Angels 7 Athletics 6
The story of tonight’s game is a familiar one to anybody who watched Matt Shoemaker pitch on a regular basis last season; although, this time there was a slight twist to the machinations of the cliche Shoemaker sad trombone start. It went down exactly how you would expect, except for when it didn’t. It was pretty awesome, I’ll admit.
Shoemaker, pitching just one pitch shy of 100, made it through 5.0 IP, and gave up four hits and two earned runs in the process. It wasn’t an efficient night by any means, but he got the job done and even seemed to settle in as the game progressed, even after being a tad rattled by a liner up the middle. His two earned runs came on solo shots to Ryon Healy (in the 1st) and Jed Lowrie (in the 2nd).
Both of those bombs were on two-strike counts, and last year, Shoemaker gave up THREE total two-strike homers. Tonight, he gave up two. A couple bad pitches put the A’s on the board early, but the Angels decided to do something that we rarely ever saw when Shoemaker was on his glorious run in 2016: They gave him run support.
After Healy’s blast, the Angels came right back. A’s starter Sean Manaea walked Jefry Marte, then gave up two continuous singles to Cameron Maybin and Andrelton Simmons. With bases loaded, Martin Maldonado had a big, two-run single, which was then followed by an RBI single from Yunel Escobar. Three runs, just like that. This game had turned. For a bit, at least.
Lowrie had his homer in the bottom of the second, so it was 3-2 Angels for a bit, but then in the fifth inning, Mike Trout continued his hot start with an RBI triple down the left field line, tacking one more onto the board, Halos up 4-2.
Martin Maldonado, in the stretch when the Angels were ahead, did some masterful plays from behind the plate, it should be said. Like, serious skills. He threw an absolute perfect strike to second to named Rajai Davis stealing, and he also got the A’s sleeping at first later on. Tonight, he had a big hit and a couple rad plays. I chalk that up as a win for Mr. Maldonado.
Anyway, back to the game, and the eventual Buttercupping. You know, where Shoemaker puts in some quality work, but then he doesn’t get run support and the Angels lose. Well, tonight things didn’t quite go towards our expectations.
Shoemaker DID get his start jacked up later on, when the Angels took a 4-2 lead into the 7th and came away with a 4-6 deficit. The main meltdown came when Rajai Davis hit a rocket off of Jefry Marte’s glove, which went into foul territory, allowing a couple runs to score, and then the throw to third got all jacked up and gave Davis the first little league homer of 2017.
The Angels were going to do it. They were going to Buttercup in the second game of the season. Until local boy Danny Espinosa, in a tableau straight out of They Live, cocked his bat like a pump-action shotty and said “I came here to play D and/or hit homers. And I aint in the field right now.”
Espinosa, with two men on and down three, took a Ryan Dull pitch into the centerfield stands, pumping his fist as he rounded first, knowing he just gave his hometown team a win. It was his first hit as an Angel, and it was a freakin’ doozy.
Danny Espinosa, the local boy who grew up an Angels fan, and his first hit is a game-winning, three-run homer? Can you imagine a better moment for the dude tonight? I can’t. Even better, Andrew Bailey and Cam Bedrosian looked like actual relievers and closed out the A’s, giving the Halos the win and lighting up the Halo back home, for the first time in 2017.
So Matt Shoemaker had a quality start, Martin Maldonado wowed us all, Mike Trout did an awesome Mike Trout triple, and Danny Espinosa delivered the euphoric drama. Forget about all that bad stuff we saw in this game. Forget about Opening Day. Keep your mind on this game, because this was some Grade A entertainment, folks.
The Angels get their first win of the season, in a fashion in which they had to overcome their own weaknesses. That’s what you want to see out there. Now, let’s see if they can do that some more.