Sunday, April 3, 2011
Three Up, Three Down
By Mark Saxon
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Angels offense finally broke out with 19 hits, but two bad pitching performances from Scott Kazmir and Fernando Rodney did them in.
Big bat. The Angels have been waiting for Howie Kendrick to turn into the hitter his minor-league resume suggests. Maybe his time is finally now. Kendrick has looked in sync and powerful since the beginning of spring. He has started the season with a bang, smashing three home runs, including two Sunday off Bruce Chen. It’s important that he pull the ball occasionally and his second home run went over the left-field wall.
The Aussie.Rich Thompson had a brilliant season at Triple A last year, and a strong spring to make the team. His rebirth continued with 3 1/3 innings of relief after Kazmir couldn’t get out of the second inning. It took Thompson, 26, a little while to figure it out in his career, but he could be a big factor in the bullpen before long.
The veteran.Bobby Abreu studies pitchers as well as any hitter in the game. You have to wonder if he picked something up in Sean O’Sullivan’s delivery when the two were teammates. Either way, Abreu launched a go-ahead two-run home run off the former Angel in the seventh inning. Abreu went 5 for 5 and was the first Angel to reach base safely in all seven plate appearances since Brian downing in 1982.
Um, the bullpen. If you had April 3 in the Fernando Rodney first-blown-save contest, you win. Rodney joined the parade of awful late relief work when he walked three batters and allowed a slicing two-run double to Wilson Betemit to blow his first save and squander a big day from Angels hitters. So far, every relief pitcher the Angels were relying on other than rookie Jordan Walden has been terrible. And yeah, it's a big concern.
The spiral continues. Kazmir did virtually everything you can do that’s bad for a pitcher to do. He hit two batters, gave up a home run, walked two. He even had a balk. And he did it all in less than two innings. At this point, it would be shocking to see Kazmir in the Angels rotation a month from now -- presuming Joel Pineiro is healthy by then.
More bullpen. Thompson and Hisanori Takahashi were good, but the Angels bullpen continues to struggle holding leads late. Michael Kohn gave up a two-out RBI double to Jeff Francoeur to tie the game in the seventh inning.