this seems to be a regularly occurring thing nowadays; the starter, instead of going about 4.2 IP, goes six or seven innings, only allowing a few runs. Matt Shoemaker, Tyler Skaggs, Jesse Chavez...even Daniel Wright looked good in his spot start. Every starter has seemed to have flipped a switch and become the opposite of what we saw the first couple weeks of the season.
That’s including the surprisingly studly J.C. Ramirez, who followed up his last solid start with a performance tonight that was basically the game of his life. Ramirez, who went into previously-uncharted territory when he finished seven big league innings at the Big A this evening, also allowed a paltry TWO hits to the visiting A’s, and struck out seven batters.
His slider was on point, he had some pretty sexy velocity, and there was no question who was boss on the Angels’ mound this evening. If this guy can be stretched out in spring training, get some crucial starts when the team needs it early in the season, and then turn out to be some diamond-in-the-rough starting pitcher, I will dance a jig. I swear.
I really would prefer to talk Ramirez all night, but I suppose I should mention the Halos offense, or lack thereof. But to be fair, they were going against Jesse Hahn tonight, and he ended up throwing 8.0 IP, with just one hit, two walks and six strikeouts. Neither starter was messing around tonight, they came to play, but I’ve only got J.C. Ramirez on my mind right now.
Of course, I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a back-and-forth argument in my head right now as to whether to give major props to Hahn for his night, or to just chalk it up to the Angels making another opposing pitcher look really, really good. This game actually went to extras, with a 0-0 score, the relievers of both teams getting in some jams but nobody could close the deal in the regular innings.
It wasn’t until the 10th, with Jose Alvarez on the mound, and he was facing pinch hitter Josh Phegley. Yeah, I’d never heard of him, either, but now I shake my fist towards the sky while cursing his name, because on the FIRST PITCH, he hit a solo bomb to right center.
All of that great pitching, and Jose Alvarez gives up the go-ahead on one freakin’ pitch. He was ok the rest of the inning, too. It was just one lousy pitch to the backup catcher of the Oakland A’s. That was rough.
But Mike Trout is the ultimate antidote to rough, and he cured what ailed us all by smashing a rainbow shot to right field, curving around the foul pole, staying fair, sending the crowd into hysterics and tying up the game 1-1. The Angels had a shot to win it after that, but came up predictably short in their efforts.
The 11th inning was the 11th hour, time to go home guys, and the message was received loud and clear, as Danny Espinosa started things off with a single. Then, he was moved over to second on a Maldonado sac bunt, and finally, the coup de grace, Kole Calhoun hit a single to left-center, which scored a charging Espinosa. Game over. KC mobbed, his jersey ripped to shreds.
This was so, so close to a Buttercupping. We were all set to see another rad night of pitching go to waste as the bats couldn’t get anything going (or they faced really, really good pitching, I’m still not sure which it is), but then Mike Trout made his usual appearance as Deus Ex Machina Personified, and then Kole Calhoun played the hero to end everything.
Thanks to those heroes, we can talk about the REAL heroes: The pitchers. Props to everyone who kept the Athletics at the gates while the Angels offensive attack was sputtering. Of course, thanks to Mike Trout, Kole Calhoun, Danny Espinosa and Andrelton Simmons, too. Those last two get props because they added hits AND some slick defense (which helps to make pitching look so good). Oh, and Martin Maldonado did his usual laser strike to 2nd, gunning down a runner, wasn’t even close.
Man, this team is confusing. They have some things to like here, no doubt about that; that’s not even counting the obvious, Mike Trout. The defense, and lately, the starters (and some of the relievers), and when the bats manage to wake up, they can do some damage...and this team is STILL missing key guys due to injury.
If we can work out some of these kinks, while Garrett Richards comes back healthy (like, ACTUALLY healthy, not ‘Angels medical staff statement’ healthy), Cam Bedrosian gets back to being our new closer, and Luis Valbuena brings some pop to the lineup, they will win more games than they’ll lose.
As usual, heavy, heavy emphasis on the “if”. I’m expecting the usual, but hoping for something special and magical. It’s early, right? RIGHT?!