Thank goodness the Angels don't play tomorrow because I already need a day off after the first game of the season.
How does that happen? How is it the very first game of the year felt so stressful?
Was it the fact that both the Reds and Angels entered the game with World Series aspirations? Yeah, that was probably part of it. Both managers were making pitching changes and relying on smallball tactics (for better or worse) like every run was the utmost importance.
But it wasn't that the two teams were somehow geared up to specifically so much as anxious to prove that they were as good as they think they are. Make no mistake, this was not a fun game. There was not a lot of action, nor was there a lot of joy on the faces of the players. Trout was out to prove he is for real. Pujols was out to prove he won't have an April slump again. Hamilton was out to prove the Angels made a wise investment. Weaver was out to show that he still has ace-level talent.
Mix in some great pitching all around, a few extra innings and a home plate umpire with an inconsistent strike zone and you have the perfect recipe for a game played in April that felt like it should have been played in October. Heck, even the weather cooperated with some chilly temperatures to complete the illusion.
– So, how long is Iannetta going to keep batting eighth? With a homer and a game-winning two-run single, Iannetta accounted for the entire offense for the Angels' supposed juggernaut lineup. With Cueto on cruise control, Iannetta was really the only Halo up there having good at-bats, even if he did fan three times.
– As for Weaver, things started off very worrisome. Unsurprisingly, his velocity was just not there. He barely touched 88 MPH, largerly working 85-87 MPH with a fair amount of 83 and 84 MPH mixed in. The more troubling part was that his command was pretty shaky, at least until he gave up that run on the wild pitch. Maybe he got locked in after getting fired up after the call at the plate didn't go his way (and it shouldn't have, he was safe, barely) or maybe he was embarrassed that his tantrum allowed the Reds to advance an extra base or maybe he just found that new arm slot he's been talking about. Either way, he came back out and was the Weaver we all love. At the end of the day, he limited a powerful offense to just two hits in six innings and did it with the velocity we used to see from Jamie Moyer.
– The smallball is already killing me. This game could've been over much earlier had Scioscia not sac bunted with no outs in the seventh, a move that gave away an out, thus preventing Trout from coming to bat in the inning. Instead, it was the puntastic J.B. Shuck putting up a weak at-bat to end the threat. Yep, good thing Scioscia got his slappy off the bench instead of Kole Calhoun.
– The next bit that almost cost Scioscia was his early bullpen management. He showed a lot of faith in Garrett Richards by bringing him into a tie game, but letting him go against Shin-Soo Choo is quite another. What's the point of having both Downs and Burnett in the bullpen and letting someone like Richards face someone like Choo?
– Speaking of Burnett and Downs, it was rather interesting to see Burnett get the call to come in as the first southpaw out of the pen to take on Cincy's tough lefties instead of Downs.
– The unsung hero of this game might be Mark Lowe who looked pretty damn good in his two innings. He not only was sharp with his command, but he earned some real respect for the way he shook off that brutal Aybar error to lead off the 11th.
– I do have to give Scioscia some credit though as he did pull off a quadruple switch in extra innings. I didn't even know that was a thing that could happen. Actually, that shouldn't be a thing. Let's just play the rest of this series with a DH, OK?
How could it be anyone else other than him seeing how he was responsible for every run in the game (including Cincy's run)?