Game Countdown – 7/22/09: Last Chance Saunders – Angels @ Royals

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (54-38) @ Kansas City Royals (37-56)

Starters: LAA – Joe Saunders (8-6, 4.72 ERA)  KC – Brian Bannister (6-7, 3.66 ERA)

Game Info: 5:10 PM PT TV-Fox Sports West, Radio-KLAA 830 AM, KFWB, KWKW 1330 AM

A personal Armageddon is on the horizon for Joe Saunders as he takes the mound against the Kansas City Royals tonight.  If the struggling Angel starter can’t find a modicum of success against the worst offense in the American League (and a line-up whose best hitters are largely left-handed) then I would like to be the first to volunteer my services to write the eulogy for Saundo’s 2009 season.

Joe Saunders

Don’t get too down on yourself, Joe.  You can redeem yourself tonight.

Saunders faced a similarly non-intimidating opponent in the form of the Oakland A’s in his last appearance, but somehow still managed to allow five runs (four earned) while walking six batters in just six innings of work, so excuse me if I start working the rough draft of that eulogy.  It isn’t that I want Saunders to fail, quite the opposite actually, it is just that he has shown almost no signs of recovering his All-Star form.

His persistent problem the last several weeks has been a total lack of confidence and aggression.  Instead of challenging hitters inside, Saunders is beating the low-and-away corner into a fine pulp.  The few instances in which he has thrown inside, I almost feel like he does so with his eyes closed while resisting the urge to curl up into the fetal position after letting the ball go.  If he can’t overcome his irrational fear of right-handed batters tonight (Watch out!  It’s Willie Bloomquist!) then we have no choice but to assume that all hope is lost.

If there is any hope it is that the Saunders has had great success against the Royals earlier this season.  Back in early May Saunders out-dueled Zack Greinke in a 1-0 victory for the Angels, tossing a complete game shutout against the Royals’ ace.  What should have been a great game to build on has since become a marker for the beginning of the end for Saunders’s 2009 success, so maybe there will be some poetic justice tonight with Saunders turning his season around against those same Royals.

THREE Questions:

  • What kind of shape will the Angel bullpen be in tonight?  Every Halo reliever appeared in yesterday’s doubleheader except Jason Bulger.  If Joe Saunders can’t go deep in the game (a definite possibility), the Angels could be in big trouble.
  • Should we induct Erick Aybar into the Hall of Fame now or after the game?  If he keeps hitting like he has been all month I think they might actually have to build him his own wing in Cooperstown… or maybe he just is on a hot streak and will be back in the nine-hole in a matter of weeks.
  • When will Juan Rivera be back?  He’s not in tonight’s line-up marking four straight days off for him now.  Is a DL stint really that far off?

TWO Predictions:

  • After going 0-for-the doubleheader last night, Chone Figgins exacts his revenge with a four-hit night.
  • The Royals defense implodes tonight and the Halos score at least three unearned runs in an easy win.

ONE Wish:

  • I wish the Angels could play the Royals every night.  The Angels are now 5-0 against them, but I suppose all good things must come to an end sooner or later.  Wait, the Royals and Angels play four more times after tonight?  Woohoo!!!  Good enough for me.

ZERO Tolerance for… ???

Leave your own questions, answers, predictions or wishes as a comment or just hang out with us during the game.

Garrett Wilson

About Garrett Wilson

Garrett Wilson is the founder and Supreme Overlord of and editor at The Outside Corner. He's an Ivy League graduate, but not from one of the impressive ones. You shouldn't make him angry. You wouldn't like him when he is angry.