This is pretty much only going to be read by Kent, so here goes:
What I loved about this entire series was that it was so Angels' baseball. They won with pitching, defense, manufacturing runs and then they came back in dramatic fashion to close out the series on Sunday. Some of my favorite things about the series:
- Vlad used to be so feared in baseball, but this past season especially he has shown a lot of vulnerability. You watch the guy run and it's almost painful. He doesn't have quite the bat speed that he used to, and that becomes a crucial point because he doesn't have an eye for the strike zone at all, he just tries to hit everything. Our lineup is probably even deeper this season than it was last season, so the nice thing now is that we don't have to rely exclusively on him. The best part, however, is that he had a lot of redemption moments in the ALDS. His was the walk that eventually became the go-ahead run in Game 2 of the series. He worked another walk to become one of the two runners who scored in the bottom of the 8th when it was still doubtful that they would come back in Game 3. And they walked Torii Hunter to face him with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 9th when he (of course) swung at the first pitch and drove in the go-ahead runs. Beautiful.
- I loved loved loved that bottom of the 7th in game 2. I was happy that Weaver was keeping up with Beckett, but I was worried because Beckett's pitch count was so low coming into that inning (75) because it looked like he was going to go the distance. And then, with 2 outs of course, Vlad gets a walk. Howie pinch runs for him, steals second, and then Maicer Izturis drives him in with a single. Maicer may be the most clutch guy we have with RISP, boasting a batting average well over .300 with runners on. Now Beckett is still feeling the heat, forced to stop pitching out of the stretch, hold on Izturis, but Maicer ends up stealing anyway. Now facing Napoli, he gets ahead with 2 strikes, but Nap works the count and then gets hit by a pitch. 1st and 2nd, 2 outs, Aybar drills a triple over the head of Jacoby Ellsbury, one of the fastest guys in the MLB with 70 stolen bases this season and clears the bases. Game over.
- I came back from the marathon on Sunday morning to see the Angels down 5-2 in the 7th inning. I thought to myself, oh well, we still have two games to close them out, I just hope that the Yankees series gets dragged out as well. And then magic started to happen. All of the luck that we haven't had the last few seasons all suddenly turned in our favor. Not only are we getting guys on base, we're getting unbelievable clutch hitting. All five runs that put us ahead in that game were scored with two outs. Unreal. What's even better is that we do it all against the Red Sox star closer, Jonathan Papelbon, who until that point had yet to allow a run in the postseason. You know the rest. Game over. Series over. And it all happened in front of a stunned Red Sox Nation. Choke on that losers. Yeah, I can officially say crap like that now since we finally overcame them.
I also love Scioscia going with Saunders to pitch Game 2 in NY. The guy has been nearly unhittable since he has come back from the DL, and I love the lefty on lefty matchups that he provides against the Yankees and that short porch in right field. Then we go into game 3 with Weaver who is finally beginning to emerge as a #1 starter, and Kazmir in Game 4 who I'm mostly comfortable with.
Although our bullpen had given up a couple of runs in that last game of the series, they only gave up a couple of runs in about 8 innings of work, which is awesome considering that all those innings came in crunch time. I'm not brimful of confidence in this regard, yet, but I'm feeling better now with those guys than I have at any other point in the season.
And our hitting has really come on. We averaged better than 5 runs a game against a Red Sox pitching staff that is better than what the Yankees have to offer, and you gotta feel good about that. Abreu's patience was key for us in that last series, and he's only going to be more motivated against his former employer who wouldn't pony up the cash that he thought he deserved. Figgins was unusually quiet that last series, but I'm confident he'll snap out of it. Aybar is an on-base machine. Torii came up big, and Kendry has been consistent. Vlad is reemerging. I think this series is when we'll start to see some more home runs. And this is kind of surprising, but Howie Kendrick is batting .426 in his career against the Yankees, with a respectable .310 against them this season alone. More importantly, the guy is hitting .351 since being recalled from Triple-A Salt Lake July 4th. Nice.
Oh...and I can't say enough about how awesome it is to actually be at a playoff game. The atmosphere is just electric. High fives with strangers are a welcome and frequent occurrence, nobody gets up during the game. When Aybar hit that triple on Friday night, that whole stadium just exploded. It was magical.
It's going to be a tough series, but I really like our chances. We are just two steps away from having the very first Freeway World Series. Let's do our part Angels. Bring on those Yankees!