Friday, August 21

Los Los Angeles Angeles de Anaheim

Still the dumbest name in pro sports, regardless of in which language one chooses to write it. Unfortunately, that handicap wasn't enough to stop the Angels from taking two of three from the Tribe at Progressive Field this week.

Tuesday's series opener pitted Angel rookie Trevor Bell (whose abbreviated name, "T Bell", makes me want to make a Run for the Border) against Indians enigma Fausto Carmona (whose pitching makes me want to run out of the room.) Nick and I met up for a nice get-together with The Cleveland Fan's crew pre-game before heading over to watch the Tribe drop a tough 5-4 contest.

Neither pitcher was especially sharp early, particularly Carmona, who yielded five runs in the first three innings. At one point, every batter in the Angel lineup sported an average greater than .300. When do you suppose was the last time that happened this late in a season? Someone get Elias on the horn.

This was sort of a strange game batting-wise. The wind was clearly blowing out towards center, yet of the two teams' combined 25 hits (13 for California, 12 for Cleveland), only Vladimir Guerrero's two doubles went for extra bases. The Angels left a lot of men on base, but still managed to peck away with 1, 2, 2 runs in the first three innings off of Carmona. They would not score again the rest of the game thanks to a solid six innings from the combination of Carmona (2-8), Jensen Lewis, Rafael Perez, and ToddJess, but they didn't need to.

Unfortunately, the Indians offense stranded their fair share of men on the basepaths as well. Grady Sizemore and Asdrubal Cabrera (four hits) each reached base four times at the top of the order, but Cleveland could only muster four runs for the game, including three against Taco Bell (1-0). Jhonny Peralta delivered two bases-loaded RBI singles, but Travis Hafner defused both rallies with a strikeout and a double-play ball that ultimately sealed Cleveland's fate and dropped them to 51-67. Frustrating game to be at; hell, even Ketchup won the Hot Dog Race.

Wednesday was, quite frankly, too blah of a game to write much about. Angel starter Jered Weaver (13-4) scattered seven hits (including four two-baggers) in a complete-game shutout, while Tribe starter Jeremy Sowers did not scatter the four hits he yielded in 6 2/3. The Angels collected three runs in the 5th on a two-run single by Howie Kendrick and a groundout by Bobby Abreu to plate Kendrick. That was it. 3-0 Angels. Thanks for coming out.

OK, fine, Shin-Soo Choo and Luis Valbuena each collected two hits, and Chris Perez (1.1 IP) and JessTodd (1 IP) each tossed hitless relief. We seem to actually have some non-vertigo-inducing bullpen options these days. Nick is of the opinion that C Perez has the best Cleveland bullpen "stuff" since Paul Shuey. I think he has the best Tribe hair since Marty Cordova. Nevertheless, the 5th-inning blip was enough to drop the Tribe to 51-58.

Cleveland looked pretty lethargic through the first half of the series closer on Thursday night, at least at the plate, but erupted for seven big fat runs in the 6th to cruise to an easy 11-3 victory and salvage a win from the series.

The Angels notched a marker in the first against Tribe starter Justin Masterson (now 1-1 with the Tribe), but the Indians pushed across one in their half of the first to tie it on Sizemore's bloop double and Choo's RBI single. It stayed that way through five, as Masterson (6 1/3 IP, 1 ER, 3 H, 4 BB) settled down while counterpart John Lackey (8-6) sawed through the Cleveland order with ease.

Then, out of nowhere, the Tribe offense came to life, in a manner reminiscient of their six-run outburst in Sunday's series finale against the Twins. After back-to-back singles from Choo and Peralta opened the frame, Travis Hafner atoned for Tuesday (somewhat) with an RBI double to give the Tribe a 2-1 lead. A Luis Valbuena walk reloaded the bases and Kelly Shoppach's sac fly scored Cleveland's third run. Matt LaPorta (welcome back!) then struck the big blow with a two-run double to make the score 5-1. The Indians thus chased John Lackey, but the scoring wasn't finished; an Andy Marte RBI single, Sizemore base hit, and two-run double from Cabrera pushed it to 8-1 before Choo's lineout double play ended the frame. I heartily approved of that inning.

Cleveland tacked on another run in the 7th (LaPorta sac fly) and two in the 8th (Choo RBI double, Hafner RBI single, and I'm getting tired of updating this stupid paragraph as I write this during the 8th inning) to hit double-digits for the game. Now Valbuena got a hit and we're rolling stream of consciousness style now.) Prior to my parenthetical excursion, Joe Smith allowed two runs on a home run in the 8th, as part of the bullpen's ongoing run-shaving racket, but the Angels were well far out of scoring distance as the Indians improved to 52-68. That record looks sweet in a mirror: 86-25. I suppose that, technically, in a mirror, it would be 8d-52, which probably wouldn't be good enough to get us back into the wild-card race.

Next up in the Indians' "Filling Time Until Football Season Tour 2009" is a home set with the Seattle Mariners, who, the Indians absolutely mauled in a three-game sweep right after the All-Star break. It's Rock 'n' Blast weekend!

Tuesday: Lucas French, RHP (2-3, 3.74) vs. David Huff, LHP (7-6, 6.55)
Wednesday: Doug Fister, RHP (1-0, 1.93) vs. Aaron Laffey, LHP (7-3, 3.38)
Thursday: Felix Hernandez, RHP (12-4, 2.66) vs. Fausto Carmona, RHP (2-8, 6.31)

That's right - we'll be facing, on back to back days, a guy named "Fister" and F-Her. Any time "Lucas French" is the third-funniest starting pitcher name in a series, things are looking good.

Go Tribe!

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