ANAHEIM -- On more than a few occasions, the Halos found themselves in position to do some damage. More often than not, they failed. A team desperate to earn a wild-card spot can’t afford these types of performances, particularly against a sub-.500 team on the Angels’ home field.
Albert Pujols: With Mike Trout on first and the Angels clearly in need of a rally, their franchise face did his part to put a W on the board. Working a 2-1 count, Pujols destroyed a fastball Vinny Pestano likely wanted back the minute it left his hand. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a seven-run homer. But Pujols certainly did his part. In the meantime, he also flashed some pretty fancy leather. Pujols has been so incredible with a bat over the years, folks sometimes forget he’s also won two Gold Gloves. In the seventh inning, Pujols reminded everyone by dropping to his knees to snare a scorched, low liner from Casey Kotchmann. Pretty slick, Phat Albert.
Torri Hunter’s D: The veteran made up for an awkward jump on a long fly ball from Carlos Santana by hucking an absolute laser to second as the catcher attempted to take two. The throw couldn’t have been more perfect, and Santana was out by a mile.
C.J. Wilson’s threshold for pain ... which was on full display as he knocked down a sharp hopper from Lou Marson with his bare hand. The hurler was unable to convert the play to first and was subsequently lifted for LaTroy Hawkins, then given a medical examination. Now, I’m not saying this was a particularly smart move by Wilson, but it was undeniably manly. To quote Dalton from “Road House,” “pain don’t hurt."
Wilson’s third and fourth innings: The third frame was kicked off to bad effect after Howie Kendrick coughed up a routine grounder from Brent Lillibridge, placing immediate pressure on Wilson. Lillibridge advanced after Callaspo couldn’t make a throw to second upon charging a hot grounder. Marson was then walked, creating a two-on, one-out pickle. Chris Ianetta made a visit to the mound, but whatever the catcher said hardly did the trick. Jason Donald laced a shot into center, scoring Lillibridge. Asdrubal Cabrera then poked another single into right, allowing Marson to cross. Cue another mound visit, this time with pitching coach Mike Butcher adding his two cents. Wilson settled down well enough to retire Shin-Soo Choo and Santana, but by then had thrown 56 pitches, hardly the pace for an efficient evening.
That poor tone lingered into the next inning, when Wilson served up a solo shot to Lillibridge, doubling the light-hitting utility man’s home-run count for the season. Generally speaking, Wilson struggled more against the fringes of the lineup than the heart. (“Heart” being a relative term, considering nobody batting 1-9 boasted a .300 average.)
Unlucky 7: The seventh inning epitomized the offensive futility throughout tonight’s loss. It began with runners on first and second, no outs and a rally monkey on the big screen whipping the crowd into a frenzy as reliever Joe Smith warmed up on the hill. It ended with runners on second and third, Ianetta looking on a third strike and no runners crossing the plate.
During the game I Tweeted that if the Angels failed to rally, the PA guy is to blame for playing “Call me maybe” during the pitching change. But really, the Angels batters deserve a disapproving finger wag more than Carly Rae Jepsen.
(FYI: The ninth inning also squandered a two-on, no-out situation, but the drought felt even worse with that song playing in the background. However, it’s the same basic problem with or without Ms. Jepsen.)
Hisanori Takahashi: Three batters faced. Three base hits allowed. That aside, dude was pretty sharp.