Los Angeles Angels: Magglio Ordonez

Is there madness left in Motor City?

July, 16, 2012
7/16/12
1:42
PM PT
The last time the Angels played the Detroit Tigers, things turned chippy.

Jered Weaver hooked up with Justin Verlander, two of the league's best pitchers in a Cy Young showdown, and tension gradually built on a muggy afternoon. Weaver got angry at Magglio Ordonez's reaction to a home run, so Carlos Guillen reacted even more theatrically. Weaver buzzed a batter and was ejected. Verlander erupted (both during and after the game) over Erick Aybar trying to bunt to break up his no-hitter.

It was a mess in Motown. Luckily, conditions couldn't be riper for a detente as the Angels start a three-game series in Detroit tonight. Guillen and Ordonez are both out of the game. Verlander and Weaver each pitched Sunday and will miss the series.

The only participants in the drama who will play this week are catcher Alex Avila, the player Weaver brushed back (and who, apparently, was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time); and Aybar. The umpires will be under orders from the league to keep things orderly. Maybe they won't have to.

Tigers 3, Angels 2: Three Up, Three Down

July, 31, 2011
7/31/11
12:59
PM PT
Jered Weaver was great until his temper got the better of him, but Justin Verlander was unhittable.

The Angels lost 3-2 to the Detroit Tigers on Sunday in a game rife with dominant pitching and bad blood. The Angels' first hit off Verlander didn't come until there were two outs in the eighth inning. A batter later, Verlander struck out Torii Hunter on a 101-mph fastball.

Weaver, clearly unhappy about two earlier Tigers' showboating after home runs, was ejected an inning earlier for throwing at a Detroit batter.

The Good:

Erick Aybar's creativity. The sellout crowd didn't like it. Verlander didn't like it. But, given how the Tigers had acted earlier, who cares how they felt? Erick Aybar showed savvy trying to bunt for the Angels' first hit. Verlander had been waiting around after Weaver's ejection and it was a good bet that he would be flustered, and he was, throwing wildly to first. It may have broken an unwritten baseball rule, but those shouldn't matter when a team has a chance to win a key game in a pennant race.

It should have been ruled a hit, but the official scorer was off the hook when Maicer Izturis lined a clean single to left later in the inning.

The TV replay later showed Verlander yelling at Aybar from the dugout and pointing to the middle of his back. Lucky for Aybar, the teams won't meet again until next year ... unless they meet in the playoffs.

Weaver's pitching. The game was hyped heavily in Detroit and it actually lived up to the billing strictly in a baseball sense. Weaver wasn't quite as sharp as Verlander -- few have been -- but he allowed only four hits and struck out eight in 6 2/3 innings.

Maicer Izturis. He calmly stroked a base hit to left field to save the Angels the indignity they had inflicted on the Cleveland Indians four days earlier: a no-hitter.

The Bad:

Magglio Ordonez's antics. He got a hanging slider and pummeled it over the left-field fence to determine this duel's outcome early. Then, he took a while to enjoy the sight of it sailing away. That's great, Magglio, but act like you've been there before. Oh wait, he hasn't been -- often. It was only Ordonez's fourth home run this year.

Carlos Guillen's antics. Guillen made a big show of standing at the plate after his seventh-inning solo blast off Weaver. He also stared at him the whole way to first. It seems like kind of a childish move for such a respected veteran. Too bad baseball doesn't have a 15-yard penalty for taunting.

Weaver's temper. Even with all of that being said, for Weaver to throw a 92-mph fastball over Alex Avila's head was ridiculous. You could see in Weaver's eyes before that pitch that he was seething. Poor sportsmanship is one thing; throwing at a player's head is about safety. Weaver deserved to be ejected.

Dan Haren pitches a beauty

July, 6, 2011
7/06/11
12:03
AM PT

ANAHEIM – Only seven of the first 41 pitches Angels right-hander Dan Haren threw to the Detroit Tigers in a virtuoso two-hitter Tuesday night at Angel Stadium were fastballs.

So, yes, it’d be fair to say he did a superb job mixing his pitches against a tough Tiger lineup.

In earning his 100th career win, Haren threw cutters and split-fingers galore in baffling Detroit’s potent 4-5-6 combination of Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Jhonny Peralta as the Angels won 1-0.

“Dan should frame that one, because that was incredible,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of Haren’s work of art. “That’s a very, very tough lineup he was facing.”

Haren didn’t even know how few fastballs he had thrown through three innings, but he knew it was abnormal. Then, as the Angels batted in the top of the fourth, he approached rookie right-hander Tyler Chatwood, who was charting the pitches he threw from the dugout. Haren said later he was a little surprised when Chatwood told him the exact number: seven of 41, or just 17 percent of his pitches.

Over the course of his career, Haren has thrown fastballs just over 50 percent of the time. He went back to a more normal ratio later in the game, but the ruse had already worked.

“I kinda set ‘em up, then threw more fastballs as the game went along,” Haren said afterward. “The last pitch of the game was a fastball. My fastball was feeling better later on, so I threw a lot more of it.”

Scioscia said Haren’s split-finger fastball was moving around more than he’d ever seen it in an Angel uniform. That’s saying a lot, considering the performances Haren has already turned in through 33 starts with the Angels.

His second start with the team last July was a five-hit complete game, and he threw three more scoreless outings of at least seven innings before the 2010 season ended.

This year, his third start was a one-hit shutout against the Cleveland Indians. But Haren said he felt more dominant Tuesday than he did at any other point with the Angels – even including the start against the Indians.

“Even in that game, I didn’t have everything working,” Haren said. “Tonight, I had my stuff working. Everything was really working well, especially against that lineup, one of the best. It ranks right up there with Texas, Boston and New York.

“The middle of that lineup is as good as it gets, and it definitely means more against a good team like that and a good pitcher.”

The good pitcher? Only MLB’s strikeout leader, Detroit’s Justin Verlander, who went 7 2/3 strong innings against the Angels and gave up seven hits and just one run.

The game was being billed as a premium pitching matchup, and it delivered in every way. Verlander’s only run allowed came on a hit-and-run double from Erick Aybar where Detroit right fielder Magglio Ordonez mistakenly threw to second, allowing Howie Kendrick to come home.

Haren faced only one significant challenge, and even that came with two outs. Tiger center fielder Austin Jackson tripled to the right-center gap in the fourth inning on a ball that the Angels’ Peter Bourjos just missed. Haren got Brennan Boesch, one of the hottest hitters in baseball over the last month, to hit a come-backer to end the scare.

Haren threw 122 pitches in all, his second-highest total this season. Roughly half of those were probably of the cut-fastball variety, a pitch he picked up midway through his career in 2007 but has since become perhaps his most dominant.

And, well after he was done shying away from his fastball in Tuesday’s duel, Haren went back to the cutter, again and again, to retire the Tiger hitters.

“My cutter’s been my best pitch all year, and, in a 1-0 game, you want to get beat with your best pitch,” Haren said. “I threw it quite a bit. I had to.

“The game called for it.”

The defensive stylings of Peter Bourjos

July, 4, 2011
7/04/11
11:29
PM PT
ANAHEIM -- Peter Bourjos, the Angels' young, speedy center fielder, prefers to play a shallow outfield, and who can blame him?

By both statistical and visual measures, he's among the best defensive outfielders in the major leagues, and a true Gold Glove candidate even in 2011, his first full season in the bigs.

But when Angels third-base coach Dino Ebel took him aside early on in Monday's 5-1 win over the Detroit Tigers and suggested he move back a little bit the next time Detroit slugger Miguel Cabrera came up, Bourjos listened and did as Ebel recommended -- even if it made him feel a little uncomfortable on Cabrera's fourth-inning low-liner to center that he had to scramble to grab on the run.

And, boy, was he glad he did. The next time Cabrera came to the plate, with two runners on and no out in the sixth, he slammed a 1-0 pitch from Joel Pineiro all the way to the wall in center field that Bourjos caught up to -- just barely -- as he crashed into the wall for the highlight-reel play. He said he wouldn't have caught it if Ebel hadn't told him to move back.

"I’m glad he mentioned that," Bourjos said afterward.

So was Pineiro, who got the win Monday but didn't pitch all that great, instead relying on a number of superb defensive plays from all the Angel fielders to scatter five hits and three walks. The sixth inning, in particular, was "hairy," as manager Mike Scioscia put it.

A scorching-hot Brennan Boesch singled to left to lead things off, and Pineiro walked Magglio Ordonez to bring up Cabrera. After Bourjos made the play on the Cabrera drive, Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar combined on a top-notch double play to end the hazard.

Pineiro has always been a pitch-to-contact pitcher, as most sinker-ballers are. He freely admits that. But his job is easier, he says, when he can allow a fly ball to one of the deepest parts of Angel Stadium and still come away with an out. As he said after Monday's game, if the ball stays in the ballpark, Bourjos -- and even Vernon Wells and Torii Hunter, the other Angel outfielders -- often have a good chance to make the catch.

"Peter has range out there that’s special," Scioscia said after the game. "I think what’s special is that that baseball was hit hard – it was a line drive – for him to get back and make that catch, for as shallow as he can [play] with a power hitter like Cabrera. That’s what Peter does.

"He has that range that’s a difference-maker, and it showed up tonight.”

In the 1151 major-league innings -- roughly 125 full games -- he's played in center field since he was first called up last August, Bourjos has recorded a total UZR/150 (an advanced fielding metric) of 24.5, which essentially means that, over 150 games, he would save 24.5 more runs than the average major-league center fielder. It would have been the best of any regular center fielder in the bigs last season and so far this year as well.

So, yes, Bourjos, 24, is a difference-maker in the field on a daily basis. But he said he felt even more of an urgency to make the play Monday, as a result of the circumstances.

Winners of nine of their last 11, the Angels are certainly streaking, but they were in serious danger of losing their 4-1 lead at the time Cabrera hit the deep drive off of Pineiro. And it wouldn't have taken much for the ball to drop and the outcome to change, reversing the Angels' fortunes.

Bourjos realized that.

"When I was going back on that ball and coming up on the wall, I felt like I had to make that play – just because of the time of the game and where we were at, with no outs and first and second," Bourjos said. "I felt like it was kind of do or die, which made it a lot easier."

Easier? Yes, easier.

"Easier because I didn’t have a choice in the matter," Bourjos said, laughing. "I was going to hit that wall."

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Garrett Richards
WINS ERA SO IP
11 2.47 134 131
OTHER LEADERS
BAM. Trout .309
HRM. Trout 24
RBIM. Trout 76
RM. Trout 70
OPSM. Trout 1.005
ERAG. Richards 2.47
SOG. Richards 134