Angels 3 Rays 2
In professional baseball, as well as just about any other professional sport, now that I think about it, there exists a type of player whose talent has all the power and dependability you’d ever want and then some; an ebullient, viscerally exhilarating athlete who mows down their competition with glee like A-10 pilots taking out a row of empty Humvees in target practice, using nothing but 30 mm depleted Uranium rounds.
There is, of course, one caveat...one glaring issue holding back that wave of opponent mutilation: They have to get loose, comfy and build up some steam to start the game. J.C. Ramirez, in his first eight starts of his MLB career, is one of these types of players. Ramirez has been a stone cold killer, don’t even trip, but he has had some trouble finding his game face in the first inning of every outing.
To put a finer point on it, Ramirez has a 11.25 first-inning ERA, and in every inning after, he’s sporting a 2.18 ERA. That’s good for a 3.65 ERA overall, which is pretty damn good from a guy who’s still learning the ins and outs of being a starting pitcher at the major league level. If he figures out how to come into the game with his power bar filled up, he will most likely become this team’s best starter (well, that’s if you’re someone who didn’t already think he’s their best starter. HINT: HE IS).
His first inning woes were no more apparent than today’s 4-game series opener against the Rays, in the always-empty Tropicana Field. Ramirez gave up TWO home runs in the first frame, because the Angels obviously hadn’t given up enough homers coming into today’s game, I guess; like I’ve mentioned in other post game articles, they must be contractually obligated to give up dingers or something. This is getting ridic, dudes.
Fear not, Halos fans, because those two HRs from the Rays were solo shots (Corey Dickerson and Logan Morrison, respectively), and Ramirez would get to his smoke show ways from that point on, digging in and taking care of business for the rest of his evening. It also helped that Andrelton Simmons had put the Angels on the board in the top of the first with a sac fly.
So we already had a 2-1 ballgame after one inning, but then Rays starter Jake Odorizzi and our own J.Cy. Ramirez took over and the scoring slowed to a manageable pace. Odorizzi held his own for the most part, going 6.0 IP, with five hits, eight Ks and two runs (both earned).
Besides the Simba sac, Odorizzi gave up a blizzy to our main man in LF, Cameron Maybin; it was a solo shot that went 398 feet, Maybin’s second time going yard in the 2017 season. Maybin has raised his BA over 34 points in the last two weeks, and for the first time in about 4 seasons, I’ve been thinking good, good things about the Angels’ left fielder. This is nice.
The Maybin HR came in the fifth, and that tied things up at 2-2, as Ramirez was doing just fine on his side of the ball at keeping the Rays from threatening. Ol’ J.Cy. Ramirez would ultimately be done in the seventh, finishing his Monday with a 6.2 IP/ 6 H/ 2 R/ 2 ER/ 1 BB/ 5 K line in the box score, all on 99 pitches. Again, his only two runs came in the very first inning, off of two solo HRs ( and one of those was from Dickerson, who is making plenty other pitchers look bad in '17).
That’s a rad start in my book, and I’ll go ahead and say it again, this time without hiding behind the parenthetical remarks: J.C. Ramirez is the Angels’ best starter in 2017.
The Angels would eventually take the lead in this game in the exact way you might expect a lead change to come in a game against two .500 teams: A wild pitch. It was the top of the seventh, and the Rays would hand out four Halos walks to load up the bases (two were IBB to Mike Trout and Albert Pujols). Then, a wild pitch past the Tampa Bay backstop and Jefry Marte scored from third. The Rays practically gifted that run to the Angels, but I am not complaining. I will probably write a “thank you” note at my office tomorrow.
They had the opportunity to add some more in the seventh, but they ended up being all bark, no bite, with the inning brought to an end by the ultra-cold Luis Valbuena popping up. The Halos had other times in this game where they probably should have scored a couple more, like in the fourth, but you know how that goes with this club. To be fair, the Rays had some threatening moments, too, like when reliever Jose Alvarez got into a late-inning jam (that the Angels would go on to survive, of course).
I like the Rays. They hand out runs on a silver platter, and they know when to let up and not get to over zealous on offense, as evidenced by that LOL-worthy go-ahead wild pitch. With that 3-2 advantage, and the Ramirez monster back in the dugout cage, the Angels would turn to their bullpen to hang on for the win.
Bud Norris would get tasked with a four-out save, and while it had moments of ulcer-causing anxiety, he proved to be up to the challenge. He would strike out Michael Martinez for the final out of the game, giving the Angels the narrow win, Norris his ninth save and Ramirez his fourth W. That’s how it’s done.
There was a lot to like from our guys tonight; Maybin producing, Trout being Trout (he got his ninth IBB, which leads all MLB), Andrelton Simmons helping out on both defense and offense, the bulwark bullpen, and of course, the surprising, super-star-in-the-making batter assassin known as J.C. Ramirez.
The Halos are back to stringing some wins together. That’s what a series against the Rays is supposed to do. Gimme gimme gimme, gimme some more.