Jered Weaver got sick and missed his start today and it seemed like his absence was going to make us all sick after watching the Halos fall into a 5-0 early. Instead, it wound up being Tampa fans who were left with an ill feeling in their stomachs after the Halos mounted a comeback to win the game and the series.
With Weaver being a late scratch, Tyler Chatwood sure seemed like he was late getting news that he was taking Weaver's place because the youngster didn't really show up until the second inning. Once again, Chatwood's consistency and command got the best of him with the Rays tagging him for seven hits and five runs in the first inning, and it could have been much worse had John Jaso not attempted an ill-conceived steal to bail the Angels out of the inning. After that, Chatwood managed to puzzle us all once again by quickly settling into a relative groove thereafter, allowing just two more hits and two walks with no runs crossing the plates over the next three-plus innings.
Ironically enough, with bad baserunning costing Tampa an even bigger inning in the first, it was some very smart baserunning the would go on to win the Angels the game. Enough can't be said about what a savvy veteran move it was for Vernon Wells to slam on the brakes and get into a rundown in the eighth inning. On that same play, so many other players, especially younger ones, would've tried to do something stupid, like plow through the second baseman to break-up the doubleplay, a move that would've only ensured the Rays would turn two. No, Wells finally did something right for the Halos and stayed safely away from the fielder, but close enough to draw his attention away from Torii Hunter heading for home. It may just have been instinct for Vernon, but it was the right reaction and it won the game for the team. Great job, Wells.
- Just to touch on Chatwood once more, I think this start may have sealed his eventual fate. Even though he showed some real poise to not allow another run after the first, Chatwood has simply been too inconsistent and struggles too much to go deep into games. He clearly has a future in the majors, but his present just isn't good enough to get the job done right now. I still think the Angels will keep him up until Kazmir makes his inevitable return, but after that, someone else will be the next pitcher to get called into the rotation whenever they need a substitute.
- Ask and ye shall receive. I called for Vernon Wells to be dropped in the lineup in my game preview and Scioscia obliged. You can all thank me later. The move may seem minor, but I think it will really help Vernon try and finally get his swing back now that he won't be in such a pressure-packed position in the lineup. However, this is the first sign that Scioscia is losing patience with him, and I suspect that if Vernon is still mired in this slump by the end of May, Wells will not only get dropped further in the lineup, but he'll start losing at-bats too.
- If the Angels never have to face Matt Joyce again, it will be too soon. Joyce absolutely wore the Halos pitchers out all series long. In three games, Joyce went 6-for-10 with a double, two homers, four runs scored, five RBIs and a stolen base.
- Finally, we get to see Scott Downs in a big moment. Scotty Curls stepped up in a big way to keep this game winnable for the Halos by extricating Tyler Chatwood from a fifth inning jam. Downs even went on to pitch another strong frame to keep the pen from being overworked and overexposed. It shouldn't be long before Downs starts getting more and more high leverage assignments in the later innings. One thing he won't be getting though, as many anticipated before the season, is save opportunities. I have to say, Jordan Walden just makes it look so darn easy at times that I can't believe Scioscia even bothered with that first week of the season with Fraudney at closer.
Maybe this is a pity vote, but I think Vernon needs the confidence boost, so I am giving him the Halo Hero for his heads up baserunning tonight.