In a game featuring a team with a $140 million payroll facing a team with a $216 million payroll, it would only figure that the deciding run would come off the bat of a player making the minimum that was scooped up off of waivers a few weeks ago.
No, it wasn't Mike Trout, Albert Pujols or Josh Hamilton coming through in the clutch. Hell, it wasn't even J.B. Shuck. The hero turned out to be none other than Chris Nelson, a player so new to the team and used so little since he was claimed on waivers that Google Image search doesn't even have a picture of him in an Angel uniform.
It is only fitting then that his game-winning "hit" wasn't really anything heroic. It was really just a hopper back up the middle that second baseman Mark Ellis probably would've been able to field for the inning ending put out, but it didn't work out that way because Ronald Belisario is a stupid pitcher. Stupid pitchers never learn that they should just let a ball like that go by. Instead, because he's a stupid pitcher, Belisario stuck out his glove, getting enough of the ball so that it ended up in the no man's land between the mound and second base, allowing Nelson to get his "hit" and the go-ahead run to score.
Almost as if to highlight just how unlikely a hero and how much of a misfit he is, Nelson wasn't even able to pull off the Angels' team hand signal after he got on base. Instead, Nelson saluted as if he was in the military. Oh, new guy. You'll never fit in. But, hey, thanks for the win!
– So, explain to me how Josh Hamilton's back spasms are so bad that he can't start the game as even a DH but yet not bad enough that he can be used as a defensive replacement? I've had back issues myself, so I get that he wouldn't want to torque his back swinging, but I also can't imagine that his back feels real great running around in the outfield.
– Not to pick on Nelson since he did come up big in the game, but having to have him serve as DH really goes to show how dumb it is to carry a three-man bench. Pinch-hitting for him wasn't even an option because they just didn't have anyone they could afford to use much less anyone worth using. If the Angels do climb back into contention by the trade deadline, finding a useful bench bat has to be on the top of their list.
– If Don Mattingly gets fired this season, one piece of evidence against him might be his decision to use Andre Ethier in center field. Ethier is, at best, a below average right fielder. In center, he is comically underqualified and that was on full display as he badly misplayed Kendrick's ball off the wall that allowed a double to become a triple. Not that I'm complaining.
– Big ups to Jason Vargas. This is hardly a Murderer's Row lineup the Dodgers have, but he did quite well to shake off a shaky first two innings to give the Halos another great start. He really seems to be growing as a pitcher, even though I know that goes against the standard mantra of assumign Mike Butcher ruins everyone. He has fanned six or more batters in five of his last seven starts and generally seems more aggressive rather than just pitching to contact and hoping for the best. He is actually generating one of the lowest swing rates of his career but also getting one of the biggest whiff rates, so the stats bare that out.
Halo Hero of the Game
Vargas was great, but you have to give some love to the new guy for coming up big even if a lot of it was just luck.