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.