Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Cheese Ravioli with Sausage Marinara

THE GAME: Duke vs Michigan State

I don't usually get into college basketball until the new year... actually, to be honest, these days I don't really get into college basketball until the tournament starts in March. I'm not going to go full Grumpy Old Man and explain all the reasons why I think college basketball isn't 1/10th as exciting as it used to be. We've been over that before.

But #1 against #2 is pretty cool, so I decided to watch.

NOTES ON THE FOOD:
  • I can't tell you exactly where the idea for this one came from... so far, this November is about as mild as it can get. It was 81º where I live today; tomorrow is forecasted to be the same. (For lunch, one of my best friends and I sat in a courtyard by his office and ate tacos; we had to move to a shaded table at one point because it was too hot in the sun.) Warm ravioli and meat sauce isn't exactly what I crave on days like today. Whatever, it still sounded good. 
  • I bought a pound of sweet Italian sausage links at the butcher and cooked them in my wok, then drained the fat. You don't have to do this if you don't want to - pork fat certainly tastes good - but I was only cooking for myself, I didn't feel the need for any extra fat. 
  • I have no idea how many different brands of marinara sauce you can buy in jars. Probably hundreds. Maybe thousands. There may be something more gourmet than Emeril's sauce, but I don't care: I really like it. (True, if it wasn't one of the only marinara sauces my butcher has for sale, I probably would not have purchased it. I still like it.) I emptied the jar into my wok, stirred in some fresh garlic and other spices, and set the burner to low, letting it simmer for one hour. I then removed it from the heat and added fresh basil. 
  • I boiled cheese ravioli (from a local Italian market) in salted water for a few minutes, ladled them into a bowl, and topped it with the sausage marinara and additional basil. 
  • And there was garlic bread. Because garlic bread is delicious. 


NOTES ON THE GAME:
  • Dick Vitale is not calling this game. That's always a pleasant surprise.  
  • Just in case you're not into college basketball recruiting: Duke's freshman class includes the #1-ranked freshman in the country (Marvin Bagley III) and three other recruits in the Top 10. It's possibly the best recruiting class since the Fab Five, 26 years ago. 
  • I think Coach K and Tom Izzo are the two best coaches in America. Coach K's record speaks for itself; what Izzo has done in his career despite only coaching one lottery pick (Jason Richardson, 2001) is absolutely remarkable. 
  • Coach K on his freshmen: "I like 'em a lot." Well... good.  
  • Jesus, ten minutes into this game and I'm not sure the Lakers are better than either of these teams. (I'm joking... mostly.)
  • Marvin Bagley somehow got injured and now he's lying on the court with his eyes closed. He's either really hurt or this is a dramatic display that rivals anything a certain longtime Laker diva ever did. 
  • The replay shows that he took a poke in the eye from another player's finger. That certainly looked uncomfortable, but for a minute there it looked like Bagley was having a heat attack. 
  • Duke had a 10-point lead. A few minutes later, Michigan State was back on top. Well-coached teams are never out of it. 
  • Duke shot 18 free throws in the first half; MSU shot 6. No surprises there. 
  • At halftime, all the announcers are talking about is college football. I guess they feel the same as I do. 
  • Jay Bilas just warned us to "expect the unexpected." This may be off topic, but what's your favorite nonsensical line from Road House: "Expect the unexpected," "Pain don't hurt," or "Nobody ever wins a fight"? I gotta go with "Pain don't hurt".... but let's be honest, none of those can possibly hold a candle to "I used to fuck guys like you in prison." On my list of lifelong goals, somewhere between seeing the Midnight Sun Game in Fairbanks and kayaking the Mississippi, is at least once in my life having the opportunity to say to someone with a straight face: "I used to fuck guys like you in prison."
  • This game is way better than I expected. 61-59 MSU with 10 minutes to play. 
  • Grayson Allen just drained a three to put Duke up 7 with one minute to play. That's 35 for him tonight. If he doesn't get suspended this season for tripping opponents like a punk, he might well be the Player of the Year. (He scores two more to finish the game with 37.)
  • Duke wins by 7. Tom Izzo is now 1-11 against Duke in his career. 
  • Duke's ball movement is phenomenal, and Bagley didn't even play in the second half. I don't see how anyone but Duke can be the favorite to win the title this year. Imagine this team after they play together for another 30+ games. 

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Chorizo Burger

 THE GAME: Lakers vs Celtics

A few years back, the Celtics looked at their roster, saw they weren't close to competing, and traded their assets for draft picks to build for the future. 

A few years back, the Lakers looked at their roster, saw they weren't close to competing, and signed a 35-year-old ball hog (who couldn't stay healthy and played almost no defense) to the largest annual contract in the league and then let their two All-Star 7-footers walk away with nothing to show for it. 

That's why today the Celtics have the best record in the NBA and a slew of draft picks over the next few years. 

And it's why the Lakers, on the same day, are .500, praying that their young players develop and that they can sign a big free agent next summer, and don't have their first round draft pick next season, no matter where they finish. 

It's the NBA, so there are no guarantees, and the Lakers always seem to land on their feet - the Celtics have won 1 championship in the last 32 years; the Lakers have won 7 in that time - but they sure as hell made things a lot harder on themselves than they needed to. 

Still, it's the Lakers and Celtics, so I wanted to watch for a bit. 


 NOTES ON THE FOOD: 
Have you ever eaten at Whataburger? (There are none in California.) Years ago I was on an 11-day road trip to California to the East Coast, and I had determined in advance that, while there were several chains I wished to try for the first time, I was not going to repeat any visits.

I ate at Whataburger in Texas and liked it so much that I ate at one again a few days later in Florida. (And liked it just as much.)

So I still look at their website from time to time. A couple of weeks ago I noticed they were featuring a "chorizo burger." That sounded great but didn't look as good: it contains two patties with a little bit of chorizo smashed in-between. What the hell? That's not a chorizo burger. (Although I bet it tastes good.)

So I decided to make my own version.

I believe I have mentioned before that my local butcher shop makes my favorite chorizo. It's not really a secret to their process: they grind high-quality sausage devoid of giant chunks of fat, and they don't overload their seasoning blend with salt. (Salt is much cheaper than paprika, chili powder, cumin, etc,. so some places use mostly salt and skimp on the other spices when making chorizo .)

I bought a half-pound of their chorizo, and set it out with some other ingredients: grilled bell pepper and onion, pepperjack cheese, pickled jalapenos, and a homemade sauce (basically a clone recipe of Carl's Jr.'s "Santa Fe sauce," perhaps the only thing from Carl's that I have ever really liked)`.

  • I grilled the onion and bell pepper in a pan for about ten minutes. Orange bell peppers don't taste any different, but they look cool. 
  • The chorizo patty cooked for about ten minutes as well. There's plenty of fat in it, so it's hard to overcook chorizo (and even if you do, it's still delicious, thanks to all the spices). But if you undercook it, it won't taste as good. 
  • The last two minutes of cooking, I melted a slice of the pepperjack on top.
  • And I spread a large amount - much more than I probably needed - of the Santa Fe sauce on a potato bun.

  • The onions and peppers went on top of the patty, followed by half-dozen of the jalapeños. 
  • I roasted some fries in the oven - I wasn't in a mood to use the deep fryer - and dusted them with the same spice blend I had used to make the Santa Fe sauce. 
  • This was one of the top 10 burgers I have ever made. 

NOTES ON THE GAME: 
  • This is the first of three games in four nights on the road for the Lakers - Washington tomorrow and Milwaukee Saturday. I would be surprised if they win any of them.  
  • Lonzo Ball gets booed loudly on the first possession, presumably for saying he only wanted to play for the Lakers. Or maybe because his dad is a jackass. You never know. 
  • Andrew Bogut enters the game and gets called for two offensive fouls in less than 30 seconds. How many times has a first-overall pick played on five teams in a six-season span? I'm guessing not a lot. 
  • The Lakers end the 1st Quarter with 16 points and 10 turnovers. I'm gonna go ahead and guess that if they end the game with 64 points and 40 turnovers, they will not have won. 
  • Hell, I'm gonna guarantee that if they don't play better in the 2nd Quarter, I won't be watching.
  • That must have scared them. The team scored 36 points in the 2nd Quarter and committed only two turnovers. 
  • Halfway through the 3rd Quarter, the Lakers have cut the deficit to two. I will say this about this Lakers team: they don't get blown out by anyone and they never give up.  
  • I hate the way nobody follows their shot anymore in the NBA. They shoot and more often than not stand there with their hand in the air. Then they watch the shot miss and the opposing team get the easy rebound. 
  • I also hate how nobody boxes out. Marcus Smart just took a rebound away from FOUR Lakers because they just stood there expecting it to land in their hands. 
  • I guess this is just what the NBA is now - players don't give a fuck about fundamentals, and the coaches don't care either. That makes me the old man yelling about how much better the game was back in my day. Oh well. 
  • The Lakers cut it to a three-point game, but then Kyrie Irving came back into the game and the Lakers had no answer for him. 
  • They just couldn't overcome that atrocious 1st Quarter that put them in a 21-point hole. 
  • If the Lakers ever learn to be aggressive on the boards, they could be a really fun team to watch. 
  • Lonzo ended the game with 1 steal. Same as his brother. 
  • I know that was an obvious joke, but I couldn't resist. 

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Prosciutto & French Fry Pizza

THE GAME: Dodgers vs Astros (World Series, Game 5)

When a series is tied 2-2, the team that wins Game 5 goes on to win the series 66% of the time. Armed with this overwhelming stat, ESPN trotted out this gem today:


Is that not the ESPNest of ESPN headlines? There is a chance this Game 5 matchup could possibly almost sort of have an impact on the World Series. (Maybe.)

Let me see if I can put it better: This game is freaking huge.

If the Dodgers win tonight, they take a 3-2 lead and Houston has to win the next two games on the road in Los Angeles. Conversely, if Houston takes the 3-2 lead, the Dodgers need to win the next two, including Tuesday night against Justin Verlander.

Whoever loses this game has zero margin for error.

NOTES ON THE FOOD: 
  • Fourteen yeas ago, there was a restaurant in my hometown that I absolutely loved. So did pretty much everyone else I knew, which made it strange when the restaurant shut its doors after only a year of business. (The location has been quite a few different restaurants since then, although Umami Burger has been there for a half a decade now and shows no signs of closing.) 
  • At any rate, they had something on the menu called a "French Fry Pizza," which I stayed away from on my first few visits, until I examined the description closely one evening: prosciutto, arugula, shaved cheese, and french fries. That didn't sound too bad, so I tried it. It was delicious, the flavors working much better than I had anticipated.
  • I had not thought of that pizza in years; I honestly have no idea why I decided it would be good to eat tonight while watching this game.
  • Most times when I make pizza, I buy dough from Trader Joe's. Some days I make my own. Tonight, I didn't want to make any effort with dough while watching the game, so I bought a package of flatbreads at the store. 

  • I topped the flatbread with a thin layer of sauce, then a sprinkling of pizza cheese - some kind of mixture of four different cheeses on sale at the market; I didn't really read the description - and a layer of prosciutto. 

  • I then shaved some slices off a hunk of asiago (I've always preferred that to Parmesan) and placed them on top of the prosciutto. 
  • I baked it like this in the oven for ten minutes. 

  • Then I topped the warm pizza with arugula and another handful of shaved asiago and let it sit for a couple of minutes....

  • ... just long enough to pan-fry a handful of shoestring fries and toss them with a blend of seasoning spices. I then added them to the pizza, unsure how it was going to turn out. 

  • The final touch was a drizzling of balsamic reduction with red wine. 
  • Just as I was surprised all those years ago at how much I liked the restaurant pizza, I was equally shocked at how great this was. I'm not sure exactly why everything works - I suspect the seasoning on the fries adds as much to the pizza as the potatoes themselves - but it is delicious. 


NOTES ON THE GAME: 
  • ARod informs us pregame that he expects Kershaw to get hit hard tonight. That would be a shame, because people would remember that far more than his dominance is Game 1. 
  • Of course, ARod said in the next breath that he expects Keuchel to be dominant tonight - and Keuchel has loaded the bases with one out in the 1st. 
  • The Dodgers are doing a bit of everything - they looked at something like 12 straight pitches, drew a couple of walks, got a two-RBI single, and then scored another run when the Astros committed an error. 3-0 Dodgers after half an inning. 
  • Perhaps worse news for Houston: Keuchel had to throw 32 pitches to get through the inning. Kershaw vs. Keuchel favors the Dodgers. If it becomes Kershaw vs. the Astros bullpen, it really favors the Dodgers. 
  • Kershaw is 124-19 in his career when he receives three runs of support. 
  • Keuchel gives up another run and exits in the 4th down 4-0 with two runners still on base.  
  • In the bottom of the frame, Yuli Gurriel crushes a first pitch off Kershaw to tie the game at 4. Kershaw has allowed 12 runs this postseason. 11 of them have come from home runs. That's... surprising. 
  • Collin McHugh comes out of the bullpen, walks two, and gives up a three-run homer to Bellinger. I've watched a lot of the Astros this year. Their bullpen was not great, but it was not nearly the shitshow it has been this series. 
  • The Dodgers staked Kershaw to a four-run lead and he blew it. Now they've given him a three-run lead....
  • And he lets two get on. He's leaving with two outs in the 5th... which means he can't get the win. 
  • Altuve hits a three-run home run. 7-7. Jesus, this game. The Astros have hit game-tying, three-run home runs in back-to-back innings. I feel so sorry for people who don't like baseball. 
  • Kershaw's final line: 6ER in 4.2 innings pitched. Son of a bitch, ARod was right about Kershaw. (But wrong about Keuchel.)
  • There have been seven walks issued tonight by both teams. All seven players have come around to score. 
  • (Two minutes after I write that, Pederson walks but fails to score.)
  • Brad Peacock coming in for Houston, despite the fact that he pitched 4 innings on Friday. Oh well, it's tied in the 7th inning and they can't use Giles. I guess it's all hands on deck. 
  • Springer dives for a ball instead of playing it on the bounce. It gets by him, goes to the wall, and the runner scores from first base. Terrible mistake - way too much risk vs. reward. 8-7 Dodgers. 
  • It's all hands on deck for the Dodgers, too - Brandon Morrow is coming in to pitch for the third day in a row, the first time in his career that he's ever done that. 
  • And the first pitch he throws gets crushed Pujols-style (2005 Pujols, that is) by Springer into the Houston sky. 
  • Correa hits a homer, too. That's the 20th home run of the World Series. And we're only in the fifth game. (Last year's World Series went to extra innings in Game 7 and only featured 15 homers.)
  • The Dodgers put runners on second and third with one out in the 8th but neither Justin Turner nor Andre Ethier can bring one home. Dodgers down to their last three outs. Ordinarily I would say that was their last best chance, but in this game, nothing would surprise me. 
  • Remember Game 1? It ended at 7:40 PM in Los Angeles. We're still in the 8th as I type these words, and it just turned 9:40. 
  • John Smoltz: "I don't think a single person has left this ballpark." Well, no, probably not. After all, the experts say this game could swing the World Series.  
  • Puig hits a two-run homer and it's 12-11 in the 9th. We are now at 22 homers, the most ever in a single World Series. It looked like Puig hit that with one hand. MLB might be getting a little carried away with these juiced baseballs. Are we gonna see Aaron Judge bunt for a homer next season?
  • Down to their final strike, Chris Taylor hits an RBI single and it's tied at 12. The Astros have blown a three-run lead in the 9th inning. 
  • Astros walk off in the bottom of the 10th. 13-12.
  • Time of game: 5:17. 
  • So, the Dodgers have to win two at home, starting on Halloween. 
  • I saw U2 at Dodger Stadium on Halloween when I was a kid. That has nothing to do with this game, really, but I'm kind of delirious after more than five hours of back-and-forth baseball. 
  • The Dodgers scored 12 runs in a game Kershaw started... and they lost. My God. I have three good friends who are die-hard Dodgers fans and I kind of want to text them just to make sure they're still alive. But I'm not going to; if the situation were reversed and this happened to the Angels, I would just want to be left alone. 
  • This is the 31st World Series I have watched. I don't know how many games that has been, probably somewhere between 175 and 200... I can't think of another game like this one. 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The #22

THE GAME: Dodgers vs Astros (World Series, Game 1)

It's a little ridiculous how great a matchup this World Series is. Long articles can be (and have been) written about it. So I'll just stick to my five favorite points:

1) These are two truly great teams. Both teams won 100 games in the regular season. Wanna guess how many times that has happened in the 113-year history of the World Series?

Eight.

The last time it happened? 1970.

This isn't one of those years that a team won 80-something games and finished second in their division but then got hot in October and made it to the World Series. These were the best teams in their leagues for most of the season.

2) Spending vs. Tanking. The Dodgers have had the highest payroll in MLB for four seasons in a row. The Astros intentionally sucked for several seasons to stockpile high draft picks, having six losing seasons in a row - including three consecutive 100-loss seasons - from 2009-2014. Which is a better way to build a championship team?

3) Great pitching vs. great hitting. The Dodgers' starters had the best ERA in all of baseball (3.39) during the regular season. In the postseason, their bullpen has an are-you-kidding-me ERA of 0.94. During the regular season, the Astros scored the most runs in baseball and had the highest team batting average (.282). Something has to give.

4) #22. Clayton Kershaw is the best regular-season pitcher I have seen this century. He could retire before this game and be a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer. But in the postseason he has been mediocre and has a losing record. A great postseason - particularly World Series - performance is the one thing missing from his resume. And he knows it.

I saw an interview with ARod yesterday - and let me tell you, ARod becoming the Wise Old Man of Baseball is not something I saw coming - where he said (I'm paraphrasing) "They used to talk about me failing in the postseason and I pretended like I didn't hear it, but I definitely did, and Clayton does, too.")

5) My own self-esteem. I have been making World Series predictions at the start of the season for my entire adult life. Many times - probably more half the time - I have gotten one team correct. But I have never gotten both correct... until this year.


NOTES ON THE FOOD:
  • The #19 at Langer's is one of my five favorite sandwiches in Los Angeles County. (Several national publications have named it the best sandwich in America.) I considered just going there and buying one this afternoon and writing about it. But then I had two thoughts: 1) Where's the fun in that? And 2) Traffic in Los Angeles sucks every day of the week; I can only guess what it would be like on the afternoon of the Dodgers' first World Series game in 29 years. 
  • So I decided to create a similar sandwich, made up of some of my favorite ingredients from around the Los Angeles area, as an homage to the #19. And name it the #22, as an homage to Clayton Kershaw. 

  • I enjoy the sourdough bread from the "Old Town Baking Company." I've seen it at several farmers markets around the Los Angeles area; until I looked at the label I had no idea it was made in Rancho Cucamonga. That ain't Los Angeles County. Whatever. 
  • I added four slices of Swiss cheese to the two slices of bread. 

  • Schreiner's Fine Sausages, in northern Glendale, makes the best corned beef I've had from a butcher. So I picked up several slices of that.

  • If you grew up in the Southland and you're old enough to remember the last time the Dodgers played in the World Series, you undoubtedly have at least one memory of Bob's Big Boy. Their Thousand Island dressing is my favorite that you can buy in a jar/bottle - to be honest, it's better than most homemade, too - and I prefer it to Russian dressing. A healthy smear went on top of the corned beef. 

  • My favorite cole slaw in Los Angeles is served at Philippe The Original. If you're not familiar with the place, it's just down the hill from Dodger Stadium. I can only imagine how crowded it was today. There was no chance I was going to brave traffic and wait in line to buy cole slaw. (Also, if I had gone, I would have purchased one of my other five favorite sandwiches in the Los Angeles area - Philippe's turkey dip - and that would have ruined my appetite.) 
  • Fortunately, my second-favorite cole slaw around is served at "Moffett's Family Restaurant & Chicken Pie Shoppe." (Yes, every single person I have ever encountered calls it "Moffett's," but I'm including the whole name because it's wonderfully expository.) That's much closer to where I live and I was able to go in and buy a container of cole slaw in less than 60 seconds. 
  • I probably used a little more slaw than necessary, but I do love it so. 

  • On Halloween day in 2004, I met a few friends in a basement bar to watch the Steelers end the Patriots 21-game winning streak. It was an overcast, cool autumn day, pretty much the exact opposite of today. After the game I walked down to Sur la Table and bought a panini press. It remains one of the ten best purchases of my life. I grilled my sandwich for five minutes. 
  • Was it as good as a Langer's #19? No. But it was wonderful, and a perfect sandwich to eat during this game. 

NOTES ON THE GAME:
  • As you have no doubt heard if you're watching the game, it's the hottest World Series game in history. Here's a comparison of the last 6 years: 
  • Vin Scully is in the house! It's understandable that so many fans signed petitions to bring him back to call the World Series... but anyone who thought there was a chance of that happening really doesn't understand Vin at all. The same things that made him the best to ever do the job - his humbleness, his professionalism, etc. - are the same things that would never allow him to take a job away from someone who has been covering the Dodgers all season. As Kevin Costner says in Field of Dreams: "The man's done enough. Leave him alone."
  • Chris Taylor hits the first pitch for a home run. There goes the perfect game.
  • Reddick fails to make a play in the outfield. In his defense, at least the ball didn't fly out of his glove and over the wall, like it did against the Red Sox. 
  • Joe Buck informs us: "The Astros - they're an American League ballclub." I'm glad we cleared that up. (Although, to be fair, there are probably people at ESPN who don't realize they changed leagues four years ago, as they are not an AL East team.)
  • Reddick hits a seeing-eye single for Houston's first hit of the game, bringing up Dallas Keuchel. I wonder how many career at-bats he has. Lemme look. 
  • 35 at-bats in 6 years. And he strikes out bunting the ball foul. Awesome. As I've written before, if you don't like the DH because you think every player should play the field AND bat, I respect that. But don't pretend like it makes for better baseball. 
  • Am I the only person who finds the play button of the "YouTube TV" ad behind home plate to be really fucking annoying?
  • Taylor's first at bat was a home run. In his second at bat, he smokes the ball... right at the shortstop, who turns an inning-ending double play. What a cruel game sometimes. 
  • Kershaw strikes out Altuve on a ball several inches below the zone. It can be a cruel game in lots of ways:  
  • Well, at least we know the ump isn't biased, he's just giving a huge zone tonight. In the next inning, Keuchel gets the strike against Bellinger on the same low-and-away pitch: 

  • Larry King is sitting behind home plate in long sleeves and his trademark suspenders. Isn't he like 100 years old? When you get that old does heat stop bothering you?
  • Kershaw makes it through the top of the 5th with only 6 pitches. We're at the halfway point and it's only taken a little over one hour. 
  • The Dodgers hit into their third double play of the game... and we're only in the fifth inning.
  • Keuchel walked Chris Taylor with two outs and I said to my friend "That was a big mistake; Justin Turner is going to hit a home run." He did. 3-1 Dodgers. 
  • Kershaw is done for the night: 7 innings pitched, 3 hits, 1 earned run. That's a damn good line. He's only at 83 pitches; I imagine if the Dodgers didn't have the lead he would pitch one more inning. 
  • Keuchel is done, too. "What a job he did tonight!" gushes Joe Buck. Joe, he gave up 3 earned runs in 6.2 innings, including a walk and homer with two outs last inning that are currently the difference in this game. That's not an awful night, but it's not particularly good. 
  • Morrow and Jansen pitch scoreless 8th and 9ths, respectively, and the game ends 3-1. A great game for Kershaw, and decent game for the Dodgers hitters.
  • 2:28 game time - the shortest World Series game in 25 years.
  • Game 2 is tomorrow - Verlander vs. Rich Hill. It seems silly and redundant to call a World Series game a "huge game" but that's what tomorrow is. If the Dodgers win, they cannot lose this series in Houston, at the very worst they will be returning to Los Angeles next week. But if the Astros win, they will have taken control of the series for the time being.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Roasted Garlic & Basil Pizza


THE GAME: Yankees vs Astros (Game 6)

The Astros won the first two games in Houston. The Yankees won the next three in New York. Now it's back in Houston. If the Astros win, we get a Game 7 tomorrow. If the Yankees win, they're going to face the Dodgers in the World Series.

Luis Severino vs. Justin Verlander. This is... pretty damn cool.

NOTES ON THE FOOD: 
  • What's your go-to pizza? Pepperoni? That was mine when I was a kid. Then for more than a decade it was BBQ chicken. Around 15 years ago, I discovered the combination of roasted garlic and basil, and now that's my favorite - something that I do not see changing. 
  • I roasted two cloves of garlic in the oven for 45 minutes, wrapped in foil with a drizzle of olive oil. There may be a better smell in the world than roasting garlic, but I haven't experienced it yet.
  • A local Italian market sells multiple kinds of containers of shredded cheeses and sauces. I picked up a container of mozzarella and Romano, as well as smooth pizza sauce (they also offer a chunky variety).  
  • I slathered a generous helping of sauce on rolled out dough - I've always enjoyed my pizzas heavy on the sauce - and then dotted it with the roasted garlic. Next I covered with the cheese blend and cooked it in the oven for roughly 12 minutes. (I started checking it at the 8 minute mark - I dislike undercooked dough, but I HATE overcooked dough.)
  • And then I covered it with two handfuls of chopped fresh basil. 
  • It was wonderful. 
  • Just for the hell of it, I sluiced garlic peri-peri sauce onto one slice. It was good but did not add anything.

NOTES ON THE GAME: 
  • So many fans behind home plate are wearing orange that it took me a while to spot Marlins Man. I bet that drives him crazy. 
  • The Yankees led off each of the first two innings with a hit but couldn't advance the runner to 2nd either time. 
  • Although the Astros don't even have a hit through two innings so they probably aren't gloating. 
  • Commercial Note: That's the first commercial I've seen for The Commuter. Which shouldn't be surprising, since it's not being released until January 12th. When is Liam Neeson officially too old for these action movies? He's 65 fucking years old. My dad is only a few years older than that and he takes three naps per day. Also, this is from the Wikipedia summary of the plot: "Michael is forced to uncover the identity of a hidden passenger before the train makes its last stop." So it's Non-Stop on a commuter train? Maybe they can remake Taken, but with a son instead of a daughter and London instead of Paris.  
  • At the halfway point there is still no score. Houston has 1 hit; New York has 3. Both pitchers look great. I hope this goes to extra innings scoreless.
  • We need more plays that result in Kate Upton jumping up and down repeatedly. 
  • Houston's bats finally show up and they get 3 runs - though it feels like maybe they should have gotten 1 or 2 more.  
  • We're at the point now where Joe Buck is gushing over the way Aaron Judge swings and misses at pitches. "Ooh, look at that cut... on that ball he missed by six inches." [I added the second part.]      
  • Verlander escapes sticky situations in two straight innings. He's pitched 7 with 0 runs. You can't ask for anything more. He appears to be done for the night. 
  • Josh Reddick is 0-21 in this series. That's historically bad. (If this goes to Game 7, who wants to bet he hits the winning double or home run? Because baseball.) 
  • Aaron Judge hits a homer off of Brad Peacock in the top of the 8th, and Joe Buck calmly says: "Watch this one fly... out of here for a home run." He was literally three times more excited to gush over Judge's strikeout two innings ago than Judge's home run just now. I don't dislike Joe Buck... he's just weird, man. 
  • 7:59. My cable box just reminded me that I have a program scheduled for 8:00: Marriage Boot Camp: Reality Stars. I have never seen the show; until 30 seconds ago, I had never heard of the show.
  • Houston adds on four more runs and it's 7-1 going to the 9th. 
  • At halftime tonight, Lonzo Ball already has better numbers than he did in the whole game last night. If he repeats them in the second half, he'll have a triple-double. 
  • Woah - Houston is using their closer with a six-run lead. Remember when the Cubs used Chapman last year in Game 6 of the World Series with a five-run lead... and then he sucked in Game 7? 
  • Astros win 7-1. 
  • Game 7 at 5PM tomorrow. Will CC Sabathia continue his dominant postseason? Will the Yankees be able to beat the Astros away from that Little League park known as Yankee Stadium? We will find out.  

Thursday, October 19, 2017

GameDay Eating vs. Jack in the Box Havarti & Grilled Onion Ribeye Burger

THE GAME: Lakers vs Clippers

Let the Lonzo Era begin.

Even though I have no idea what to expect over the next couple of years.

My guess is that he will repeatedly get destroyed on defense. Probably pushed around a lot. And at times he will look woefully out of shape.

But he's also going to make some highlight-reel plays that will lead off SportsCenter and bring a fun to Staples Center that has been missing for a long time.

At any rate, for the first time in many years, I am excited to watch the Lakers again. Once upon a time, watching their games was my single favorite thing in the world. I won't go into the main reason why that stopped, but now it's back in my life. I feel like an old friend has turned up at my doorstep with a six-pack and a pizza and said "Hey there, remember me?"

I'll have the Dodgers and Cubs on one screen, but the volume and the big TV belong to Lonzo and the Lakers tonight.

NOTES ON THE FOOD: 

I've long considered Jack in the Box's burgers close to the bottom of all burgers in America. In my memory they always tasted freezer-burnt and flavorless, though to be honest it has been so many years since I've had one that I can't be 100% sure of that.

But for the last couple of weeks, we - meaning those of us who watch as much sports on TV as I do, which I guess probably isn't very many people - have been bombarded with advertisements for Jack's new burgers, made with "100% ribeye."

One of the flavors is Havarti cheese with grilled onions and a red wine glaze. I was intrigued enough to take it on.

  • The bun: I gotta give it to Jack. The choice of a soft potato bun is better than the brioche that I used. Point, him.
  • The cheese: They both tasted the same. But I used more. Point, me. 
  • The onions: Ditto.
  • The red wine glaze: I tried to make mine high quality, using brown sugar, balsamic, and a reduction of an Oregon Pinot. Jack just tried to make his tastier, which he did by adding a ton of sugar. That bastard. Still, point, Jack. 
  • The beef: While this Jack in the Box burger was much, much better than any beef I have ever had from them before, it still can't hold a candle to the USDA Prime that I used. I accidentally overcooked my patty because I was watch a key moment in the Dodgers game, but it was still 10x juicier. Point, me.
  • The Winner: GameDay Eating

NOTES ON THE GAME: 
  • How excited am I to care about the Lakers again? I've bought not one but two Lakers t-shirts this past summer. Before that, I cannot remember the last Lakers souvenir I purchased. I guess it was some Lakers beads I got on Bourbon Street in 2004. (That night I also bought a zebra-striped umbrella and a cigarette lighter in the shape of a penis, neither of which I still own, unfortunately.)
  • Chris Webber informs us that there hasn't been this much excitement for a Lakers rookie since Magic Johnson in 1979. That seems a little unfair to Mark Madsen, but whatever, we'll go with it. 
  • Good to see Patrick Beverley still acts like a punk. Now that Chris Paul is gone, Beverley can slide right into that "obnoxious player who has never won anything" role. 
  • Halfway through the first quarter, the Lakers are 1-11 from the field. Lonzo attempted two free throws and missed them both. They have six points. U-G-L-Y. 
  • I forgot Danilo Gallinari was on the Clippers. Remember in 2008 when the Knicks used the #6 pick on him and the crowd at Madison Square Garden almost rioted?
  • Lonzo followed up his missed free throws with a missed three-pointer and a missed layup. Not a great beginning, kid.
  • Finally he hits a three with five minutes left in the half. 
  • Followed up by his first assist with 90 seconds left - though that's not a knock on Lonzo, as the Lakers team is shooting terribly in the first half. 
  • Clippers by 11 at the half. Brook Lopez is easily the least enjoyable of the Lakers so far. He's 2-10 in the first half with TWO rebounds. Jesus Christ, he's 7 feet tall. Lonzo has four times as many rebounds as the Lakers center. 
  • The 3rd quarter has turned into an All-Star game: no defense, sloppy offense. Blake Griffin has been looking good and the Clippers have stretched their lead to 17. 
  • After 3 quarters, it's kind of become an ass-kicking. The Clippers are looking good, the Lakers are looking sloppy, and the lead is 24.  
  • Webber on the Lakers performance: "It's a pickup game playing with guys you don't know." I think that sums it up nicely. This is the first game of 82 the team will play this season - 82 exactly; there is zero chance they will be playing in the postseason in this year's ridiculously-loaded Western Conference - and I'm not sure there is any way it could be any sloppier. With 10 minutes left in the 4th quarter, the Lakers have the same number of turnovers as assists (16). 
  • The Clippers win by 16 but it feels like a lot more. 
  • The Lakers will definitely play games where they look a lot better. 
  • Hopefully they won't play too many more where they look worse. Hopefully. 
  • It was still entertaining, and that's something I haven't said about the Lakers in 6 years.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Chorizo Sloppy Joe

THE GAME: Dodgers vs Diamondbacks

It looks like autumn, even if the temperatures don't exactly feel like autumn. The sunsets are a little more golden, the leaves are starting to accumulate on the lawn, and the baseball is full of drama. 

The Dodgers-Dbacks has been the least drama-filled series so far, but all that could change if Arizona wins tonight. (After all, all Los Angeles has done so far is win at home. That's what they were supposed to do.)

This is exactly the kind of moment for which the Dodgers acquired Yu Darvish: to take the mound in a close-out game against Zack Greinke. 

NOTES ON THE FOOD: 
  • I saw a this jar of Sloppy Joe sauce on sale at Sprouts the other day. I haven't had a Sloppy Joe in my adult life. I figured why not try one?
  • For extra flavor, I decided to use chorizo rather than ground beef. 
  • I caramelized an onion for thirty minutes, then broke apart one pound of chorizo and cooked it in the same wok, which took about ten minutes. 
  • Then I dumped in the jar of sauce and let it all simmer for twenty minutes. 
  • I used a bolillo roll - a shorter version of a baguette, popular in Mexican bakeries. I sliced it open and dumped in a generous amount of the meat and sauce. 
  • I then topped it with queso blanco and pickled jalapeños. 
  • It may have been a long time since I've eaten a Sloppy Joe, but I feel confident saying this was the best of my life. 
  • Because of the Mexican influences, I considered calling this a Sloppy José. I thought that was clever. Then a quick Google search revealed that Rachel Ray came up with that idea years ago. So... no fucking way. 

NOTES ON THE GAME:
  • I've never been to Chase Field. When it opened it was called Bank One Ballpark. In my early 20s, I moved to Colorado and opened a checking account with Bank One. They offered me two tickets to a game at Bank One Ballpark or a record player. I chose the record player. I didn't own any records but Phoenix was 800 miles away. I never really thought about what a strange promotion that was until just now. 
  • Chris Taylor leads off with a double and comes around to score after a fly ball and groundout to first. That's some old-school run manufacturing, but the run counts just the same. 
  • It takes Greinke 29 pitches to make it through the 1st. That's not good. 
  • Ketel Marte drops down an outstanding bunt to break up Darvish's perfect game... with one out in the 1st.  
  • Announcer: "Some might say [Chase Utley's] the guy who started the wheels rolling in the changes to the slide rule at second base." Yes, some might say that. Also, everyone might say that. 
  • 25 pitches in the 2nd for Greinke. 54 after two innings. That's really not good. 
  • The Yankees beat the Indians to force the deciding Game 5 on Wednesday evening. That will be fun. 
  • The Dodgers are laying off everything outside of the strike zone so far. This is some ridiculous discipline. I have to ask... is anyone in their dugout wearing an Apple Watch?
  • (Probably not - the Dodgers are 0-5 with RISP. They should be up by more than 1-0.)
  • Darvish threw seven pitches in the 3rd. How envious do you think Greinke is?
  • After 4 innings, Greinke has thrown 88 pitches... but he's only allowed two hits and it's still 1-0. You don't see a line like that very often.
  • He couldn't skate by forever, though. Cody Bellinger doubles up the lead on a crushed home run. 2-0 Dodgers.
  • In the bottom of the inning, Bellinger falls over the dugout railing to make a catch that we will be seeing on highlight clips for years to come. 
  • Greinke comes out to start the 6th - despite being over 100 pitches - and immediately surrenders a home run to Austin Barnes. 3-1 Dodgers. 
  • Darvish is done in the 6th after he hits Christian Walker in the helmet. The crowd boos loudly, as if Darvish intentionally hit a .250 hitter with a two-run lead in a playoff game. 
  • Tony Cingrani comes in, throws two pitches, gets the double play, and gets pulled. What exactly does a relief pitcher do when he's pulled after two pitches? Does he take a shower? Does he get a massage? 
  • Maeda and Jansen pitch scoreless 8th and 9th innings, respectively, and the Dodgers complete the sweep. 

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Chicken Karaage with Swiss Chalet Sauce

 THE GAME: Twins vs Yankees

On the last night of spring in 2003, I sat in the Epicenter and watched Ervin Santana throw the best game I have ever seen in the minors. I don't remember his final line (and I can't find the boxscore anywhere online) but I think it was 7, maybe 8 innings pitched, and one hit.

But more impressive than the numbers was the movement on his pitches. He was 20 years old and throwing not only blazing fastballs, but major-league-quality sliders. He only started 20 games for the Quakes - then the Angels High-A team - that season before moving on to AA, and in less than two years he would make his first start in Anaheim.

"This kid is going to be a superstar," I said that night to my dad and my friend Tom.

Was I right?

No.

But... Ervin has played fourteen seasons, made two All-Star teams, made 98 million dollars, and pitched the first Angels no-hitter I ever saw.

So it's definitely been a good career.

And tonight he starts against the Yankees in the AL Wild Card game. It seems like everyone has written in the Yankees to advance, but that's why they play the games.

NOTES ON THE FOOD: 
  • I mentioned last month, when writing about The Big Mc, that my friend Marina had brought me back some condiments from a vacation to Canada. A packet of this dipping sauce mix from Swiss Chalet was included. 
  • I have never been to Swiss Chalet. Until she gave me this packet, I had never heard of Swiss Chalet. It's a casual dining chain in Canada. Their specialty appears to be rotisserie chicken, though this sauce seems to be served with everything on their menu. 
  • As per in the instructions, I brought the powder (and some water) to a boil and then let it simmer. 

  • I took four pieces of boneless, skinless thigh-meat chicken, and trimmed the excess fat. I prefer white meat chicken to dark meat, but when you're frying it, always choose the latter. White meat chicken usually turns to rubber when fried. 
  • How long do you think it took me to grab this jar of "Triple Garlic" teriyaki sauce off the shelf the first time I saw it? That's right, less than one second. 
  • I marinated the chicken overnight in the sauce, adding only some fresh ginger. There may be an Asian food that is better without ginger, but I haven't encountered it yet. 

  • I drained the chicken, tossed it in potato starch, and fried it up for roughly five minutes. 
  • It was the best karaage I've ever made. It was in the Top 3 that I have ever had, anywhere. 
  • The Swiss Chalet sauce was kind of like a light gravy. Or perhaps a spiced broth. Either way, I really enjoyed it with the fried chicken. I'm not sure if I would enjoy it with rotisserie chicken - and I'm definitely not sure I would enjoy it with french fries - but the salty tang of the sauce did a nice job coating the crunchy chicken. 

NOTES ON THE GAME: 
  • Yes, the Yankees are one of my five least-favorite teams in baseball... but I have to admit: I love it when there is October baseball in the Bronx. (Unless Bob Costas is calling the game.)
  • Commercial Note: ESPN has been running a commercial for several days with the voiceover "No fear: The American League Wild Card Game, Tuesday night." Sorry... but what the fuck does "no fear" mean? Are there some kind of new rules this year? Does the losing team get fed to the lions? Are they forced to sit out the 2018 season? What exactly is there to be afraid of?
  • Christ, ESPN just called Yankee Stadium "one of the great sports cathedrals of all time." No, it's not. It was built eight years ago. It has hosted one World Series. There was a Yankee Stadium that saw the Yankees win 26 World Series, but that was across the street and it was torn down .
  • I was kind of hoping that the Yankees would win this game, just because I think they will provide a tougher matchup for the Indians… but screw it, now I want the Twins to win, just to depress everyone at ESPN.
  • Brian Dozier leads off the game with a homer for the Twins. If this games ends 1-0,  I will buy a Twins hat and wear it for one week.
  • Eddie Rosario hits a line-drive homer that may have peaked at 25 feet. That's not a home run in any other stadium in baseball. 3-0 Twins. Good, I really didn't want to buy a Twins hat.
  • Former Yankee Aaron Boone: "This is the ultimate nightmare happening in the first inning." The woman in line ahead of me at the grocery store today was buying flowers for her daughter who was at the massacre in Las Vegas on Sunday night. But sorry about your nightmare, Aaron. 
  • Severino has been yanked after 1/3 of an inning. This game is going to last five hours, isn't it?
  • Ervin issues a leadoff walk to the Yankees. Those never come back to bite you, right?
  • Didi Gregorius hits a three-run homer. Tie game. Ervin Santana immediately gave back the 3-0 lead his team got him. Not a single Angels fan anywhere in America is the tiniest bit surprised.
  • The first inning finally ends after something like 55 minutes. 
  • The two teams almost made it through the second inning without giving up a homer. But Ervin allowed another one with two outs. 4-3 Yankees. 
  • The teams have combined for FOUR home runs in two innings. The starting pitchers combined for 2 and 1/3 innings. 
  • Aaron Judge hits a homer in the 4th inning. It's another one of those classic Yankee Stadium homers - it barely cleared the fence in left; it might not even be a double in any ballpark on the West Coast - but it still counts the same, and Judge runs around the bases screaming like he hit a 500-footer. 
  • Semi-random question: Is there any way Bryce Harper doesn't sign with New York in 14 months? If he's healthy, will he hit 75 homers in this park?
  • Finally we've reached the midway point, two hours and twenty-four minutes after the broadcast began.
  • No runs were scored in the 5th inning. I didn't realize that was allowed. 
  • I'm trying really, really hard to come up with a scenario in which either of these teams takes three out of five games against Cleveland. 
  • I cannot.
  • I've written many times that despite the fact I have watched thousands of games in my life, I still often see something for the first time. The Twins batter was just tagged out after he completely missed stepping on first. Like, it wasn't close. 
  • Chapman coming in to close for the Yankees. What could possibly go wrong?
  • Yankees win 8-4. The only thing really surprising is that the game finished in about four hours. I thought after the first two innings that we were headed for 5+ hours. 
  • I guess a team that finished 17 games back in their division shouldn't be in the postseason. Who knew?

Friday, September 29, 2017

KFC Georgia Gold Chicken Sushi

THE GAME: USC vs Washington State

I have no idea what is going to happen with this game. Like, none. 

Washington State appears to have an outstanding offense. Luke Falk is still their quarterback (which is hard to believe, as I feel like he's been there at least 8 years) and he's damn good. Meanwhile, USC's defense has not been as good as expected, and the game is in Pullman. The place will be rocking. So a WSU victory would not surprise me. 

On the other hand, USC has played a much tougher schedule than WSU. And it's always a mistake to overlook an undefeated team simply because it hasn't looked as good as you expected; the obvious question becomes "If they're winning every game when they don't look dominant, what happens if they do play up to their potential?" So USC - and especially Darnold - playing their best game of the season and winning would not surprise me, either. 

Either way, I expect both teams to put up a fair amount of points. I'm really looking forward to this one. (And, I've gotta admit, I love having a big game on a Friday night.)

NOTES ON THE FOOD: 
  • For years, KFC was my least-favorite fast food chain. I won't go into all the reasons, I'll keep it short: I thought all of their food sucked. 
  • Then, at the beginning of the year, they came out with Georgia Gold Chicken. I freaking love this stuff. I mean, the chicken is mostly the same below-average stuff I dislike, but the sauce is addictive. It's a honey mustard with, as far as I can tell, a lot of brown sugar and a little bit of oil. 
  • I've tried multiple times to clone the sauce to make a dish of my own, but I just can't get it right. So I decided to pick up an order and just use that instead. 

  • I pulled out a sheet of nori and topped it with sushi rice.
  • Then a layer of KFC's cole slaw - I'm not a big fan, but it comes with the chicken so I figured I might as well use it.
  • I placed the biggest of the chicken tenders on top. 

  • I rolled it up like any other sushi roll and sliced it with my sushi knife. 
  • And, since I love that sauce so much, I took the extra out of the plastic KFC tray and drizzled it over the "sushi."
  • I was worried that this might suck. It did not. It was absolutely fantastic. 

NOTES ON THE GAME: 
  • In the first two minutes of the broadcast, the announcers have mentioned the "PAC-12 After Dark" gimmick twice. I know it sounds kind of corny, but I like it. (I especially loved it years ago when I was on the East Coast for a couple of football seasons - it was always fun to end the evening with a late-night football game from the West.)
  • I met a bunch of WSU fans in Pasadena two years ago the night before they played UCLA. They were nice people, but extremely arrogant football fans, especially considering they haven't won the Rose Bowl since 1916. 
  • WSU is in Pullman, WA. It's the only PAC-12 city to which I have never been, and I cannot foresee any circumstance in which that changes. 
  • On WSU's first possession, a receiver dropped a touchdown on third down and they had to settle for a field goal. On their second possession, a receiver dropped a first down pass and they had to punt. They can't afford to do that too many more times. 
  • Darnold just threw his 7th INT of the season. He only had 9 all of last year. 
  • Woah - the mayor of Pullman is also the PA announcer at the stadium. That makes me happy. I wonder if he's also tax collector, captain of the fire brigade, and chairman of the non-partisan Anti-Chinese League. 
  • The announcers just made a point about how USC is using three backup offensive lineman... and then Ronald Jones breaks off an 86-yard touchdown run. 
  • And then the announcer mentions McDonald's in the same sentence as Whataburger, Popeyes, and Five Guys. This is obviously the B team tonight. 
  • On WSU's first play from scrimmage after the SC touchdown, USC intercepted the ball at the WSU three-yard-line
  • WSU holds them to a field goal. That was huge. (17-10 USC instead of 21-10.)
  • WSU scores a touchdown with 13 seconds left in the half and we're tied at 17 at the break.
  • WSU's last two punts went 19 yards and 17 yards. I'm not sure I've ever seen two back-to-back punts so awful.
  • USC kicks a field goal and it's tied at 20 after three quarters. This hasn't been as exciting as I'd hoped for. Both teams have made several errors and look out of sync. 
  • The teams traded touchdowns and it's tied again with five minutes left, which means the 4th quarter is already more exciting than the whole 3rd quarter was. 
  • WSU opted to take a field goal and a three-point lead rather than go for it on 4th-and-2 from the 15. Not exactly the ballsy move for a "pirate" like Mike Leach. I always knew he was an asshole; I didn't realize what a phony he is, too. 
  • Darnold fumbles the ball and WSU recovers. That saved Leach from having to answer why he went conservative. I was sure USC was going to drive the field and win. (Just like the Patriots did to the Texans last Sunday in a very similar scenario.)
  • WSU wins 30-27.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Jalapeño Fritos Crunch Burrito

THE GAME: Angels vs Astros

It's been more than two years since the Angels have been on Sunday Night Baseball.

Because they've been anywhere from lousy to... mediocre.

But a couple of weeks ago, ESPN decided to showcase the Angels and Astros on this season's final broadcast of Sunday Night. Because at the time, the Angels were in possession of the second Wild Card spot, and it looked like they might make a run at the first spot. This game looked like it might be a big one.

And then the Angels went 4-11 to fall out of the Wild Card race.

So, like, nevermind this being an important game.

But, as I wrote, it's been two years, so I'm gonna watch.

NOTES ON THE FOOD:
  • I don't like the beef they use at Taco Bell. I imagine this isn't a shock to anyone - their number one priority is cost, not quality. But I do like their seasoning. So sometimes I buy a packet and make it with USDA Prime beef from the butcher. 

  • Cheddar is far from being my favorite cheese, but damn, it's delicious with ground beef tacos or burritos. Tillamook's "Extra Sharp Cheddar" is my first choice for such occasions. 
  • I went to the Tillamook factory once when I was a kid. I don't remember much about it other than all the employees wearing hairnets. I wish I could look at the photos my parents took, however for some reason they decided that they would take slides instead of photos that vacation. "Whenever we want to look at photos from this trip, we can have a slide show!," one of them exclaimed. Almost 30 years later, you can probably guess how many times that's happened. (Hint: zero.) Whatever, I digress. 
  • Dave's Gourmet Korean Food has featured here before. Their products are the best, and the pickled jalapeños are no exception. 

  • I'm not a huge fan of regular Fritos, but tI love the other flavors. Chili Cheese might be my favorite, and Bar-B-Q isn't far behind. I've only had these Spicy Jalapeños Fritos once (tonight), but I love them as well. 
  • The best Fritos I ever had? Texas Grill. When I was a freshman in college there was a vending machine right outside my dorm room that stocked Texas Grill Fritos. They had grill marks on them. I'm not making that up. I don't think I've ever encountered a single individual who even remembers them, much less loved them. Here's a picture, lest you think I'm just making this up: 

  • So everything - seasoned meat, cheese, pickled jalapeños, Jalapeño Fritos, and a drizzle of street taco sauce - went into a large tortilla.
  • It was the best burrito I've had this year. 

NOTES ON THE GAME:
  • The Twins gave the Angels every chance to take the Wild Card this past week. All the Angels had to do in the last 6 games was go 3-3 and they would be right in the thick of it. They went 0-6. Yes, they were playing the Indians and Astros, the two best teams in the AL, but still, 0-6 is atrocious.
  • That being said, I hate the Wild Card - especially the second Wild Card -  so I can't really complain. The Angels are 19 games back of the Astros. They have no business playing October baseball. 
  • Ditto the Twins, who are 16 games back of the Indians. Some people call me a "baseball purist" and love to talk about how much more exciting October baseball is with more teams. And they're not wrong. However, it comes at the expense of the regular season. I could write 10,000 words on the subject, or I could just say that no team that finds itself 16 games back in the last week of the season deserves a chance to play in the World Series. 
  • Not surprisingly, the announcers start the broadcast by talking about how great Mike Trout is. Dan Shulman just called him "vintage Mike Trout." This confirms something that we already know: these guys pay no attention to what's going on with baseball west of the Mississippi. Hell, probably not even west of I-95. 
  • Mike Trout's numbers for the season look good, but that's because he was absolutely fantastic earlier in the year. For the last five weeks, he has been average by most standards, and downright lousy by his. Five weeks ago, Trout's average was .348. At first pitch tonight, it's .307. It is not easy to lose more than 40 points off your average in August and September.
  • But even his batting average doesn't tell the whole story. Trout has played 921 games for the Angels. I would guess that I have watched 850 of them. I have never seen him look worse than he has over the last month. Part of it is bad luck - his BABIP over that period is comically bad - but overall he just looks lost. Staring at meatballs right down the heart of the plate. Swinging late. Popping up balls he normally crushes. It's unexplainable; it feels like more than just slumping.
  • (Then he gets a double with his first hit tonight.)
  • In 20 games batting cleanup with the Angels, Justin Upton is hitting .282 with six homers. Not Hall-of-Fame-level, but a massive step up from the Ghost of Albert Pujols.
  • Of course, almost anyone would be an improvement over Albert, who is having the worst season by a 37-year-old in the history of baseball
  • ESPN shows a clip of Pujols's home run off Brad Lidge in the 2005 NLCS. I never get tired of seeing that. What a monster shot. 
  • Woah - the Astros just got 2 two-out hits and ran themselves out of the inning: Altuve got caught between third and home. I did not expect that.
  • Aaron Boone: "I didn't realize how special Simmons was until we saw the replay." Yeah, because you only pay attention to the AL East. We've been over this. 
  • The Angels get their first run when Bregman tries to go for the double play instead of getting Maldonado at home. Huge break for the Angels and horrible decision for the Astros. Maldonaldo would have been out by 15 feet. He's the slowest Angel I've ever seen not named Pujols. (Earlier this year, Maldonado hit into the first triple play I've ever seen an Angel hit.)
  • Here's the shift the Astros use on Pujols. Correa plays 190 feet from home in left field - because Pujols is so slow he can be thrown out from there: 
  • Tyler Skaggs hits his second batter of the game with two outs. I doubt he'll ever be as frustrating as C.J. Wilson, but sometimes my emotions watching him are the same: he's got such good stuff, and yet he's so scared to go after hitters. He's much more inclined to nibble around the corners of the plate. 
  • As soon as I finish typing that, Skaggs gives up a home run to the next batter. 2-1 Astros. See, Tyler, this is why you don't try to be cute with two outs. 
  • And then TWO more walks and a double. 4-1 Astros. 
  • So, a hit-by-pitch, home run, two walks and a double, all with two outs. You know what? Maybe he will become as frustrating as C.J. What a pussy. 
  • Trout with his second hit of the game (after going hitless the last two).
  • Two out and two on with the Angels down by two and Pujols coming up. There was a time when opposing fans would be terrified in this circumstance. But it's been a while. (Hey, at least Albert can't ground into a double play - something which he leads the league in this year, yet again.)
  • Three consecutive walks to Pujols, Phillips, and Simmons. Tied at 4, bases still loaded. 
  • This game has been going on for two hours and we're only at the halfway point. 
  • Another Aaron Boone gem: "The Astros are a team that, if they went on to win the World Series, it would not surprise me." They have the third-best record in all of baseball, behind only the Indians and Dodgers. No, it would not surprise me, either. 
  • The Angels leave two more on base in the 6th. They are now 0-10 with runners in scoring position. 
  • The Angels finally get a hit with a runner in scoring position in the 7th. Unfortunately, that runner was Pujols, so he had no chance to score from second base. 
  • Luis Valbuena hits a two-run double on the 11th pitch of the at-bat. I've been watching Valbuena (or Nobuena, as most Angels fans call him) all year. He's hitting .194; he's been truly terrible. That was easily his best at-bat of the season. 
  • 6-4 Angels. This is their first two-run lead since last Saturday. Talk about a lousy week.
  • That lasted... one pitch. Cam Bedrosian came in for the Angels and George Springer hits the first pitch for a homer. One fucking pitch. 
  • Justin Upton got that run back with his 7th home run of the month and 3rd in two days. I never thought I'd see the month when Justin Upton was doing more for the Angels than Mike Trout.
  • Blake Parker gets the save in the 9th inning and the Angels finally get a win for the first time in eight days.