Results tagged ‘ Astros ’

The Tale of Two Halos

The Angels have had an interesting season thus far; there are instances when it’s the best of times, yet there are other instances when it’s the worst of times. The Angels have been decimated by injuries at the absolute worst time. A few examples are C. J. Cron, who went down right when his bat was warming up, or Garrett Richards and Andrew Heaney both of whom are essential to the Halos’ success. Yet another example is the missing contribution of C. J. Wilson who was unable to throw a single pitch this season because of injury. With three-fifths of the starting rotation out of commission it’s surprising that the Angels have been able to function much less stay together as a team. At one point this season they were down 19 ½ games in their division with little hope of recovery.

In contrast, shortly before the All-Star break the Angels somehow managed to slowly bring it together with contributions of the now injured C.J. Cron. At one point they were able to string together 34 runs over four games before losing the pre All-Star break finale.

Since the All-Star break the Halos have come roaring back. They have yet to lose a game post All-Star break. They swept the division leading Texas Rangers and now move on to face the Houston Astros and continue this hopeful remarkable comeback. The Halos are now 11.5 games back begging the question if they will be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline.

It is no secret that the Angels don’t have much of a farm system which necessitates them to be sellers in order to rebuild such a devastated system. If this is indeed the case who would be on the trading block? Matt Shoemaker, who so far has had the best season of anyone in the rotation. Hector Santiago, who is arguably the heart and soul of the pitching staff. He plays the game with an unmatched passion which I like to call “Controlled Chaos.” What impact will Tyler Skaggs have on this team when he is ready to come back from injury? How will the injury to Nick Tropeano impact the rotation?

In contrast would the Halos have the heart to take apart a team that appears to be chemically coming together with an unmatched chemistry that was far delayed? Will they be able to find some way to improve this team and still have enough pieces to exchange? There is an old baseball adage that states you have to give up something to get something. Who will the Angels give up that would both have minimal impact on the team and still get someone of value back in order to help this team succeed?

If the Angels find a way to reconcile this conflicting enigma I believe they have enough to create a solid base to build on for next year, if not, by some miracle make up the division deficit and attempt to contend this season.

The answer lies in resolving the contradicting tales of these two Halos and finding a conclusion to this developing novel which has the potential to become a classic masterpiece of a season. How will the tale end? On one side will this be a reflection on a successful season? Or a tale of how a string of injuries derailed this cast of characters? How long will this novel be? Are we reaching the final pages? Or are there many pages yet to be written? My sincere hope is that it is the latter.

-ICE

Tarnished Halo, Tattered Wings

As a baseball fan, one expects to see their favorite team go through ups and downs, peaks and valleys. During the season a team must learn to pace themselves; in essence they must play the chess game that is baseball, put the chess pieces in the right position in order for a team to attack when the moment is right.

The Angels find themselves in this exact metaphorical scenario described above, they are currently 12 1/2 games out of first place in the American League West, fourth in the division, with 10 players on the disabled list with various injuries. The Halo is tarnished and the wings are tattered. The situation may look bleak to outsiders, yet this may be the perfect time to position the test pieces for an attack.

Starting tonight the Halos play their next 13 games against division rivals, which involves two teams that are sub .500 the Oakland A’s and the Houston Astros. This may be the perfect time for the team to strike as there are high hopes that the contribution of the newest Angel, Tim Lincecum, will give this team a much needed lift in the pitching rotation with three-fifths of the starting rotation on the 60-day disabled list with long-term injuries. Tyler Skaggs who was expected back within the near future has hit a snag in his rehabilitation forcing the Halos to find other more creative options.

It is well-known among baseball’s purest that the key to a successful team is pitching, something that the Angels clearly do not have at this moment. It is looking highly unlikely that C.J. Wilson will be able to make a meaningful impact this season due to the setbacks that he has had; based on the fact that this is the final year of his multi-million dollar contract it is very doubtful that he will have a meaningful impact for the Halos.

Can this team stay consistent for this 13 game stretch? It all depends if this team can come together at the right moments. It is not time yet to worry about the division leader, the Texas Rangers, since they have been on fire and look unstoppable at the moment; but, they too will fall into a valley that may allow the Halos to gain some ground. If the Angels can use this 13 game stretch to their advantage, we may have an interesting division race after the All-Star break, but in order to do so, the Halos must shine again and their wings must heal if all this is to come to fruition.

-ICE

One Strike Away from a Sweeping Change

There are 20 games left, including tonight’s game. We are definitely in the home stretch of the baseball season. The Angels find themselves 4 1/2 games back of the Houston Astros. The standings would look drastically different today had Mr. Murphy Law not been in uniform.

Murphy’s Law was in full effect yesterday afternoon, everything that could go wrong, went wrong. The Angels had a 3-0 lead in the top of the ninth inning, with two outs and one strike away from sweeping the Houston Astros, had this result come to fruition the Angels would only be two and a half games behind the Astros. The Astros were able to score 5 runs in the ninth inning to win the game 5-3. Taking nothing away from the Astros, the Angels would have won the game had it not been for a freak occurrence.

Taylor Featherston made an infield play with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, the ball gets stuck in the webbing of the baseball glove, after a spectacular diving stop, he was unable to make the play; in my mind, that was the play that was the turning point in the Angels loss to the Astros.

This is indeed, the playoff stretch; there is nothing that the Angels could have done differently. They were able to take two out of three from the Astros and the Rangers, the two teams who are in front of them in the standings.

They must not allow this loss to completely demoralize them, it would be nice to control one’s own destiny, however, this is a luxury they don’t have; all they can do is win the majority of their games, and hope that they get help.

This is becoming exceedingly difficult given where we are in this season. The Astros and the Rangers play each other in a four-game series, starting tonight. Therefore, regardless of what happens between those two teams; the Angels must keep winning if they hope to gain any ground. The Angels have one more series remaining with each team, in Houston and in Arlington, a three and a four-game series respectively. The Angels must sweep these two series, in case they don’t get any help from other teams in between.

4 1/2 games back, with 20 games to play, it is a scary proposition, however anything can happen until the final out, of the final game, is called. If one needs any proof; just look at the result of yesterday’s game.

-ICE

Fallen Angels

“The bigger they are, the harder they fall.” Is this true? Does an object fall harder from a greater vertical distance? Gravity is a constant, therefore, no matter if we’re talking about a feather or a bowling ball, they both fall at the same rate, perhaps the mass of the bowling ball makes a greater impact, but it doesn’t fall any harder than the feather.

After battling with the Houston Astros for most of the season and switching between first and second place in the American League West, the Angels now find themselves in third place as of today 5 1/2 games back of the Houston Astros. After a horrible August, the Halos survived, the offense has not produced as well as it should and the bullpen may be overstretched, however things are not always as they seem.

Yes, the Angels may have spiraled, and yes, the Angels are a far cry from the 17-3 run they made around the All-Star break; nevertheless, this isn’t a random occurrence. Two things happened which led to this sudden drop in the standings.

Mike Trout went down on July 30 when he hurt his wrist diving for a ball in the outfield, the wrist may be better, however his timing at the plate is off since the injury, he hasn’t been able to drive the ball on a consistent basis, it is because of this, that he hasn’t been able to play at the level that we are accustomed, nevertheless, until he can get to the point where he can dominate a game at any given time, the Angels are going to struggle.

David Freese went down on July 22 he was hit by a pitch, without Freese, there was no one to solidify the bottom part of the lineup, after Trout and Pujols. There was no real transition between the middle and bottom part of the lineup, add to that, Mike Scioscia’s unnecessary and reactionary revolving lineup. This clearly explains the Angels sudden drop in the standings.

We are in the latter stretch of the baseball season, by now, championship teams have their lineup set, and each player’s role defined in preparation for the September call ups; thus, making it easier for a team to plug-in the newly arrived players into their respective defined roles.

Unfortunately, this didn’t happen with the Halos this year. This is why the volatility of this team continues. Yes, the Angels are not mathematically out and there’s still plenty of time to catch the Houston Astros. And yes you can win the World Series being a Wild-Card team. The Angels proved that in 2002 by being the first team ever to win the World Series as a Wild-Card. Notwithstanding, the Angels need to define their collective identity, if they expect to make a deep run in the playoffs. They may slip into the postseason as a feather, however, they need to have the impact of a bowling ball.

-ICE

The Angels Are Singing The Dodger Blues

How blue can you get? The Angels are asking their fans that very question, they are playing with that sweet, yet painful sting of the B.B. King classic.

After a hot start coming out of the All-Star break, the Halos handed over the American League West to the Houston Astros. The Angels have lost five straight, and eight of their last nine. To make matters worse, the Angels lost the first two games of the Freeway Series to the cross-town rival, Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Halos were playing well, both as a team and as individuals. Which is impressive, considering the turmoil that the Angels have gone through with the resignation of their General Manager. This team has shown resilience not only to stay afloat, but take over the American League West, couple that with individual success, specifically the success of Mike Trout, who became the first player in Major League Baseball history to be the most valuable player of an All-Star game in consecutive years.

The Angels didn’t make the big splash during the trade deadline that the fan base was accustomed to in recent years, however, they quietly made moves. The Halos sought to improve themselves and with the acquisitions of David Murphy from the Cleveland Indians, David DeJesus from the Tampa Bay Rays, and Shane Victorino from the Boston Red Sox. These three outfielders were brought aboard to try to negate the disappointing contribution this season by Matt Joyce.

The Angels are not playing as well as it may look, if one looks at the head-to-head record against all the division leaders in the American League, the Astros, the Royals, and the Yankees, the Halos have a record of 5-17 in the head-to-head match ups with the division leaders so far this season.

I will be attending my first Angels road game of the season tomorrow against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium for the first-half finale of the Freeway Series, I am really not interested in how much more blue the Angels can get, rather, I would like to think that tomorrow will be the genesis of the Angels returning to greatness and becoming red-hot again.

-ICE

The Flickering Halo

It is often said that baseball is a marathon, not a sprint; others say, you can’t win it in April, but you can lose it in April. One describes patience, while the other describes focus and urgency. I believe, that there is a balance between the two perspectives, however patience can only be afforded during the first month and a half of the season in order not to rely on other teams collapsing the second half of the season and thus, a given team is able to control their own playoff destiny.

Through 58 games, the Angels are 29-29 an even .500, with the 59th game in progress. They are 4 1/2 games back of the surprising Houston Astros, in the American League West, Houston is a team that seems to be leaving orbit and coming back to earth, the Astros have lost six straight.

The Halo is flickering, sometimes it is very bright, as evident by a sweep of the Detroit Tigers at Angel Stadium, and sometimes the Halo is completely dark, as the Angels were swept by the Yankees in New York. The Halos also lost two out of three games to The Tampa Bay Rays. The series with the Rays was sandwiched in between the two appearances of the broom.

Why is a team that is so talented on paper only .500? Some site the lack of production from the offense since all but two of the combined 32 home runs between Albert Pujols and Mike Trout have been solo home runs.

While that is absolutely true, I would point to something else, if one juxtaposes the runs scored versus runs allowed, one sees the issue. So far this season, coming into today’s game, the Angels as a team have scored 233 runs; the Angels pitching staff as a whole has allowed 232 runs this includes unearned runs. This is a net difference of only +1 run. To me, this explains a lot, the Angels don’t need to add another bat they simply need to shore up their pitching and defense. It doesn’t really matter if this team can average 25 runs a game if the opponent can score 26. A big bat wouldn’t make much of a difference.

What can be done? Barring a major successful blockbuster trade, not much can be done. However, the Angels do have Andrew Heaney in the farm system, he is currently in AAA with the Salt Lake City Bees. He has a 6-2 record with a 4.39 Earned Run Average, he might not be ready for the majors just yet, but he is an option to improve the pitching staff.

There are 102 games left in the season, including the game in progress, and while that is true that baseball is a marathon, the Angels need to get themselves within striking distance of leadership of the division very soon.

-ICE

Like Mike, If I Could Be Like Mike

In all sports there are athletes, and there are phenoms, a phenom is that special player that takes his or her respective sport by storm and immediately makes an impact. Mike Trout is indeed a phenom. On April 17, 2015 Trout became the youngest player in Major League Baseball history to reach 100 home runs in 100 stolen bases. I am reminded of a song in an advertisement back in 1991 by Gatorade, a commercial that featured Michael Jordan shortly after the Chicago Bulls beat my Lakers; as the Chicago Bulls captured their first ever NBA title. The jingle went something like this:

“Sometimes I dream
That he is me
You’ve got to see that’s how I dream to be
I dream I move, I dream I groove
Like Mike
If I could Be Like Mike”

Mike Trout could be considered by many, as this generations’ “Mike” this young 23-year-old has brought excitement to the Halos’ franchise. Children of my generation idolized Michael Jordan, I imagine that young baseball players idolize Mike Trout.

After taking two of three from the Mariners, being swept by the Royals, and taking two of three from the Rangers; the Angels are positioning themselves to take two of three from the Astros with a win tomorrow. Garrett Richards makes his return to the Angels’ starting rotation after suffering a season-ending ankle injury last year. I am anxiously awaiting his return especially after a shaky start by Weaver and Wilson. Aside from the sweep by the Kansas City Royals the Angels have started this season well. Hopefully the addition of Richards can greatly improve this team.

As the Halos make their way home after tomorrow’s game, I can’t help but wonder what other milestones and achievements will Angels’ fans be witness to, this season?

-ICE

Alphabet Soup

The excitement of the new season is upon us, this is the time of year when all 30 teams are hopeful and optimistic about this season that’s just getting started. The time of year where standings don’t really matter as of yet. After all, nobody expects the Houston Astros to be in first place when the smoke clears, but as of now they’re in first place in the American League West with an undefeated record, granted they’ve only played one game, but those are the facts.

Now that I have failed miserably in my attempt for sarcastic humor, it’s now time to reflect on the Angels, that is what I write about, and that’s what you’re here to read. This entry will be relatively short since we’re only two games into the season and I really cannot talk about emerging patterns just yet. What I do want to talk about however, is my overall impressions so far.

First on my list, is Albert Pujols, for the first time since he signed as a free agent with the Angels, he looks to be a relatively healthy and pain-free and it is my hope that he returns to the former Albert Pujols that he was with the St. Louis Cardinals.

It is often said, that history repeats itself, this indeed is the case with Mike Trout who started the season the same way he started last season, a home run against “King” Félix Hernández in Trout’s first at bat of the season, proving that for the “boy wonder” or if you prefer “the kid”, royalty means absolutely nothing.

C. J. Wilson had a spectacular outing last night, working on his mechanics during the off-season and spring training must have worked. It’s one of the most memorable outings I have seen since Wilson donned the Angels’ uniform.

One other interesting fact is that so far this season the Angels have only scored three runs, one in the first game which they lost, and to win the second game which they won, all three runs were a result of the home run ball, although baseball fans including myself absolutely love home runs; they must find other ways to score.

Two games is a small sample but one can already see how good things can be when the Halos do well, and how bad things can get when they don’t do so well, this team reminds me of alphabet soup, one really doesn’t know which letters one gets in every spoonful, but you love the flavor just the same. I’m hoping that we get many “W’s” and very few “L’s”. Those W’s make the Halo soup taste much better.

The Angels have yet to come home but when they do, you can bet I will be there ready to live and die by every swing of the bat. Baseball is indeed America’s pastime. I am more than ready to go out to a ballgame. There is no need to take me out to it since by the time you arrive I will probably already be there.

-ICE

The Showdown Became a Meltdown in Oaktown

The showdown has come and gone, I feel like I just watched a highly anticipated sequel to a blockbuster movie that turns out to be a disappointment. Unfortunately this metaphor perfectly describes the range of emotions I experienced as an Angels’ fan in this latest series against the Oakland Athletics.

The Angels lost five out of the six games this season so far against the green and gold. This series was essentially a meltdown in Oaktown, not only would the Angels swept by the Athletics but it was the Halos’ worst performance in the series thus far. The Angels were outscored 26-11. Over the last 20 games the Angels averaged 3.3 runs allowed, in comparison to 8.7 runs allowed in the Oakland series. They plummeted from 1 1/2 games behind the A’s to 4 1/2 by the end of the series. It should be said however, that Mike Trout only played in one game of the series, he missed the remaining two games with ongoing back stiffness that continued to affect him during the series against the Houston Astros. The Halos also dropped two out of three in Houston.

They are headed home tonight to play the White Sox hopefully they can turn things around. After the White Sox leave town, the Angels will have a chance to avenge the sweep as the Oakland Athletics come to town for a three-game series starting Monday. I sincerely hope that this upcoming series against the A’s is retribution, not repetition.

-ICE

A Bengal Broom + A Cosmic Broom = Seventh Heaven

It’s nice to be able to put the proverbial pen to paper again. life would be complete if I could get up every morning and just write about my favorite teams, but hey, life happens. I’m just glad to be able to take some time out of my very condense schedule lately and just write. With that said, let’s get down to business; shall we?

The Halos have had a season so far that has been below expectations. Yet, they’ve had some glimpses of greatness. Greatness, that we all know they can achieve. The Angels have swept the season series against the Detroit Tigers, a team that is heavily favored to represent the American League in the World Series. Was a Bengal broom enough? Of course not, the Halos got a matching cosmic broom by sweeping the Houston Astros in Houston, making our season series record against the Astros a little more respectable and less laughable. With these two sweeps, the Angels have come roaring back from fourth place; 12 games back to now third-place, 8.5 games back with just a little more than two games past the midpoint of the season.

As excited as I am, I’m not going to get ahead of myself. The Angels are still below .500 and are 10-23 in series so far this season. This record will have to improve dramatically if they have any shot at making the postseason. It does seem however, that this team is finally playing to their potential. Mike Trout is mirroring the near M.V.P. Season he had a year ago. The bullpen finally is coming around and is looking solid which enables this team to hold leads. The formula still isn’t perfect, but this seven-game winning streak is a start. seven is definitely heaven.

-ICE

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