Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Angels Sweep Mariners - Pitching Carries Team Again

The Angels were billed before the season started as a power-hitting offensive juggernaut that was going to blow through the mediocre pitching of the AL West. After the first month of the season the Angels are indeed leading their division but it has been dominant pitching that has propelled them there. While Paul Byrd was far from dominant today, he was good enough to hold the M's to 2 runs in 6.1 innings and then handed the ball to a bullpen that it hitting on all cylinders. Jake Woods, Brendan Donnelly and Frankie Rodriguez combined to pitch 2.1 innings and gave up just one hit, no walks and no runs while striking out three. Even Byrd, who scattered 9 hits, avoided walking any Mariners which went a long way towards his success today. In contrast Seattle issued 7 free passes to Halo hitters including 5 from starter Aaron Sele over 4.1 innings. The former Angel struggled for the second time in as many starts against LA and was hung with his third loss of the year (2-3).

Offensively the Angels were led, as usual, by Vladimir Guerrero who had two hits and two walks including a 2-run blast in the first inning that staked the Angels to an early lead. Timely hitting from Dallas McPherson, Garrett Anderson and Orlando Cabrera also led to runs for the Halos. While the Mariners matched the Angels with 10 hits, only 2 base runners scored. The difference for the Angels today and in the series as a whole has been their ability to move runners into scoring position with aggressive base running (including 2 stolen bases for Figgins today and Guerrero reaching third from first on a single to right that tested the usually-never-tested Ichiro's arm) and then timely hits to knock them in. While both Figgins and Guerrero were later picked-off and thrown out at home respectively, the constant pressure applied by Angel base-runners led to other runs. The Angels have also been getting production from their power hitters as Guerrero, Finley and Anderson have all homered in the series. In contrast Adrian Beltre went 0-12 against Angel pitching and the slugger stranded 3 base-runners today.

While sweeping the M's is comforting, most Angel fans will be looking ahead to May 20th when the Halos play the Dodgers followed by the team with the best record in the AL, the White Sox. The Blue Crew seem to be slumping a bit of late and hold a slim 1/2 game lead over Arizona in the NL West. But Chicago pitching should provide a good litmus test for the Angels to see just how good they are.

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