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Tag: LA Angels

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim III: Blink And You’ll Miss It

It seems like little more than a hazy memory now, but the Yankees and Angels played each other six times in April, each taking two of three at home from the other. They’ll finish their season series in the next 24 hours with a two-game set that will kick off at 7:05 tonight in the Bronx and should wrap up before the end of the work day tomorrow.

Despite the departures of John Lackey and Chone Figgins, the Angels were my pre-season pick to win the American League West, but with the Rangers’ 4.5-game lead and recent acquisition of Cliff Lee, I can’t see the second place halos catching up. Obviously, I didn’t anticipate Kendry Morales’ suffering a season-ending broken leg during a walk-off celebration at home plate on May 29. Nor did I expect that third baseman Brandon Wood would be such a total bust at the plate (.168/.185/.225). The Angels appeared to solve their hot corner problem with former Giants second base prospect Kevin Frandsen, but Frandsen has hit just .136/.200/.162 since June 30 and is a far inferior fielder to Wood.

I expected better things from ex-Yankees Hideki Matsui, who is making the Bombers look bright for letting him go by hitting just .249/.329/.393 and slugging just .359 since the end of April, and Bobby Abreu, who’s .259/.351/.412 is his worst across the board since he was a rookie with the Astros last century.

I also expected better things from the Anaheim rotation, which I repeatedly described as “five deep.” Jeff Weaver, Scott Kazmir, Ervin Santana, Joe Saunders, Joel Piñeiro seemed like a solid quintet in April, but Kazmir has been awful (6.92 ERA, 1.22 K/BB) and just hit the disabled list with a bum shoulder, and Saunders has been erratic (4.83 ERA, 1.32 K/BB).

As a team, the Angels have been below average in both runs scored and runs allowed this season and, despite their 50-45 record entering this series, they have been out-scored on the season. That’s a large part of the reason that I think the AL West race is over: the Rangers are the only team in the division with a positive run differential and they just got better with the addition of Lee.

Sean O’Sullivan takes Kazmir’s spot in the rotation tonight. A 22-year-0ld righty, O’Sullivan posted a 5.92 ERA in ten starts and two relief appearances  as a rookie last year. This year, he’s made just four relief appearances in the majors (albeit with good results), and had a 4.76 ERA in 15 Triple-A starts.

O’Sullivan will face Phil Hughes, who last pitched at Angel Stadium, taking the loss in the All-Star game by giving up singles to two of the three batters he faced. Hughes ended the first half with a strong outing against the punchless Mariners (7 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 5 K), but had just one quality start in his previous four outings (7.03 ERA). With Andy Pettitte heading to the DL with a groin injury that will keep him out until the end of August, the Yankees need Hughes to get back on track.

Pettitte officially goes on the DL tonight. Expect Jonathan Albaladejo, who has been dominating out of the Scranton pen, to take his spot for now, with another move being made Saturday to allow Sergio Mitre to be activated to take Pettitte’s place in the rotation (though I’d rather see Mitre return to the bullpen and Ivan Nova get that chance).


Los Angeles Angels II: Do It Again

The Yankees hosted the Angels for three games last week, facing the same three pitchers that they will in this weekend’s three-game set against the Halos, and took two of three. Doing that again won’t be as easy. That’s because, after leaving the Bronx with a 3-7 record, the Angels flipped the switch, pealing off five wins against the Blue Jays and Tigers; because Jeff Mathis’s broken wrist has pushed Mike Napoli’s superior bat into the lineup; because Scott Kazmir, who pitches against Javy Vazquez on Sunday, shook off the rust against the Tigers in his last turn; because Joel Piñeiro was as dominant against the Tigers as he was against the Yankees; and because these games will take place in Anaheim, where the Yankees went 3-6 last year.

Tonight erratic stuff-misers A.J. Burnett and Ervin Santana face off. Burnett has gotten better in each of his starts in the early going and is coming off seven impressive shutout innings against Texas on Saturday. Santana lost his first two starts–one of which came in the Bronx and saw him give up five runs on five walks and eight hits (including solo homers by Nick Johnson and Derek Jeter)–but is coming off a sharp, 106-pitch complete game win against Toronto in which he walked none while allowing just one run on another solo homer (by Adam Lind). I’ll be impressed if either can manage a second straight dominant outing tonight.


2010 Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Coverage of the Angels this past offseason focused on the fact that, a year after they let Francisco Rodriguez depart as a free agent, four more of their key players were eligible to do the same. It was generally believed that the Angels had to resign at least two of them to maintain their hold on the American League West, but after quickly re-upping Bobby Abreu for two years at an annual salary of $9 million, the Angels watched as Chone Figgins, John Lackey, and Vladimir Guerrero, not to mention valuable veteran set-up lefty Darren Oliver, all signed elsewhere.

Here’s the thing. I still think the Angels are going to repeat as division champions this year. For one thing, though they didn’t resign Guerrero, they did sign Hideki Matsui for a mere $6 million, and to my eyes, that’s an upgrade. Matsui’s actually eight months older than Guerrero, and both have a lot of mileage on their bodies and have struggled with injuries in recent years, but Guerrero, who signed for $6.5 million plus an option with division rival Texas, just looked used-up last year, playing in just 100 games and failing to reach 20 homers or walks. After leading the league in intentional walks in each of the previous four years, Guerrero was passed intentionally just three times in 2009, damning evidence that the Impaler’s blade has dulled significantly.

Matsui, meanwhile, arrives in L.A. coming off one of his best seasons. Both seem capable of replicating Matsui’s career line of .292/.370/.483 if healthy, but I think Guerrero will need the help of his new park to get there, while Matsui can do it on his own. The catch is that Mike Scioscia has already given Matsui a start in left field. If he continues to do that every so often, the chances of Matsui staying healthy are significantly reduced (not to mention the effect of his two bad knees on the Angels’ defense).

As for Lackey, the Angels replaced him last July when they acquired Scott Kazmir from the Rays for three prospects including Sean Rodriguez. Kazmir is ably filling Lackey’s shoes by starting the season on the disabled list, which Lackey did each of the last two seasons. When he returns, Kazmir will give the Halos a young, hard-throwing lefty to complete a five-deep rotation that also includes Jered Weaver, lefty Joe Saunders, Ervin Santana, and free agent addition Joel Pineiro, the last of whom is the only of the five Angels starters to have reached his thirties. None of those guys is an ace, but Weaver and Kazmir can be number-twos, Saunders and the groundballing Pineiro slot in well at three and four, and the erratic Santana has front-end potential as evidenced by his strong 2008 campaign which earned him his first All-Star selection and even a few Cy Young votes. Hidden in Santana’s 2009 numbers is the 3.18 ERA he posted over his last 11 starts, much in the same way that Kazmir’s unimpressive 2009 figures mask a strong second half in which he posted a 3.27 ERA and a 1.73 mark after becoming an Angel.

The depth of that rotation is a large part of the reason that I believe the Angels are going to repeat, but their lineup is still solid as well. Only the Yankees scored more runs than the Angels in 2009, and with Matsui replacing Guerrero, the only real change is the loss of Figgins. It remains to be seen if Erick Aybar will be an out machine while taking Figgins’ place atop the order, but things are solid behind him, with Abreu getting on base in the two-hole and Torii Hunter, Matsui, and Kendry Morales lining up to drive him in. If Aybar can hit for enough average to prop up his OBP, and Brandon Wood, who replaces Figgins at third base and opens the season batting eighth, can deliver on his considerable power potential (the 25-year-old slugged .541 in the minors and averaged just shy of 29 homers a year over his last five minor league seasons), the Angels should actually be better without Figgins than they were with him. Those are big “if”s, of course, but the Angels have room for error given their production last year.


ALCS: Angels vs. Yankees

This is going to be epic. The ALCS should be pretty good, too.

When the decade began, the idea of a Yankees-Angels rivalry seemed laughable. The Yankees were on their way to their fourth world championship in five years and the Angels hadn’t made the postseason since 1986. Then came 2002. Having come two outs from a fifth title in 2001, the Yankees won the AL East for the fifth year in a row and were matched up against a surprising 99-win Wild Card team from Anaheim in the first round. The Yankees were the clear favorites, but after pulling out a come-from-behind win in Game One thanks to an eighth-inning homer by Bernie Williams, they were swept in the next three games by the relentless Angels, who went on to win the franchise’s first pennant and world championship.

A losing season in 2003 seemed to paint the Halos as a fluke, but they came storming back in 2004 and won their division. Since then, the Angels have won the AL West in five of the last six years, went 30-18 against the Yankees from 2004 to 2008, and beat the Yankees in the ALDS again in 2005 in a nerve-wracking series that saw the Yankees blow fifth-inning leads in Games Two and Three and lose Game Five in large part because of an outfield collision between Gary Sheffield and Bubba Crosby that allowed two runs to score.

It was also that series that, to many minds, sealed Alex Rodriguez’s reputation as a post-season choker. Rodriguez hit .133 in the series and, representing the tying run in the ninth inning of Game Five, followed a Derek Jeter leadoff single with a back-breaking double-play. The trick was that the Angels gave Rodriguez nothing to hit, walking him six times and hitting him twice. As with that double play, Alex got himself into trouble by expanding his zone and swinging at the junk he was being offered, but he still posted a .435 on-base percentage on the series. That devilish and effective strategy came from the mind of manager Mike Scioscia, who took over the Angels in 2000 and has presided over what has been by far the franchise’s most successful decade.

The Angels seemed to have the Yankees’ number again this year when they swept them in Anaheim just before the All-Star break to take a 4-2 lead in the season series, but the Yankees, as they did to the entire league, stormed back in the second half to even the series, thus avoiding losing the season set to the Halos for the first time since 2003.

Both teams swept their way to this year’s ALCS, though the Angels did it in more convincing fashion against a superior opponent, the Red Sox, while the Yankees needed a pair of comebacks to beat the lowly Twins. For the Angels, it is their first ALCS appearance since they beat the Yankees to get there in 2005. For the Yankees, it’s their first since they were victims of the Red Sox’s groundbreaking comeback from a 0-3 deficit in games in 2004. Though both teams are postseason staples, making five of the last six, neither has reached the World Series since the Yankees out-lasted the Red Sox in the epic 2003 ALCS.

The blood isn’t nearly as bad in this matchup, but the Yankees find themselves on an unfamiliar side of this one-sided rivalry. It’s the Bombers who always come up short in this pairing. Having finally escaped the perilous best-of-five format of the Division Series, this rivalry will literally reach the next level over the next week. Though the Yankees are clearly the better team by objective measure, I expect the series will be hard-fought and heart-stopping. My official prediction is Yankees in seven, and I expect nothing less.


Los Angeles Angels of Angelheim III: Getting Well

The Yankees arrive in Anaheim needing just one win (or a Rangers loss) to clinch their first postseason berth under manager Joe Girardi. That’s a big deal, but it’s also an inevitability. Yankee fans tuning in this week to see a preview of a potential playoff matchup might be disappointed to see their team playing out the string, but that’s what the Yankees are and should be doing right now.

That clinching win will come. In the meantime, the Yankees have to make sure that, when they get to the postseason, their important players are healthy and rested. Getting A.J. Burnett and Joba Chamberlain straightened out are priorities that met with differing results in Seattle. Tonight Andy Pettitte, whose last start was skipped due to some soreness in his pitching shoulder, takes the ball. Getting him and David Robertson healthy and effective again are also priorities.

Brett Gardner seems to have gotten his swing back, but he’ll sit tonight against the left-handed Joe Saunders. The Yankees will get a look at possible Joba-replacement Chad Guadin tomorrow and Burnett again on Wednesday against newest Angel Scott Kazmir. Somewhere along they way, they’ll clinch a playoff berth.

The Angels’ roster is the same as it was last time these teams met. The Yankees are 3-1 against the Angels in the Bronx this year, but 0-3 in Anaheim, but whether or not that latter mark is corrected or reinforced this week will have little bearing on how the Yanks are likely to perform in Disneyland in October.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim II.V: It Don’t Matter, But What If It Do?

I hate to break it to you, but the American League races are pretty much over. With roughly 20 games left (less for the Yankees and Twins), the closest race remains the Wild Card, where the Red Sox hold a four-game lead over the Rangers. The Yankees lead the Angels by five games for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Tigers lead the Twins by 5.5 in the Central. The Angels lead the Rangers by six in the West, and the Yankees’ lead over Boston in the East is a comfortable seven games.

Unless something wild happens (and I’m not saying it won’t), the Yankees will host the Tigers in the ALDS, and the Angels will host the Red Sox. If the Yankees advance, they’ll then have homefield advantage over their ALCS opponent, which given the recent playoff history between the two teams (the Angels have won just one game in three ALDS series against Boston since 2004), is more likely to be the Red Sox than the Angels. It’s thus very possible that tonight’s make-up game, and the three games the Yankees will play in Anaheim next week, are in fact a preview of nothing, and could have no significance for the postseason at all as the Yankees would automatically have home field advantage against the Wild Card Red Sox.

Still, an ALCS matchup with the Angels remains a distinct possibility, and the Angels team that arrives in the Bronx tonight is a much better one than the one that swept the Yankees in the final series before the All-Star break. In that last series, Vlad Guerrero and Torii Hunter were on the DL and Scott Kazmir was a Tampa Bay Ray. All three of those players are on the Angels active roster now, and while the Yankees will face Jered Weaver, not Kazmir tonight, they make the Angels a far more dangerous team. The Angels have been winning at a .661 clip since the break, just four-games behind the Yankees’ remarkable pace.

The Yankees would do well to remember that they took two of three from the Angels in the Bronx in May, and that they’ve had some modest success against Weaver this year, scoring eight runs against him in 12 innings and connecting for three home runs (by Jorge Posada, Alex Rodriguez, and Eric Hinske).

Joba Chamberlain takes the hill for the Yankees tonight. After a rough beginning to his last outing, Chamberlain settled down and retired the last eight men he faced in order. He’ll move up to four innings tonight, hoping to build off that performance.

Yankees added journeyman minor league utility man Freddy Guzman to the 40-man roster. Guzman is on his fourth organization this year and will serve as a pinch-runner, defensive replacement, then vanish back into the ether from whence he came. Standard lineup tonight against the Halos.


Los Angeles Angels II: Gimme A Break

Coming into the season, I didn’t think the Angels had the offense to leave their division in the dust the way they did last year when they greatly overachieved relative to their run differential. Thus far, however, the offense has been there, but the pitching hasn’t, and poor team defense (hello Bobby Abreu) isn’t helping. Or so it would appear.

Only two Angels starters have made their full slate of starts this year. Of those two, Jered Weaver, who starts Saturday’s game on FOX, has been excellent, but Joe Sanders, who starts tonight, has been no better than average, adding a run to his ERA of a year ago, seeing his walks and strikeouts converge, and allowing a league-leading 20 homers in just 17 starts.

After starting the season on the DL, John Lackey, who starts Sunday, has gone 3-4 with a 5.18 ERA in 11 starts. His poor performance can be traced to a .353 opponents’ average on balls in play, which would seem to be attributable to that poor team defense. Ervin Santana has been on and off the DL all year and has a dismal 1-5 record to go with his alarming 7.81 ERA. Again, one looks to the defense as Santana sports an absurd .385 BABIP.

So who are the culprits in the field? That’s hard to figure. Going position-by-position, the Angels are rarely more than a tick below average anywhere on the field. Torii Hunter’s not as good as he used to be, but Bobby Abreu’s not nearly as bad as he was for the Yankees last year. Juan Rivera, another former Yankee, who has rebounded from nearly two seasons lost to a broken leg with a strong showing at the plate, has actually been a significant plus in the pastures. The middle infield grades out to about average, and better than that when Howie Kendrick plays, and the corners have been solid.

Gary Matthews Jr. has been awful on both sides of the ball, but most of his playing time came in the outifeld before Lackey and Santana returned from their initial DL stays; it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which he alone could be blamed for their struggles. So maybe it’s not team defense that is the problem. Maybe Lackey and Santana are just all kinds of hittable right now. Either way, it’s bad news for the Halos, who are struggling to stay atop their division and enter this final series before the All-Star break a half-game behind the Rangers in the AL West and four-games out of the Wild Card race.

More bad news hit Anaheim today as both Hunter and Vladimir Guerrero hit the DL. Guerrero, who might be the oldest 34-year-old in baseball, is on the shelf for the second time this season. Meanwhile, Hunter’s replacement in center will be none other than Matthews, the team’s $50 million mistake.

Tonight the Yankees face lefty Joe Saunders, who has allowed 14 runs in nine innings over his last two starts. Saunders has really been hit or miss all season, with his two worst starts coming against the Rangers in Arlington (seven of the 20 home runs he’s allowed came in those two starts). At home, he’s posted a 3.43 ERA, though he was touched up by the Orioles at home his last time out. In addition to the Rangers, Saunders has been particularly susceptible to right-handed hitters, who are slugging .505 against him. That’s good news for the heart of the Yankee order.

He’ll face Joba Chamberlain, who got an ego check his last time out when he allowed eight runs in 3 2/3 innings. Joba’s been a bit obstinate about his performances thus far this season, often giving too much credit to the opposing lineup as well as to his own ability to make good pitches, when in reality he’s been inefficient, nibbly, and his velocity has lacked consistency. He’s still been valuable, but his lack of progress is becoming disturbing. Part of me almost wants him to get his ass handed to him tonight so he has to ugly outings staring him in the face through the All-Star break. The hope being that might put a crack in some of his delusions.

Mark Melancon rejoins the bullpen tonight with Jonathan Albaladejo getting optioned out despite his fine work in yesterday’s game. Derek Jeter gets a half-day off at DH with Cody Ransom, who drove in a pair of runs yesterday, playing shortstop against the lefty Saunders. Nick Swisher bats fifth ahead of Robinson Cano. Melky’s in center, and Jose Molina makes his first appearance since being activated, catching Chamberlain and giving us a chance to see just how much Francisco Cervelli and Ramiro Peña really are going to be missed in the short term.


Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

2008 Record: 100-62
2008 Pythagorean Record: 88-74

Manager: Mike Scioscia
General Manager: Tony Reagins

Home Ballpark (multi-year Park Factors): Angel Stadium (103/102)

Who’s Replaced Whom:

  • Kendry Morales replaces Casey Kotchman and Mark Teixeira
  • Bobby Abreu replaces Garret Anderson
  • Brian Fuentes replaces Francisco Rodriguez
  • Shane Loux, Anthony Ortega, and Matt Palmer are filling in for John Lackey, Ervin Santana, and Dustin Mosely (all on DL)
  • Rafael Rodriguez and Fernando Rodriguez are filling in for Darren Oliver and Kevin Jepsen (both on DL)

25-man Roster:

1B – Kendry Morales (S)
2B – Howie Kendrick (R)
SS – Erick Aybar (S)
3B – Chone Figgins (S)
C – Mike Napoli (R)
RF – Gary Matthews Jr. (S)
CF – Torii Hunter (R)
LF – Bobby Abreu (L)
DH – Juan Rivera (R)


R – Jeff Mathis (C)
S – Maicer Izturis (IF)
R – Robb Quinlan (3B/1B)
R – Brandon Wood (IF)


L – Joe Saunders
R – Shane Loux
R – Anthony Ortega
R – Jered Weaver
R – Matt Palmer


L – Brian Fuentes
R – Jose Arredondo
R – Scot Shields
R – Justin Speier
R – Jason Bulger
R – Rafael Rodriguez
R – Fernando Rodriguez

15-day DL:

RF – Vladimir Guerrero (torn pectoral)
RHP – John Lackey (forearm tightness)
RHP – Ervin Santana (elbow strain)
RHP – Dustin Moseley (elbow tightness)
LHP – Darren Oliver (shoulder stiffness)
RHP – Kevin Jepsen (back spasms)

60-day DL:

RHP – Kelvim Escobar (shoulder inflammation)

Typical Lineup:

S – Chone Figgins (3B)
S – Gary Matthews Jr. (RF)
L – Bobby Abreu (LF)
R – Torii Hunter (CF)
S – Kendry Morales (1B)
R – Mike Napoli (C)
R – Juan Rivera (DH)
R – Howie Kendrick (2B)
S – Erick Aybar (SS)


How The Other Half Lives

I take a look at the Brian Fuentes signing over at SI.com today and conclude that, while that’s all well and good, the Angels sure could use some more offense now that Mark Teixeira is a Yankee. Or, to use my own words:

If Angels fans want a cause to get behind, they should lobby their team to add a bat so that Fuentes, Arredondo and company actually have some leads to protect. By signing Fuentes, the Angels have filled their cart, but they’re still in need of a horse.

Caught In A Clinch

Yesterday afternooon, for the third game in a row, the Yankees got out to a quick start and emerged with little to show for it. Sure they wound up blowing out the Angels on Tuesday night, but only after Alfredo Aceves had made a 1-0 score hold up for five innings. Yesterday, the Yankees got two runs in the top of the first on a pair of walks, a Jason Giambi RBI single and a balk by Angels spot-starter Dustin Moseley, but Andy Pettitte gave one back in the bottom of the inning on a Garret Anderson double, a wild pitch, and an RBI groundout by Juan Rivera.

Johnny Damon led off the third with a walk, but got picked off ahead of a single by Derek Jeter, who was subsequently stranded at first base. A one-out single by Xavier Nady in the fourth was erased by a 3-6-3 double play off Hideki Matsui’s bat. Then in the fifth, Pettitte fell apart. Singles by Gary Matthews Jr., Anderson, and Guerrero loaded the bases with none out. Pettitte then rallied to strike out Rivera and Kendry Morales, and got ahead of Robb Quinlan 1-2, but Quinlan battled back to a full count before delivering a two-RBI single that gave the Angels the lead which was inflated to 4-2 when Guerrero scored on Nady’s subsequent throwing error.

Untitled And that was that. Pettite walked the next batter and got the hook. Jose Veras, Phil Coke, and Joba Chamberlain stopped the scoring there, but so did Moseley and relievers Jose Arredondo and Scot Shields, passing the game to Francisco Rodriguez. Down to their last out, The Yankees mounted a threat with a walk by Giambi and a single by Xavier Nady that put pinch runners on the corners, but Rodriguez got Hideki Matsui looking to earn his 56th save of the year and move into second place on the single-season saves list. He’ll pass Bobby Thigpen soon enough.

At that point attention turned to the Rangers-Mariners game, which was broadcast for the remaining fans on the Angel Stadium scoreboard. The M’s had an early 4-0 lead, but the Rangers tied it up with a pair of two-run homers off M’s starter Jared Wells in the fifth. Seattle got back out ahead with two runs off Kevin Millwood in the fifth, but another two-run homer tied the game back up at 6-6 in the sixth. The M’s took the lead again with a run in the bottom of the sixth and added another in the bottom of the seventh. That was enough to survive a Chris Davis solo homer off Miguel Batista in the eighth and when J.J. Putz struck out Michael Young to wrap up Seattle’s 8-7 win, the Angels clinched the AL West for the fourth time in five years.

As things stand now, the Angels will face the Wild Card team in the ALDS. As of this writing, the Rays had a 1.5 game lead on the Red Sox and the two teams were tied 1-1 in the 12th inning at Fenway. The Angels have faced the Red Sox in the postseason three times, but have lost all three series. In recent years, they’ve been swept twice in the ALDS by Boston and haven’t won a postseason game against the Sox since they held a 3-1 in the 1986 ALCS. The fifth game of that series was the game in which Dave Henderson homered off Donnie Moore in the ninth inning to prevent the Angels from reaching their first World Series. So, you think the Halos are hoping they wind up facing the Rays?

Los Angeles Angels of Anahiem III: Jobber Edition

Untitled A “jobber,” in pro wrestling terminology, is a no-name wrestler whose primary purpose is to give the popular heroes and villains someone to beat in between hyped-up grudge matches. At this point in the 2008 season, the Yankees are nothing but a jobber. Of course, the jobber can’t let on that he’s only in the ring so that the more famous wrestler has something to do, so they strut about and flex their muscles just the same as the other guy. Joe Girardi has become quite practiced at this, but much like Iron Mike Sharpe or Leaping Lanny Poffo, he’s not really fooling anybody.

In this week’s three-game series in Anaheim, the Yankees could be the jobber against whom the Angels clinch the AL West. Our own Bobby “The Brain” Timmermann believes that could make the Halos the first team to clinch a division against the Yankees since the Blue Jays did so in 1985 (though, unlike those Jays, the Angels won’t be eliminating the Yankees in the process). The Angels magic number entering this series is three. Any combination of Angels wins or Rangers loses totaling three will give the Angels their fourth AL West title in the last five years.

The Yankees could also be the jobber against whom Francisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez ties or even breaks Bobby Thigpen’s 18-year-old single-season saves record. Thigpen saved 57 games for the White Sox in 1990. Rodriguez has 55 saves so far this year. Heck, it’s entirely possible that Rodriguez could tie the record and clinch the division all at once against the Yankees. That’s pretty special. It’s a good thing MLB sent one of their most talented jobbers to take the fall.

The Yankees remain mildly interesting because of their starting pitchers. Carl Pavano will make his fourth consecutive start tonight facing Jon Garland. Hot prospect Alfredo Aceves will make his first major league start tomorrow against Jered Weaver, who was pushed back a day after accidentally cutting his hand in on the bench in the visitors dugout at Comerica Park last Tuesday. Wednesday will find Andy Pettitte, whose Yankee career could be winding down, back on the bump against Ervin Santana.

The Yankees’ primary interest, however, will likely be in scouting pending free agents Garland, first baseman Mark Teixeira, and perhaps even left fielder and former Yankee Juan Rivera. I don’t expect the Yankees to show much interest in Garland, though he could be useful as a league-average innings eater if Pettitte doesn’t return, or Rivera, who is yet another former Yankee farmhand whose reluctance to draw walks undermines his other talents, but they’ll certainly be in the mix on Teixeira, a Gold Glove defender and switch-hitter who has hit .360/.441/.610 since being acquired from Atlanta. Of course, given those credentials, his $12.5 million salary this year, and his agent, Scott Boras, the Yankees may have to take out a second mortgage on the new Stadium to meet Teixeira’s price.


Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Instant Redux: Just Like Starting Over Edition

The Yankees are 5-7 since opening the second half with an eight-game winning streak and have lost the first two games of each of their last three series, including last weekend’s four-game set against the Angels at the Stadium. Then again, they rallied to earn four-game splits in their last two series, and given the Angels’ .644 winning percentage on the road, splitting four against them in the Bronx was perfectly acceptable.

Facing a three-game set in Anaheim this weekend, the Yankees don’t have the option of a split. For all of the Angels’ success on the road, the Halos still have a .600 winning percentage at home and are 11-3 in Anaheim since July 1. The Yankees righted their ship against the Angels last weekend by dropping a six-spot on Jered Weaver, who starts again tonight, but Weaver’s home ERA is more than a run lower than his road mark and his home run and walk rates are way down in his home park.

This series will be a real test for the Yankees, but the biggest test will be for tonight’s starter, Ian Kennedy. Kennedy’s already been tested quite a bit this season, by his manager, who challenged the young righty to throw strikes during his early season struggles, by the organization, which farmed him out to triple-A in early May when he failed to meet Girardi’s challenge (7.61 BB/9 in his first six games), and by the team doctors after he left his third start following his recall with what proved to be an oblique strain.

Kennedy returned to action at the end of June with a pair of dominant rehab outings in the low minors and has since made seven appearances (six starts) for triple-A Scranton, posting a 2.60 ERA and walking just 3.08 men per nine innings, an exact match of his minor league walk rate last year. In his last four starts for Scranton he has compiled this line: 27 IP, 14 H, 4 R, 5 BB, 20 K, 3-0, 1.33 ERA, 0.70 WHIP.

Given his struggles in the majors at the start of the year and his 0-3 record on the season, it’s easy to forget that Kennedy did turn in two quality starts in his seven opportunities, both games the Yankees went on to win after his departure. Still, the gap between Kennedy’s minor league dominance (career: 17-5, 1.90 ERA, 214 K in 203 1/3 IP) and his pitching in the majors earlier this year was wide and more than a little bothersome.

After straining his oblique at the end of May, Kennedy was replaced in the rotation by Joba Chamberlain. With Chamberlain on the DL due to rotator cuff tendonitis, Kennedy is being given his third chance to establish himself in the Yankee rotation. Beating Weaver and the Angels tonight while keeping his walks down would be a huge victory, not only for the team, but for Kennedy, who needs to stand atop major league mounds with the same confidence and command he’s shown throughout his brief minor league career.


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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver