Sunday, May 16, 2010

By David Saltzer - Senior Writer

Anaheim - Apparently winning big agrees with the Angels. It’s like they’re supposed to do it. Last night’s 12-3 win over Oakland has had an affect on the team. There’s a different feel from the players—a different vibe on the field.

Talking with the players and coaches, you could sense it. They all more or less said it in their interviews. Mike Butcher said it best when he said “We expect to win. Period.”

The players know that they haven’t been performing. They know that they haven’t been living up to expectations. And, they know that they can do better.

Friday night, you could see the frustration. The team had no spark. Through the first few innings, most of the players were back in the dugout, rather than on the rail watching the game.

Saturday night, the mood was still tense in the dugout. Though they had won a game, there was an uneasiness about it: Would they be able to start a streak?

All that changed, though, with one swing of the bat. Kendry Morales stepped up to the plate and set a new course for this team. Though the starting pitching had been coming around of late, the offense had not.

After Kendry’s first homerun last night, you could see the weight lifted off the team’s shoulders. The players relaxed. They got comfortable at the plate. And they played like they’re supposed to, and they piled on the runs. Instead of hoping for help from the Rally Monkey, they got the 800 lb gorilla off their back.

If there had been a void in the Angels’ confidence, last night, it got filled by Kendry Morales. Aybar described Morales is “a force”. Brandon Wood said that Kendry’s first homerun last night was “huge”.

Today, the mood is clearly lighter in the dugout. Prior to the game, players were joking with each other. They were having fun. They were being a team.

During the game today you can see the difference. The guys in the dugout are standing at the rail. They’re interested in the game. They’re focused. They have momentum and are building off of it.

Last night’s confidence has carried over onto the field. The defense isn’t shakey. Aybar is back to showing why he could be a gold glove SS in the future. The play on Kouzmanoff was deep in the hole, and, he made a strong throw to get him. They’re making the routine plays. That’s giving Pineiro the confidence to rely on his sinker to get guys out on the ground.

At the plate, the players seem relaxed. The balls that hadn’t fallen for so long in are now falling in for hits. They’re pressing the defense, and capitalizing on mistakes. That confidence led to Hunter’s “double” and the first run of the game.

Mike Scioscia was right when he said the answers to this team are going to have to come from within. All it took was for someone to step up and fill the confidence to show the rest of the team that they are better than the way they have been playing. That person was Kendry Morales.

The Angels are playing with a swagger that they haven’t shown for a while. They are playing like a team that expects to win.

Love to hear what you think!


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