Monday, October 6, 2008

There will be a game 4

Today was an elimination day. And by today, I mean yesterday. I had virtually no confidence that this team was going to pull out a win, so I started accepting that my $120 ticket was just a ticket to watch my team play their last game of the season. I didn't wear my Erstad jersey, didn't wear the Lackey jersey, just an Angels sweatshirt and my hat. Low key, almost like a party for a friend who's leaving for a long time. I wasn't thinking about OBP, about Mark Teixeira getting signed, about Hokie Joe Saunders in the playoffs for the first time.

I was thinking about how much I miss baseball every offseason, regardless of how any particular season ends. I was relaxed, an unusual trait for me during any sort of playoffs, and I was ready to watch Garret Anderson and Frankie Rodriguez in Angels uniforms for, probably, the last time.

I walked off the ice after broomball, got on a bike, and rode to Fenway. Five hours later I left, relishing the opportunity to put on a hat for a still-relevant team at least one more day.

I said earlier that the Angels had to check off a laundry list of things to win this game. Let's see how they did:

  • "Joe Saunders needs to pitch the game of his life." Close. Aside from that absolutely unacceptable three-run "single" (call it an error on Hunter or Kendrick), Joe was throwing balls and getting the Sox to swing at them. If I knew the Virginia Tech fight song, I'd be singing it by now.
  • "Josh Beckett needs to be 2008 Josh Beckett." Check. Beckett was not throwing strikes, was not hitting corners, and was giving up home runs the way he used to before he turned into 2007 Josh Beckett.
  • "Chone Figgins needs to do better." I said the Angels wouldn't win if he didn't get on base at least twice. He got on 3 times, albeit in 7 at-bats. He also scored a crucial first inning run.
  • "Kendrick needs to sit." I said if HK didn't sit, he needed 2 or 3 hits if the Angels were going to win. He went 2-5.
  • "Jason Bay needs to be thrown offspeed junk low and away." From my angle in the concourse, who knows what they threw him. All that matters is they kept him 0-5 and forced the lineup around him to work.
  • "Francisco Rodriguez and Scot Shields are not allowed on the field." I dropped the ball on this one. Frankie was shaky as all hell, but got out of the inning. Scotty-do pitched 2.1 perfect innings, shaking off his Fenway demons and possibly securing his place as the Angels' closer next year. Also, thank you to Jose Arredondo and Darren Oliver.
  • "Jered Weaver for closer!" It was a joke when I said it, but man, Weaver was uncharacteristically good. 2 innings pitched, 1 hit, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts, and the extra-inning save, which isn't really a stat.
Look, I know, you know, and everybody knows that a return from a 2-0 series deficit is highly, highly unlikely. It's not impossible, but it's not probable, and I'm unconvinced the Angels can do it. But their win tonight was a big deal. It ended a streak of absolute futility against the Red Sox in the playoffs. It proved that Mike Napoli is the Angels catcher of the future. It showed that Scot Shields isn't washed up, that Vlad can actually hit in the postseason, and that the Halos can overcome deficits on the road and win games.

Also, regardless of my constant screams for a Wood pinch-hitting appearance in the later innings, Aybar came through with the most clutch hit in recent Angels history.

I was joking with the people around me during the 11th inning that "neither team wants to win this game." But the Angels did. This win is a hallmark of successful Angels baseball, and for that, bravo, boys.

Wildabeasts 0, Other Team 2

Broomball sorta took on a seconday level of importance today, and as a result, I played loose and actually had a good game. In fact, the whole team had a good game, and minus a cheapie goal and an empty-netter, this was the closest we could've gotten to a win without scoring.

With Jeff out with a concussion, I was sorta expecting an ugly game, marred with bad goaltending and penalty shots. In fact, the team seemed energized with Jeff cheerleading on the sidelines. The first period was a thing of beauty, with tape-to-tape passes from everybody and lockdown defense. I only saw a couple shots in the first, most of which were weak dribblers from defensive deflections.

The second period, also, was good, although our numerous breakaways never materialized into goals. The other goalie played barehanded and basically just dropped the stick when under pressure, relying on his hands to catch the ball. It's an interesting strategy, but I'm convinced staying in the butterfly with the stick and glove is more effective.

By the third period I was pretty tired. I let in a really dumb goal on my glove side at a sharp angle, a shot I need to start saving every time. My issue wasn't so much my reaction but my positioning. I spent most of the game trying to stay square to the ball, something that really helped my shot recognition and ability to save the high shot, but it left me vulnerable when I had to slide across the crease. I didn't get my shoulder against the pipe, and even my glove was wayyy too low to be particularly helpful. The ball hit the post, my shoulder, and the back of the net, and just like that, the game was pretty much over.

I left the ice with about 30 seconds remaining, but we couldn't generate any offense and gave them an easy empty-netter with about 10 to play. It happens.

I've got this coming weekend off, so hopefully my wrist will be back to 80 or 90% before the next game.

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