What a series.
They may have been banged up, no denying that, but regardless of the 3-0 result that’s a good team. To say anything else diminishes the incredible job done by a lot of people, some not wearing uniforms.
Regular season or post season the guy that starts a series on the mound has a chance to set a tone that opponents can’t shake off, or that gives momentum to his team that carries over. Josh’s effort in game 1 certainly did that for me. I still think that was one of the most dominating games I’ve ever seen pitched at any level. I think that game put them on their heels (which any loss will do in game 1 of a best of 5) in ways that a 7-5 or 5-3 game might not have.
Not only did he win, but I’ve been on the other side of games like that and in addition to thinking about game 2 you realize you’ll be facing the guy who just did that, at least one more time if you are going to win.
This series was littered with different things that I think are now, or will be soon, trademarks of this organization. Starting in 2004 this has been the most thorough and well prepared group of advanced scouts I’ve ever had the privelage of working with. While I’d love to claim yesterdays game as my own, it was as far from that as it could have been. The game plan we executed was as much Tek’s feel and calls, Dana’s hitter by hitter scouting reports and John easy style of coaching as it was anything. They came together to work perfectly yesterday. Add to the mix our video guy, Billy Broadbent, who’s about as good at what he does as anyone I’ve ever met and as a player you will never be allowed to offer up any excuse except you just didn’t get the job done. We’re provided with any and everything you could ever want or need as players, to be prepared to play the game, on the field and off.
The 1-2 fastball in to Willits was all Dana and Tek. I probably would have had a fastball in, in that situation, as my 6th choice out of 5 pitches. It was Tek’s first instinct and Dana talked at length about his troubles handling balls inside later in counts.
Manny and David were just unreal for three straight games. Since I’ve been here I’ve never seen nor heard Manny look and feel this locked in. In a season he made it clear he struggled in, from day 1, to see him find it now is incredibly reassuring. David? Well he just keeps being Big Papi. His ability to ease back and relax when it seems everyone else’s tenses up has to be one of the reasons he’s become that go to guy.
The effort Josh gave us in game one gets backed up by 4 1/3 hitless innings from the bullpen and a mammoth walk off from Manny. I felt good that there were a lot of people thinking that getting back to Anaheim, where they were better at home than I think any team in the game, would be something that might cure their ills. I certainly know there weren’t many people expecting me to pitch well.
What I feel will go overlooked and in some cases not even thought of was the fact that for the most part we completely eliminated their running game. We spoke in the pre series meeting about it and I thought it could be a series winning tactic if we managed it. When you eliminate a teams running game, especially a team that has as one of it’s principal weapons, the ability to bunt, hit and run, steal and basically cause chaos on the bases, it’s almost like taking players out of the lineup. When a team that wins that many games has the ability to manufacture runs literally with no hits, and they lose that ability, I think you gain a massive advantage. It would be like taking away our ability to take pitches and draw walks. I thought our staff did a great job of stopping them from doing just that. When we didn’t it showed and had an effect.
One last thought. I guarantee someone will make a big deal out of this and it’s not meant to be. It’s something that I would guess only affected me but that’s why I mention it. I was stunned yesterday as I walked to the pen to warm up, that the Angels took no BP outside. I am walking to the pen and they were doing the ‘on your own’ routine that teams will often do in Spring Training for oddly timed games or during the regular season when you get an early day game after a late night. Now I would bet they didn’t think twice about it, they were ready for the game and all that, but as I am walking to the pen I couldn’t help but think that as high as I was adrenaline wise, with the series on the line, and my nerves on edge, there was no way they could be anywhere near as ready for this game as I was when it started. Sounds stupid I guess, but I know it got me fired up and excited about being able to grab a hold of this game and win it. They were obviously ready to go as Jared looked very good early on and they swung the bats well.
Thankfully I think I made 99% of my mistakes within the first 2-3 innings, all pretty much bad location misses, and when I did they took or fouled off the pitches. I thought after the 3rd we executed a lot more consistently.
All in all none of it matters other than we won. Mike Scioscia is a class act and always has been. I don’t want to say I feel bad but when you hear the losing team tip their caps after a short series on the heels of a 162 game schedule you ‘feel’ for them, especially when you’ve been there yourselves. Being banged up didn’t help them but no one on that side made any excuses and that speaks volumes about the character of that organization.