3 up, 3 down: Angels 5, Royals 0
April, 6, 2012
By Mark Saxon | ESPNLosAngeles.com
ANAHEIM -- There are few baseball players capable of upstaging Albert Pujols, but on certain nights, Jered Weaver is one of them.
The Angels’ ace shut down the Kansas City Royals just long enough for the Angels to rally in the eighth inning and open their 2012 season with a 5-0 win. Pujols was 0-for-3 with a strikeout, a double play and an intentional walk.
Ace of aces. So much for spring training statistics. Weaver was a little wobbly in Arizona, but does anybody really care? He was as dominant as ever in breezing through eight innings, holding Kansas City to four hits and striking out 10. Only two other Angels pitchers had struck out so many on Opening Day. Nolan Ryan did it twice and Andy Messersmith once. Weaver looks like a different guy when the games count, fiery as ever.
Foot traffic. I asked Mike Scioscia about how much running he plans on doing now that Pujols and Kendrys Morales are in the middle of his lineup. He said it was about finding a balance, running when the opportunity is there. The Angels look like a bunch of pulling guards in the Nos. 3 through 7 spots in their lineup, but have blazing speed on the fringes. The key shot was Erick Aybar’s three-run triple into the right-field corner, Peter Bourjos sliding into home safely.
Comeback story. For Morales, just being on the field in a meaningful game had to be redemptive. He’d sat out 23 months -- 10 baseball months -- since fracturing his left ankle here at Angel Stadium. Oh, and by the way, he started the winning rally with a one-out single off fireballer Aaron Crow in the eighth inning.
Progress. Mark Trumbo worked so hard this spring trying to become a competent third baseman, but his first effort with the lights on was rough. He sped up on Yuniesky Betancourt’s grounder in the third inning and made a throwing error, then overran a foul popup for his second error, sixth if you count spring training.
Common sense. The teams put on a clinic in needlessly aggressive baserunning. The most egregious case was Royal Jeff Francoeur getting picked off second base in a scoreless tie with one out. But there was more. Howie Kendrick was doubled up off second on Albert Pujols’ soft liner and Bourjos was picked off first in an obvious steal opportunity.
Get used to it. The crowd was so excited for Pujols’ fourth at-bat, but soon it was booing after the Royals elected to intentionally walk him with a runner at third and two outs. It’s going to happen all the time, folks. From 2005 to 2010, Pujols led the National League in intentional walks four times. A lot of that time he had Matt Holliday hitting behind him.