Tuesday, August 14, 2012
3 Up, 3 Down: Angels 9, Indians 6
By Brian Kamenetzky
Be vanquished, three-game losing streak! The Los Angeles Angels are back in the win column -- no small thing in what has been a miserable August -- with a 9-6 victory over the visiting Cleveland Indians at the Big A. Like your average Tarantino film, it had some moments you could do without, but overall produced enough high points to get the job done.
Starting the night eight games back in the division and 2.5 out of the second wild-card spot, we're well past deducting for style points. In need of wins, the Angels managed to pick one up Tuesday night.
Fast start: Pitching has undoubtedly been their bugaboo through their August-plus swoon, but over their past three games the Angels haven't exactly punished teams offensively, either. Tuesday, they solved that problem in a hurry off once-good Cleveland starter Ubaldo Jimenez. Breaking it down by pitch:
2: Mike Trout doubles to right center.
4: Torii Hunter singles, scoring Trout. 1-0, LAA.
10: Albert Pujols walks.
11: Kendrys Morales singles, Hunter scores. 2-0.
12: Mark Trumbo singles to right. Pujols scores. 3-0.
21: Chris Iannetta singles -- though it could have been fielded -- past Asdrubal Cabrera at short. Trumbo scores, 4-0 Halos.
That's almost a run every five pitches. That the Angels could easily have added more is beside the point. Facing a struggling pitcher with one of their own on the mound, the Angels received a much-needed boost with a great bottom of the first. It's always easier to play with a lead.
Zack Greinke (for six innings, at least): After a solid outing in his Angels debut (7 IP, 2 ER), Greinke was lit up for 16 hits, 7 walks and 10 earned runs over his next two starts, both losses for the Halos and clearly not the sort of thing for which he was imported from Milwaukee. Tuesday, Greinke gave folks a scare on his first pitch, a Jason Kipnis single, but two pitches later induced Cabrera into a 3-6-3 double play. From there, Greinke settled in. Save a bad sequence in the fourth when with two outs he drilled catcher Carlos Santana before grooving a fastball to center fielder Michael Brantley -- hit on a rope well over the wall in right -- Greinke kept a lid on Cleveland's offense. In part, because he avoided trouble. Through his first six frames, of the five Cleveland baserunners he allowed, four reached with two outs.
Even the seventh, the only inning in which Greinke ran into legitimate trouble, shouldn't have been quite as bad as the scoreboard indicated. Cleveland loaded the bases with only one down, but with a 9-2 lead and his bullpen currently roasting like a Zankou chicken, Mike Scioscia gave Grienke an opportunity to work his way out of the jam. Good call. Had Pujols not misjudged a high chopper back to Greinke by CF Ezequiel Carrera -- he wandered too far from first to tag the base on Greinke's throw -- the Indians would almost certainly have been limited to a lone tally. Greinke ending the inning with a strikeout of Cabrera was a nice touch. A hit there would have brought runs and, potentially, at least, a seriously demoralizing loss.
Overall, Greinke allowed four runs on eight hits over seven innings with one walk and five K's, but the performance was better than the line. It was enough to earn him his first win with the Angels.
Albert Pujols: Following the first-inning walk, Pujols continued doing damage, most notably when he reached out and pulled a 2-2 changeup from Jimenez just over the wall in left, maybe five feet from the foul pole. If that AB demonstrated his strength, what he did in the sixth accentuated his skill. Against Cleveland reliever Chris Seddon, Pujols fell behind 1-2 but stretched the at-bat another eight pitches (including five foul balls) before ripping a changeup into left for a double. He finished 2-4, with four RBIs and two runs scored. He has now driven in 82 on the year.
Honorable mention to Iannetta, entering the game 1 for his last 12 and .194 for the season, who reached base four times with two singles and a pair of walks.
Mike Trout grounding into a double play? C'mon! Technically, when he ended the seventh with a 6-4 DP, it was the third time this year Trout has pulled the two-for-one. But it's the first time I'd seen it live, and it's no fun. Trout is supposed to be too fast for that sort of thing. It's a little like seeing a department store Santa exiting the rest room around Christmastime. You know St. Nick (like everyone else) has to do that sort of thing from time to time, but it does dent the mystique. I prefer to picture Trout sprinting with Usain Bolt or tackling cheetahs on the savannah.
LaTroy Hawkins: He'd actually held opponents scoreless in 11 of 12 appearances before allowing a pair of runs over two innings against the White Sox on Aug. 4, then five in only two-thirds of a frame four days later in Oakland. Tuesday night, he restored a little order with a pair of K's over 1.1 innings, but in relief of Greinke continued the general trend of poor work from Angels relievers, allowing a no-doubt-about-it two-run blast to Casey Kotchman over the wall in right.
Alberto Callaspo: The only starter left out of L.A.'s nine-run, 13-hit fun fest, Callaspo went 0-4 and left three men on.