THE GAME: Angels vs Nationals
I'm not one of the Angels fans - and there are many, many - who desperately wants to see Mike Scioscia fired. I thought he should have lost his job after the team failed to make the postseason in 2012, but I don't hold him accountable for the last two seasons; there is not a team in baseball that could be without its top four starters for almost two entire seasons and expect success.
Some days it feels like Scioscia is just mailing it in, and he is definitely a dinosaur in his love of platoons and fixed bullpen roles, but overall I think he is one of the top ten managers in the game, and I'm not sure whom the Angels could hire to replace Scioscia at the moment who would be any better.
But... let's just say there are days when I can certainly understand why so many people can't stand the guy.
Today is one of the those days.
C. J. Cron has been the Angels hottest hitter of late, hitting .458 with 3 home runs in the last seven days and .372 in the month of August. But he's sitting today because the Angels are playing at Washington and so there is no DH. Which means Scioscia has put Albert Pujols at first base instead of C.J.
A decade ago, Albert was one of the greatest hitters in the history of baseball. This season, he possesses a WAR of -1.6. That's negative. If you replaced Albert with an average player, the Angels would have 1.6 more wins. His OPS is .648, a truly atrocious number for a DH, and the fourth-lowest among all batters in the entire American League.
But he's a veteran, so Scioscia is starting him. Against Gio Gonzalez, who has the fourth-best ERA in baseball, behind Kershaw, Scherzer, and Sale.
This is the most Mike Scioscia-ist of Mike Scioscia moves: sitting the hottest bat on the team in favor of a broken-down veteran. (By the way, when Pujols bats, he ALWAYS bats behind Mike Trout. Because veteran.)
I had actually planned to write about tomorrow's Angels-Nationals day game, but this has the possibility to be a special game. (And not for the Angels.)
NOTES ON THE FOOD:
- Back in June, I went to a Quakes vs. 66ers minor league game with a few friends. Before the game, my friend Nikki and I stopped into the bar at Lucille's Smokehouse to have a few happy hour drinks and eat some snacks. I bought this bottle of Memphis BBQ sauce. (Technically Nikki bought it... with a gift card that I gave her for Christmas. These things become increasingly complex the more you think about them.)
- Trader Joe's dough is tasty, cheap, and incredibly easy. If you feel like going through all the steps to make fresh dough, God bless you. Tonight, this was enough for me.
- I used my deep dish pan and layered in some leftover chicken from a salad I made a couple of days ago. I added diced red onions, poured on lots of sauce, and covered it with five kinds of cheese.
- It baked in the oven for 25 minutes, and then I let it cool for 10, then added fresh cilantro.
- It was spectacular.
NOTES ON THE GAME:
- Gonzalez throws Trout seven balls. The ump calls two of them strikes, but Trout still draws the walk. No perfect game for Gonzalez, at least.
- Pujols waddles up to the plate and the announcers briefly mention that he's hitting .230 before going on to talk about how he hit his 500th home run in this ballpark... three and a half years ago. Glancing over Pujols's crappiness and focusing on his past glories. Not too hard to see the metaphor there.
- And Pujols grounds into a double play! Who could have seen that coming? The Nationals second baseman even bobbled the ball, but still made the play, because Pujols is the slowest player in the game. (I'm not exaggerating to make a point here: that last statement was a fact.)
- By the way, every time Pujols grounds into a double play, he sets an MLB record. No one in the history of the game has GIDP more than he.
- It's just not fair to fans to have a player on our favorite team as great as Mike Trout, only to see him not get thrown a single pitch to hit because a terrible, slow player is hitting behind him.
- Howie Kendrick is up for Washington. For years he was my favorite Angel. He got a lot of shit for not living up to the massive expectations he built up while in the minors, but overall he played very good second base while batting .292 in nine seasons for the Angels. The team made the postseason in four of his nine years. I got nothing but love for Howie.
- In the second inning, Tyler Skaggs gives up a double but walks the #8 hitter to face Gio Gonzalez, whom he retires in three pitches. Exhibit #1 why I don't understand why the NL still uses the DH. Was that fun for anyone?
- Skaggs is batting #8 for the Angels today. It's not THAT uncommon for an AL pitcher to bat 8th in an interleague game, although with this Angels offense, it's entirely possible that Skaggs is better than the #9 hitter. (He strikes out on 5 pitches, never taking the bat off his shoulder.)
- Skaggs gives up a leadoff homer to Kendrick, then two more singles... and then retires the next three batters to limit the damage. Still, 1-0 Washington after 3 innings, and that might be all Gio needs today.
- Gio gives up another walk but still hasn't allowed a hit through 4.
- Simmons leads off the 5th by getting out to a 3-0 count... and then stares at three strikes in a row. Excellent at-bat, Simba.
- Still no hits through five.
- Gonzalez strikes out Pennington in the 6th on a pitch clearly off the plate. Geez. He's already pitching really well, if he keeps getting several inches off the plate, the Angels probably won't get a hit.
- Cameron Maybin finally gets a hit with two outs in the 6th on a little dribbler up the middle.
- Trout follows up with another single, bringing Pujols to the plate. Anyone want to guess what he'll do?
- Pujols walks and Daniel Murphy makes a beautiful jumping catch to rob Marte of at least two RBIs. Damn baseball is a cruel sport. But that really was a great catch.
- Bud Norris - he of the 13.50 ERA in the month of August - comes in for the Angels. Maybe Scioscia figured "Woah, my hitters almost tied the game! This is getting close - I should bring in my worst reliever."
- The Nationals get another run thanks to a Pujols error. Awesome. He's a terrible batter, he's the slowest player in baseball, and he can't field anymore. The Machine!
- Bud Norris just got the benefit of a call that was twice as far off the plate as the one Gonzalez got last inning. So the ump isn't biased... he's just really awful.
- Trout strikes out to end the 8th inning on a pitch several inches above the strike zone. The announcer says what everyone is thinking: "That's awful."
- It was awful. See for yourself:
- I've watched about 300 different games this year, and this is the worst I have seen a home plate ump. However, he isn't favoring a team, he's just truly terrible tonight.
- Nationals win 3-1. On a 1-10 Scale of Painful Losses, that was pretty close to a 1. The Nationals are a much better team than the Angels; they're not in the same league, let alone division, so there's no rivalry; Gonzalez is pitching great this year; everyone saw how many bad calls went against the Angels; old friend Howie Kendrick hit two home runs.
- Nolasco pitches for the Angels tomorrow. He has given up more home runs than anyone else in baseball this year. THAT game could be ugly.