As measured by our friends at Google, driving from Boston to LA is a trip that covers 2,982 miles, yet the distance by air is only 2,592 miles. Either way, it’s a long way home for residents of southern California making the coast to coast trip. The nice thing though is that in flying from the Atlantic to the Pacific, one picks up three hours, and with that, the ability to catch up on some needed sleep.
Unfortunately for the Angels, going home on this particular trip required a nightmarish two-game detour to the unfriendly confines of Chavez Ravine, the home of the rival Dodgers, who at 50-27, hold the best record in the National League. Scarier yet was having to face a team who is currently on a ten-game winning streak, and who have not lost at home in eleven consecutive games.
Having come to LA in 1961, several years after the Dodgers had established themselves in the “City of Angels,” with some well known baseball superstars like Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale, and then sharing a ballpark named for their better known rival, the Angels have long been treated (and teased) as a kind of the little brother in southern California. What kind of teasing you might ask. The photo attached to this post is a perfect example of the ridicule directed at the Angels. Officially named, the Los Angeles Dodgers of Anaheim, Dodger fans poke fun at us with T shirts that read: The Los Angeles Dodgers of Los Angeles. Not exactly a subtle form of sarcasm, huh? The bottom line is that all games matter, but the games with the Dodgers matter a whole bunch more. Even this New Yorker recognizes that!
So, it was a welcome relief this past Monday for the Angels to enter Dodger Stadium, emerge with a win and put an end to the talk of the Dodgers being the class of California while on target for a 100+ win season. Even more encouraging for the Angels in the opening game of a 4-game home and home series with the Dodgers was the pitching of Ricky Nolasco, the pitcher at the top of the home runs allowed list in the Majors who was facing a team that had homered in a phenomenal 17 consecutive games. Nolasco might have gone the distance had he not taken two consecutive shots off his body in the seventh inning, forcing him from the game. Cam Bedrosian, in relief of Nolasco held the Dodgers at bay as he struck out the two hitters he faced after entering in the bottom of the seventh. Kenyan Middleton and David Hernandez pitched the eighth and ninth innings respectively and held the mighty Dodgers both homerless and scoreless the rest of the way.
The rest of the week was up and down as the Dodgers answered the shutout with a shutout of their own, and then split the two games played in Anaheim. The hitting star for the Dodgers in their two wins was Joc Pederson who delivered a three run jack in each victory. The Angels second win against the Dodgers came in more improbable form. Behind a solid pitching effort by the hard throwing Alex Meyer, the Angels held a 2-0 lead entering the eighth inning as a result of a 2-run homer by Andrelton Simmons. Simba, as Simmons is affectionately known by his many fans, is making a solid drive to be the Angels representative to the All-Star game two weeks down the line. The relief pitching for the Angels did its best to give the game away as Kenyon Middleton surrendered a home run in the eighth and Cam Bedrosian followed suit in the ninth. Though he was charged with a blown save, his second of the season, Bedrosian was a beneficiary of some mixed heroics and luck. In the bottom of the ninth, Angels left fielder, Ben Revere, who has gotten some added playing time in the absence of Mike Trout, reached first on a fielding error, advanced to second on a wild pitch, and scored when Yasmani Grandal was charged with a passed ball on a strikeout by Cameron Maybin which then led to a throwing error by Grandal attempting to get Maybin at first. As the throw sale into right field, the speedy and hustling Revere had scored the winning run all the way from second on what should have been a routine out. I’m sure the Angels enjoyed the celebration on the Dodger Stadium turf…as I did!
The split with the Dodgers in the so-called Freeway Series was followed by a disappointing series loss at home to Western Division rival Seattle. In the first game, the Angels were annihilated 10-0 on a solid pitching performance by Ariel Miranda, who defected from Cuba to the US a few years back to pursue a professional baseball career. The offensive star was ex-Yankee Robinson Cano who is in the midst of an astounding 10-year $240 million contract with the Mariners. Cano, who is hitting .287 this year with 16 homers, went 3-5 with 2 runs scored, 2 home runs, and five RBI’s. Maybe that’s why he’s making the big bucks!
The Angels split the two weekend games at the Big A with the win coming on the 2nd consecutive gem pitched this week by Ricky Nolasco, who this time, completed a shutout behind the largest crowd to attend Angels Stadium since its renovation in 1998. Andrelton Simmons hit his ninth homer of the season in the win and is now hitting over .280. He’s become a terrific player who plays under the radar screen and who is greatly appreciated by his teammates, and moreso, the entire Angels pitching staff.
The June player of the month award goes to right fielder Kole Calhoun who batted .324, connected for 5 home runs, and knocked in 22 home runs. Kudo’s to Albert Pujols for hitting career home run number 600. The pitcher of the month award goes to Alex Meyer who had an ERA of 2.25, struck out 34, held opponents to a .181 average, and though he only was credited with one victory, seems to have solidified a position in the rotation. If Meyer can harness his control, he can become a mainstay in the rotation even after Skaggs, Richards, Tropeano, and Heaney come off the DL.