Home Sweet Home? – 8/27

Reality bites! Winners of 9 of their last 11 games, and after a tiring road trip across America that saw the Halo’s win 7 of 9, the Angels returned to the Big A, poised to tighten their grip on a playoff position that in April,  seemed beyond imagination. Unfortunately, deep in the dog days of August, the beloved home team played mostly like worryless puppies this past week, and must now realize that for their playoff hopes to be realized, they’ll need to play their best ball of the season in what is left of summer. The challenge is no doubt an enormous one, but a storybook ending to the regular season is still possible despite odds, injuries, and uneven play.

Have you ever woken up from a daydream wondering why you are here? That is how the Angels must feel as they approach the top of the stretch. But, there’s no point in searching for meaning or explanation over the upcoming month or so of the season–the Angels simply have to play, and play to win. And, they’ll have to do much better in the next thirty-one games than they did in the past seven. Perhaps the Angels are still unnoticed across America, but they can make their mark, if they succeed in September, and play some games in October that no one could ever have predicted.

The Angels have had but one manager this century, so if you’re seventeen or younger, like me, the only man who you’ve seen pilot the Halos is Michael Lorri Scioscia, 58, a native of Upper Darby, Pa., a suburb of Philadelphia. As the skipper of the ’02 Champion Halos, Scioscia won manager of the year honors. He was a repeat winner of this award after guiding the Angels to a 97 win season in 2009. And, should the Angels manage to make the playoff mix this season, Mike Scioscia might well wind up as a three time Manager of the Year honoree. How is it that the Angels are in the hunt for a playoff birth given a roster that is in need of some serious tinkering (especially in leftfield and at second base where the holes are longstanding), injuries to key and vital players, and a cleanup hitter who is unfortunately approaching the twilight of a brilliant career? Mike Scioscia! Managers come and managers go…that is a constant theme in baseball. Mike Scioscia is almost a singular exception to this rule and though his continued status has been questioned in times of trouble, his reign in Anaheim has resulted in hard work, hard play, an always calm clubhouse, and a team that competes to the best of their abilities. What more can be asked for in a manager? The next month will determine a lot for the ’17 Angels but win or lose, make it to October or not, Mike Scioscia has done a brilliant job with a team that is undoubtedly challenged.  In a season that has had its ups and downs, Scioscia has piloted the Angels roller coaster onwards and upwards.  So hat’s off to Mike, and his dedicated long-term amigos, Dino and Alfredo, whose rapport with fans elicits their smiles and their joy.

Wouldn’t you like to get into Mike Scioscia’s head for a moment or two? Know what he is thinking or feeling behind that calm demeanor and seemingly impenetrable stare? Well, maybe this would not have been the best week to take that journey as the Angels came from on high and fell mightily. Ugh? Yikes? Golly gee? Egad?…Choose your own exclamation!   A 2-5 week could not have been on anyone’s wish list as the Angels returned to Katella from the Charm City where the Halos overcame the determined efforts of Manny Machado and Mark Trumbo, a fallen Angel, who has unfortunately taken up arms against us!

The series with Texas was painful to watch. Were Commissioner Manfred to ban Adrian Beltre from playing baseball, or at least from playing in the Western Division of the American League, he might have my full support! The grounds? Murder in the first degree! Beltre kills us…and his actions are obviously premeditated! His three-run blast off Tyler Skaggs put Monday’s game out of reach, as a more recent nemesis, Cole Hamels, frustrated the Angel bats.

You had to be happy with Tuesday’s 10-1 drubbing of the Rangers which saw Albert Pujols pass fellow Dominican, Sammy Sosa for eight place on the career home run list and become the all-time leader in home runs among foreign-born players. Sadly, on Wednesday, Adrian Beltre hit two more blasts. Commissioner, did you hear me? Enough said about a game that saw Mike Trout cut down a runner at the plate in the ninth to take the game into extras? Not really. Down 7-4, entering the home half of the tenth, the Angels fought back before finally succumbing. It was a valiant effort, the type of which Scioscia’s club has made all season long. But, a loss is a loss…especially approaching the end of August.

Thursday’s loss was almost predictable with Troy Scribner forced into a start after what might unfortunately be a season ending injury to JC Ramirez.  JC, who began the season in the pen, was forced into the rotation by a plethora of injuries, has become the mainstay of the Angels pitching staff this year. But, leaving 11 men on base, something that happened in this loss, is something the Angels simply can’t afford. To secure a playoff spot, timely hitting will be essential.

After dropping 3 of 4 against the Rangers, the Halos next dropped 2 of three against the ‘Stros. In the opener, Parker Bridwell was brilliant, as were Kenyan Middleton, and Cam Bedrosian. Unfortunately, the Angel bats were quiet. Make that silent! It’s hard to win games with one run on six hits.

Saturday night, a/k/a Vlad night, which saw Angels great Vladimir Guerrero inducted into the Angels Hall of Fame, provided the shining moment of the week. Known as Super Vlad, Vlad the Impaler, Big Daddy Vladdy, Big Bad Vlad, or simply as Vlad, our very own Vladimir Guerrero made the number 27 famous in Anaheim, years before Mike Trout might even be taking it to a higher level. Soon to become an official Cooperstown Hall of Fame resident, hopefully in 2018, it’s always great to welcome Vlad back to the confines of Angels Stadium. Usually, at these types of events, the guest of honor is given a car,  a boat or some other amazing momento. I don’t know what tangible item Vladdy received from the Angels but they did send him off with a pretty miraculous win, as they rebounded from a 6-1 deficit to pull off a 7-6 victory. It was the Angels 38th comeback win of the season, second only in the Majors to the Dodgers, and was achieved by scoring six runs in their final two at-bats. Simba’s blast in the eighth provided the margin of victory and the win couldn’t have come at a more opportune time. Kole Cahoun, had a big night with three hits and a homer. Kole’s had an up and down year. He hit poorly through May, turned it around in June, went cold again in July, but has been solid once more in August. If the Angels are to make the playoffs, they’ll no doubt need a big contribution from the man known on this “player’s weekend” as “the Koleman.”

Sunday’s loss was as tough as they come. Down 4-0 early, the Halos came back to take a 5-4 lead after 6…only to give up the lead, and the game, as Cam Bedrosian couldn’t end a two out eighth with no runners aboard, before the Astros had scored three to re-take the lead. Tough! But, in the scheme of things, as tropical storm Harvey has ravaged the Texas Coast and brought devastation to Houston, losing a baseball game is just, losing a baseball game.

The Angels will need to play better in the week ahead or their playoff hopes will fade in what is shaping up as a multi-team hunt for one playoff spot, or perhaps two, should the Yankees fall back to the pack.