Saturday, May 26, 2012
3 Up, 3 Down: Angels 5, Mariners 3
By Mark Saxon
The Angels are on their best roll of the season, five wins in a row, and they kept it going against one of the toughest pitchers in baseball Saturday afternoon.
Albert Callaspo hit a pinch-hit grand slam off Felix Hernandez and the Angels beat the Seattle Mariners 5-3 at Safeco Field.
The blast. Pinch hitting isn't an easy task, but sporadic playing time for some Angels has apparently given them enough practice to produce in the clutch. Howie Kendrick won Friday's game with a two-run pinch-hit single and Callaspo hit the Angels' first pinch-hit grand slam in eight years.
The blasts.Albert Pujols is one of the few players in baseball who can set the direction of his team's season and for more than a month, he took the Angels on a tour of the doldrums. Now, he's carrying them back into contention. Pujols broke the ice of Hernandez with his third home run in the past three games and his sixth in the past 11 games. Everyone said he was going to turn it around with a vengeance and, eventually, they were right.
Who is this guy? Admit it, Angels fans: How many of you knew who Ernesto Frieri was three weeks ago? He's making himself known to a lot of people now. He closed his second straight game, this time getting four outs to do it. He has thrown 10 scoreless innings and struck out 23 batters. If that were one start, instead of scattered relief appearances, it would be perhaps the greatest start in baseball history.
Still slumping. Kendrys Morales just doesn't look right. For a while, he was picking up hits without actually driving balls with much authority. Now, he's just plan hit the skids, 0 for his last 8. You wonder whether something physical might be bothering him or whether the disruption of being benched for interleague play hurt his swing.
More slumping. Maicer Izturis isn't bringing much to the table these days other than his defensive versatility. As long as Callaspo stays hot in the clutch, he might be a better choice to play third base. Izturis has three hits in his last 30 at-bats, shedding 60 points off his batting average.
Space limitations. We call this feature "3 Up, 3 Down," so there wasn't enough room to give Jerome Williams his due above. That's our bad. How many teams have a fifth starter who has pitched seven quality starts in nine appearances? The Angels have no reason to complain about any phase of their pitching right now, certainly not with the back of their rotation.