Sunday, May 19, 2013

Walking to a win: Angels 12, Chicago 9

Such an unlikely way for the Angels to win a game. They walked 10 times, Alberto Callaspo drove in five runs and they came back from a 4-0 deficit to defeat the Chicago White Sox, 12-9, Saturday at Angel Stadium. The Angels won for the first time in Joe Blanton's nine starts for them, and he wasn't very good.

Angels third baseman Alberto Callaspo led the way Saturday with five RBI (Keith Allison/Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike Generic 2.0 license).

Big Leagues in Los Angeles

The game: May 18, Chicago at Angels, American League. Chicago entered 19-21, tied for fourth AL Central, four games behind Detroit and Cleveland. The Angels entered 15-27, fourth place AL West, 12 games behind Texas.

The pitchers: Chicago, Hector Santiago, left hander (1-2, 2.33). Angels, Joe Blanton, right hander (0-7, 6.46).

The result: Angels 12, Chicago 9 ( box score).

Summary: We always say that anytime you watch a baseball game, you might see something you've never seen before. The Angels walked 10 times Saturday. Maybe we've seen that before, but possibly not, as the Angels are in the bottom half of the American League in walks every year since Mike Scioscia became their manager. Anyway, the Angels needed all of those walks to overcome a 17-hit onslaught by Chicago, which remains the worst offensive team in the AL.

The pitching: When the closer gives up a three-run homer and still gets a save, you know this particular game is not about pitching. Angels closer Ernesto Frieri did exactly that, coming into a 10-6 Angels lead with two out in the eighth and two men on, meaning the tying run was on-deck. On the second pitch he threw, Frieri gave up a base-clearing bomb to Hector Gimenez, the reserve catcher who towered above all other hitters on a day when everyone was Stan Musial. However, Frieri finished off the eighth, then struck out all three hitters he faced in the ninth for his eighth save of the year ... Angels starter Joe Blanton courted disaster for three innings and finally won her heart in the fourth. Blanton gave up two hits in each of the first three innings and left them all on base. In the fourth, he walked a hitter, gave up a hit, then, with two out, hit Chicago's Alexei Ramirez with a pitch. This time, the dam broke. Alex Rios hit a hard ground ball off the glove of third baseman Alberto Callaspo, who leaped into the air going to his left. Two runs scored on the double. On the very next pitch, Adam Dunn singled to right, driving in two more ...

The life savers in this game for the Angels were middle relievers Robert Coello and Dane De La Rosa, who combined for 2 2/3 shutout innings to get the club through a fifth-inning jam and carry them through the seventh with a 5-4 lead. Coello entered for Blanton with one out and the bases loaded in the fifth, then struck out Ramirez and the hot-hitting Rios, both swinging at hard, sinking fastballs. The right hander now has pitched seven innings over five appearances without giving up a run ... The Angels brought in Garrett Richards, recently converted to the bullpen, for the second day in a row to pitch the eighth inning. It didn't work out. Richards gave up four runs (though two came on the homer against Frieri) in 2/3 of an inning. His ERA ballooned from 4.78 to 5.63, almost a full run. Being fair to Richards, two of the four hits he allowed were infield hits ...

The White Sox got no pitching from anybody. Sox hurlers faced 45 hitters and turned only 22 of them into outs. The other two outs for the Angels came when Albert Pujols hit into a double play and Mike Trout was caught stealing.

The hitting: When Alex Rios bounced his double high off the leaping glove of Angels third baseman Alberto Callaspo to trigger a four-run inning in the fourth, probably no one figured Callaspo would be the man to lead the Halos out of their resulting 4-0 hole. But Callaspo put the ball into the air to hit two sacrifice flies and a three-run homer, leading the club with five RBI ... The switch-hitting Callaspo hit the ball hard from each side of the plate. Batting right-handed, he took Chicago left fielder Dayan Viciedo all the way to the wall in the second inning, hit a line-drive single to left in the fourth, then greeted Sox reliever Donnie Veal, a lefty, with a three-run homer to left in the seventh. Batting left-handed, Callaspo hit a sacrifice fly to the front of the track in right field, driving in Mark Trumbo to give the Angels a 5-4 lead in the fifth. He didn't hit the ball as hard from the left side in the eighth, but he got the job done with a sacrifice fly to left field ... Of the ten different players who took at-bats for the Angels Saturday, all of them walked at least once, except for Callaspo, Albert Pujols and Howie Kendrick. But Callaspo drove in five runs, while Pujols and Kendrick each had two hits ...

If the Angels are to make anything of this season and it turns out to have started with this game, then we might look back on Trumbo's fourth-inning homer as the turning point. The Angels offered this to reporters: After Chicago scored four in their half of the inning for a 4-0 lead, they were telling each other to just get one back and keep playing. Then, Trumbo led off with his homer to left. You wouldn't expect a guy who homered to bring his 15-27 team within 4-1 in the fourth inning to be especially juiced, but Trumbo's excitement coming around the bases was hard to miss, especially his hard hand slap with third base coach Dino Ebel as he headed for home ... Then again, we shouldn't be too surprised about Trumbo. This guy is a really good player in many ways. He plays a nice first base, he's adequate in the corner outfields and he can handle designated hitter, so he gives his manager a lot of flexibility, in addition to extra base pop ... With two RBI Saturday, Trumbo has driven in 17 runs in his last 19 games. He's only eight-for-42 in his most recent ups, but he makes the hits count. Of his last 18 hits, 13 are for extra bases (six doubles and seven homers) and, as we've said, he drives in runs ...

Another interesting player for the Angels right now is this pop-gun corner outfielder, left-handed hitting J.B. Shuck. When club owner Arte Moreno isn't looking because he's so fixated on adding glitter to the roster, Shuck is the kind of guy who an astute baseball person sneaks onto the team. Houston gave up on Schuck during the winter and cut him loose, apparently because he has absolutely no power -- just seven homers in 2,463 professional plate appearances, no homers anywhere since 2010 and no homers at all above the Class AA level. He's a singles hitter all the way ... But he has a career minor league batting average of .301 in 2,299 plate appearances, never batted lower than .292 in any of his five minor league seasons, and never had a minor league on-base percentage lower than .366. Two interesting figures for Shuck: his career minor league on-base percentage is .382, and his career minor league slugging percentage is .381. He has more walks than strikeouts every year except one. In his last two seasons of Class AAA ball, he played 223 games, walked 95 times and struck out 50 times ... And he runs well, though probably not well enough right now to be an effective base stealer. In those two years at Oklahoma City (Pacific Coast League), Shuck was 32-for-51 in stolen base attempts, 62.7 percent. He needs to be around 75 percent to make the successful steals worth the outs they cost. But he's only 25 and, perhaps, a little instruction could make him a threat to steal ... And he has handled himself well in left field and right field for the Angels ... Anyway, Shuck had another nice game Saturday, two-for-four with three RBI, including a two-run double. He's batting .306 ... Could go on and on here. Lots to like about this player.

The White Sox, of course, had their hitters on this day ... Shortstop Alexei Ramirez and designated hitter Paul Konerko each had three hits ... The day turned two other White Sox into .300 hitters. Alex Rios kept a 13-game hitting streak alive with a two-for-four day, pushing his batting average up to .302. And Dayan Viciedo was two-for-three, pushing his average up to .303 ... However, Adam Dunn kept a five-game hitting streak alive, and it hasn't even made him a .200 hitter. Dunn is eight-for-22 (.363) on his streak, bringing his season average up to a lusty .173 ... The big bopper for the White Sox was backup catcher Hector Gimenez, a switch hitter who was four-for-five with a three-run homer.

The base running: One never knows what base running like this actually costs a club, but, for example, Chicago's Alexei Ramirez only went from first to second on a single to right field by the next hitter, Alex Rios, with one out in the first inning. The Angels right fielder, Mark Trumbo, played deep against Rios and never had a chance to catch the ball. There was absolutely no danger of Ramirez being thrown out at third and, with one out, he has to get there. As it turned out, the next two hitters, Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko, both struck out swinging against Angels starter Joe Blanton to end the inning. But if Ramirez were on third, particularly during Dunn's at-bat, that would have dictated a change of approach for the hitter and the pitcher, perhaps with a different result. The White Sox lamented after the game that they didn't make enough of their early opportunities, but here was a case where they didn't even make an early opportunity ... Ramirez did go from first to third without a throw on Konerko's two-out single to center in the third ...

Albert Pujols can't be feeling good with that plantar fasciitis in his left foot, but he doesn't stop running. He hustled out a double to short right in the fifth, enabling himself to easily score the tying run for the Angels on Mark Trumbo's double to the wall in right center ... Mike Trout always likes to get out and run for the Angels, and one can see why. In the first, Trout singled, only to be erased on Pujols' double-play grounder. In the third, Trout walked, only for Pujols to hit into a force play to end the inning. In the seventh, Trout walked and, this time, he tried to steal second with Pujols batting. But he was thrown out. Then, Pujols struck out looking. Who knew that it would be the start of a five-run inning for the Angels? In the eighth, Trout led off with a walk, moved from first to third on Pujols' single to right, then scored on a double by Howie Kendrick.

The fielding: For all his offensive prowess Saturday, Alberto Callaspo isn't what he used to be at third base for the Angels, and it's no wonder he's splitting the position with rookie Luis Jimenez. Callaspo struggles going to his left and coming in on balls. Saturday, three plays -- only one of them easy, granted -- got the better of him. In the second, he couldn't get enough zip on his throw to turn Dayan Viciedo's chopper into an out. In the third, he misplayed an easy roller by Alexi Ramirez down the third base line into a hit. And in the fourth, there was that high bouncer by Alex Rios that skipped off Callaspo's glove for a two-run double ... Angels right fielder Mark Trumbo mishandled Adam Dunn's single in the fourth inning, but with two out and runners on second and third, those two runs were going to score, anyway ... Trumbo took over first base for Brendan Harris in the seventh and made a short diving stop to his right against Tyler Greene to end that inning ...

The White Sox removed Dunn from first base in the fifth inning because of a bad back. His replacement, Jeff Keppinger, made nice diving stop to his right in the sixth, turning Chris Iannetta's sure leadoff single into a ground out ... While going four-for-five at the plate, White Sox catcher Hector Gimenez also let by two passed balls and couldn't block a wild pitch. Fortunately for him, none of those plays ultimately resulted in any Angels scoring.

Strategic moves: How does strategy play into a game like this? Either the pitchers get guys out, or they don't. By the numbers, the Angels are an average offensive team in the American League, and they scored 12 runs in eight innings of hitting. The White Sox have the worst offensive numbers in the league, and they scored nine runs ... To start the seventh, leading, 5-4, Angels manager Mike Scioscia made a couple of defensive substitutions, moving Mark Trumbo from right field to first base, removing Brendan Harris from first base, and taking Josh Hamilton off the bench and putting him in right field. Trumbo immediately rewarded Scioscia with a nice play at first base. Trumbo walked in the bottom of the seventh and scored on Alberto Callaspo's three-run homer, then Hamilton followed Callaspo's homer with a one-out single and later scored on J.B. Shuck's double. In the eighth, after the Angels already expanded their lead to 12-9, Hamilton drew an intentional walk ... Did these moves by Scioscia help? They certainly didn't hurt.

What now: The Angels improved to 16-27, still fourth place in the AL West, still 12 games behind Texas. They snapped a three-game losing streak and avoided their worst 43-game start since 1976, when they were 15-28. The Angels are 7-7 against the AL Central and 9-20 against all other clubs ... The White Sox now are 19-22, still tied with Minnesota for fourth (and last) place in the AL Central, but now five games behind Detroit and Cleveland ... The Angels will try for a split in this four-game series Sunday (12:35 p.m. PDT) at Angel Stadium. Left hander Jason Vargas (2-3, 4.03) will throw for the Angels. Vargas is 2-0 with a 2.91 ERA in May. The White Sox will answer with right hander Jake Peavy (5-1, 2.96), who is going for a fourth straight win for the first time since the second half of the 2009 season ... Saturday was the anniversary of the very first game the Angels and White Sox every played against each other. On May 18, 1961, before 3,740 at Wrigley Field in Los Angeles, the White Sox prevailed, 6-4.

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