In a game that looked like it was in the pooper early on the Angels managed to pull a hard, and I mean hard, fought victory. The Angels offense struggled through most of the game, failing to collect crucial hits in 7 of their 8 RISP opportunities. What really gets me excited is how the Angels battled against the such a heralded AL team, a team thought by many to play deep into the playoffs. The Angels lived dangerously off of Pujols' early 2-RBI double that carried the Angels all the way to the walk-off bomb by Mark Trumbo in the 13th.
In a game where the starting pitching struggled intensely the bullpen came through fantastically, showing once again that it is now a huge strength in the ballclub instead of an incredibly vulnerable weak point. Now the Angels can take some serious heat to Texas this upcoming series and let them know who the real big daddy team of the AL West.
The Angels went from being a laughing stock to a seriously dangerous playoff team in the span of two series. It's not the Angels underwent a magical transformation to become such a fantastic team, they just grew into themselves; which would obviously take longer than most teams considering the girth of this teams talent. While there are a few weak points in the offense (Josh Hamilton), they are greatly outnumbered by the strengths carried by the team. A fantastic bullpen is what gave the Angels the game today, and you could even argue C.J Wilson was a key player in this game (only because he was able to fight against his shortcomings so strongly).
-- It seemed like Wilson would put the Angels in a serious hole fast after starting the game with a bases-loaded fiasco yet again. While Wilson had already hit the 50 pitch mark barely 3 innings into the game he was able to pull through and give the team 6 solid innings of 3 run ball. In hindsight his ability to march through 6 innings after throwing so many pitches early on absolutely saved this team in the long run given the fact that they had to pull 7 innings out of the bullpen. some might say Wilson's tendency to dance in and out of danger is something to worry about, but in my mind this couldn't be farther from the case. April is the time for pitchers to find themselves struggling in their starts, in Wilson's case he refused to succumb to his early failures. His ability to battle through 4 walks and 5 hits in 6 innings while throwing 100+ pitches reminds me less of a failing pitcher and more of a clutch pitcher working past his shortcomings. I'm sure if Weaver were to throw this same game he would be commended on his "bulldog" approach to fighting through a tough start. Wilson is definitely deserving of some praise for his performance today.
-- Yes I know I know, we can start talking about Josh Hamilton now. Honestly though, who cares? This is what he does, if we didn't have to sit through Pujols last year I don't know if we'd be taking this better or worse. He failed in sooooo many clutch-time appearances today, but it's to be expected. That type of player playing to his type of contract is going to put a lot on the guys shoulders. It doesn't matter who he is, it's expected that there will be somewhat of a transition phase. The first year of a long term big money contract is going to be full of struggles and self-doubt. Albert Pujols set a strong precedent for the life cycle of a long-term contract with the Angels, if you can't handle the short term pains then it's no surprise you'd be blinded to the long-term benefits he will bring to the table. The difference between sitting through Hamiltons intense struggles and Pujols' same struggles is the surrounding players. Pujols didn't have Mike Trout or another Hamilton-caliber player to rely on. When it came down to it, during their early struggles, it was all on Pujols; but everyone knew he would turn it around fast (which he did). Not many people think Pujols had a great year due to his end of the season stats, which were strong but pedestrian for him. Now Pujols is doing his Pujols thing, aka being the King, and Josh Hamilton has that support to lean on. He also has Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo, as well as a resurgent Peter Bourjos and the young stud Luis Jimenez. No one but Hamilton is struggling majorly, unlike when everyone around Pujols struggled; so he's already in a far better position to succeed than Pujols was.
-- Thank god Mark Trumbo came through at the end with his merciful ending to an increasingly painful game. After squandering their first opportunity to walk-off with Trout on second and no outs it seemed like the Angels would let this one slip away. Jerome Williams made sure this wasn't the case with his 3 scoreless inning performance. Williams pitched fantastically against an elite lineup in an impossibly tough position. I've heard some things here and there of people thinking Williams can play himself into the starting rotation, but I find it more plausible that with this weak rotation having him pitch quality long-relief would be more effective for the team. Would you rather have a tight-pitching Jerome Williams relieve a struggling Joe Blanton, or a struggling Joe Blanton relieve a gassed Jerome Williams?
-- Hats off to newcomer Dana De La Rose for pitching a strong 2 strikeout relief appearance. His effectiveness has shown that the Angels have good depth in their bullpen, which was far from the truth last year. Sure, they had good depth in the sense that the depth they had was "deep", but this year we have depth AND quality. Instead of relying on two big relievers and a bunch of "cross-your-fingers-and-pray-for-the-best" type the Angels have a pool of talent to call on. De La Rosa might only have a few innings to his name, but the increasing confidence he gets for his successes will be huge for the long term structure of the bullpen. Another shrewd trade by Jerry Dipoto, who is quickly proving to be possibly the best GM at making trades for relievers. His trades are not lopsided in the sense that they benefit both teams (which is huge in creating trade relations), and they are relatively low cost since he opts to go for diamonds in the rough instead of shelling it all out for a big name reliever. His ability to pick out relief talent is elite, probably because he spent a lot of time pitching himself. This is the one GM we can have the utmost confidence in trades, at least when it's a reliever coming this way.
"WHAT?!" you call collectively shout. "But he didn't even hit a walk-off"
No, he did not, but there also would have been no game to walk off on had he not pitched masterfully through 3 extra inning apperances. Without him the Angels would have depleted the bullpen, which would have not only been dangerous for the outcome of the game, but for the Texas series as well. Not only did he save the game for the Angels today, but he also saved the bullpen for a key series early on. The only way he could be any more of a hero is if he saved the Princess from the castle the first time around.