Wednesday, April 11, 2012
3 up, 3 down: Twins 6, Angels 5
By Mark Saxon
The Angels continued to get their season off to a sluggish start with Wednesday's 6-5 loss at Minnesota in which ace Jered Weaver and the bullpen couldn't protect a pair of leads.
Speed. You don't often see inside-the-park home runs to begin with. You particularly don't see them hit to left field. Then again, few players are as fast as the Angels' Peter Bourjos. The center fielder smacked a ball off the wall and, when Josh Willingham hit the wall and fell down, Bourjos just kept motoring for a three-run home run the unconventional way. He also later had an RBI infield single, but the umpire mistakenly called him out at first.
Pressure. When is bad base running good base running? When it causes the other team to make mistakes. That's part of the reason the Angels run so relentlessly. When Denard Span dove and couldn't come up with Torii Hunter's bloop liner in the seventh inning, Hunter kept running and, while Span's throw beat him easily, it got past the second baseman and Hunter had a leadoff double. He also hustled out a double in the ninth inning on a slow roller into center field.
Bottom feeding. The Angels have become accustomed to limited -- very limited -- offensive contributions from their catchers. Chris Iannetta might be about to change all that. He already has three doubles and his clutch two-out RBI to drive in Hunter was an important moment in the game.
Bad relief. Nothing about Hisanori Takahahi's performances the past two seasons suggests he can be trusted in the clutch. He inherited two runners from Jered Weaver and instantly gave up a triple -- to left-handed hitter Chris Parmalee -- to drive them all in and blow the Angels' lead. In high-leverage situations last year, the league hit .262 against Takahashi. That's too high for a left-handed specialist.
Stopping Willingham. One of the best things to happen to the Angels over the winter was Josh Willingham leaving their division, but they can't escape him entirely. Willingham had five career home runs against the Angels in just 18 games before Wednesday and he did it again, hitting a long home run off Weaver to give Minnesota a 3-1 lead.
The gluts. There actually is a down side to the Angels' newfound depth. Mike Scioscia is finding it particularly difficult to get at-bats for his corner infielders. Maicer Izturis has barely played and Alberto Callaspo doesn't look like he's coping well so far with a reduced role. He has one hit in 13 at-bats this season. Callaspo led the Angels in batting average and on-base percentage last season.