Saturday, April 14, 2012

Howie Kendrick celebrates with Erick Aybar and Albert Pujols after hitting his 1st home run of the season

By Brian Waller, Columnist

Game Recap:
Howie Kendrick started the day by tweeting “Dear Halo Fans. Have FAITH. Definitely not a RAT RACE.”…Kind of prophetic considering the day he was going to end up having. The Halos came into Saturday’s game against the New York Yankees having lost their previous 3 due to either an underwhelming performance by the offense, shaky pitching or a combination of both. Saturday however would be different, much different in fact as the Halos pitched well and hit well finally looking like the team everyone thought they would be in 2012.

Vernon Wells got it going in the 2nd inning with a solid ground ball single up the middle. Chris Iannetta would then come up and hit a 2-run home run that just ‘eeked over the short porch in right field giving the Angels a 2-0 lead.

During the bottom of the 2nd, Peter Bourjos made a terrific catch on an Andrew Jones line drive for the second out of the inning. When the ball first came off the bat I thought for sure it would land for a hit but Bourjos’ athleticism and speed allowed him to get to the ball quickly to make the catch. The play got a smile and an 'atta boy from starting pitcher C.J. Wilson.

Pujols looked good at the plate today as he went 2-for-5 with 1 RBI. His 2nd hit came in the 3rd inning when he hit a deep fly ball to straight-away center field, all Yankees’ center fielder Curtis Granderson could do was chase it. The hit would drive in Kendrick from first base to give the Angels a 3-0 lead. It was odd how Hughes pitched Pujols during this specific at bat as he got 2 early strikes with his curveball which put Pujols in a 0-2 hole. Hughes than threw a 4-seam fastball to Pujols down the middle of the plate which of course was crushed. In the top of the 6th Pujols nearly got his 1st home run in an Angels’ uniform off of David Phelps but he just got under the 0-1 curveball and the ball was caught on the warning track.

Erick Aybar showed some great hustle in the 4th inning as he reached on an infield single after he hit a hard grounder to Yankees’ first baseman Mark Teixeria who ended up losing the ball after it popped in the air after hitting his glove due to a bad hop. Aybar hustled all the way down the line and slid into first base which put 2 runners on for Howie Kendrick who then hit a 3-run BOMB pushing the lead to 6-0. Kendrick would end up going 3-for-5 with each one of his hits coming off of a cutting fastball. Kendrick’s last at-bat really impressed me, he eventually grounded out to second base but he did see 11 pitches. At bats like that were few and far between for Kendrick in past seasons, it seems like he is really maturing as a hitter.

Vernon Wells hit his 2nd home run of the season in the top of the 5th inning giving the Angels a 7-0 lead. Wells ended the day going 2-for-4 with 2 runs and 1 RBI.

C.J. Wilson was effective today but he was not very efficient with his pitches. Wilson threw 106 pitches, 63 strikes and 43 balls, in 6 innings today. He went deep into a lot of counts and despite allowing multiple base runners in the 4th, 5th and 6th innings; he managed to get out of most jams. Wilson only allowed 1 run today off of 6 hits while walking 2 and striking out 2. I don’t want my nitpicking on his pitch count and pitch efficiency to take away from the terrific job he did do. He kept hitters off balance most of the game, hitting both sides of the plate with his 2-seam and 4-seam fastball. Wilson walked the tight rope at times but came through unscathed and definitely did his part to get the Angels back on track. After 2 starts this season Wilson is looking like everything Halo fans were hoping for as he has a 2-0 record and a 1.38 ERA.

Wilson’s high pitch count at the conclusion of the 6th inning all but assured the Angels would have to go to the bullpen for the remaining 9 outs. Kevin Jepsen, LaTroy Hawkins and Jordan Walden combined for 3 innings of no-hit baseball as they struck out 4 and walked none. It was definitely a breath of fresh air seeing the bullpen close out the game with such ease. Hopefully this is a trend that will continue and the Angels can put their pitching woes behind them. Remember Halo fans...Have FAITH because it's definitely not a RAT RACE!

Player(s) of the Game:
Howie Kendrick

AB     R     H     RBI’s    BB      SO     LOB     AVG.
 5       2      3        3       0         1          0         .276

Angels’ Pitching Staff (C.J. Wilson, Kevin Jepsen, LaTroy Hawkins and Jordan Walden)

IP      H      R      ER       BB      SO       HR      ERA
9.0     6       1        1        2        6           0         1.00

Next Up:
Angels’ righty' Jerome Williams (0-0, 0.00 ERA) will make his 2012 season debut on Sunday opposite Yankees righty' Ivan Nova (1-0, 2.57 ERA).

Miscellaneous Notes:
Since Aug. 19, 2011, Angels’ shortstop Erick Aybar's .333 batting average (50-for-150) is tops among Major League shortstops.

The Angels designated right-hander Rich Thompson for assignment on Saturday, recalling Brad Mills from Triple-A Salt Lake to take his place on the roster. After being informed of the move, Thompson posted the following tweet, “Thanks to all the Angels fans; it’s been a pleasure, everyone has treated me with the utmost respect, and I appreciate you all.”

Regarding his search for additional bullpen help Jerry Dipoto said he’ll continue to search “under every rock” for bullpen help, but added: “There’s not a surplus of available, high-quality Major League relievers. We have a variety of arms in our ‘pens that we feel comfortable in. We have to find the right roles for those guys.”
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