One strike. One damn strike.
MLB teams, on average, will win 95% of the time when holding any kind of lead into the ninth inning. This was as true in 1946 as it is today. With a three-run lead in the ninth, specifically, those odds jump up to about 97.5%. And with a three-run lead, two outs, and nobody on base, the typical MLB club will win 99.7% of the time.
Those odds were probably even better for the Angels on Sunday afternoon, what with two strikes on the batter and Huston Street on the mound. In 631 outings over 11 years, Street had allowed three runs in an appearance1 only 15 times and four runs just four times. He had never allowed five runs in an outing before Sunday. For literally the worst outing of his career to occur in perhaps the most critical game of the Angels’ 2015 season thus far is… well, it’s pretty much par for the course this year, which has really been just one continuous loop of Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown:
The Angels have been so close to putting things together on so many occasions this year, but they can never seem to take that final step without flailing in spectacular fashion. There’s always someone there to pull the trap door and make everyone look a fool for once again believing this was the time they would turn it all around—that surely Lucy couldn’t yank the ball away every time, otherwise Charlie Brown would’ve stopped trusting her years ago, right?
Nope. Not right.
Charlie Brown wants to believe in the best of people, and so as he lays there staring up at that big sky the only thought going through his head is, “Well, they did win the first two, so maybe…”
Game 1: Angels 3, Astros 2
Game 2: Angels 3, Astros 2
Game 3: Astros 5, Angels 3
Rejoice! Mike Trout is Pulling the Ball Again
Here’s Mike Trout’s spray chart (with grounders removed) from opening day to the night of his wrist injury:
A pretty typical chart for Trout: Line drives and bombs all over the field, with tighter clusters up the middle and away than to the pull side.
Now here’s Mike Trout’s spray chart from the night after the wrist injury to before Friday’s game:
Welp, where did all those pulled line drives and fly balls go? Maybe this is how his wrist injury has manifested itself over the last month-plus? I’m not going to pretend I know anything about how swings work, but it seems like a strong bottom hand is probably pretty important when it comes to one’s ability to turn on a pitch. Any lingering weakness might result in what you see above.
Not all is lost, though. Here’s Mike Trout’s spray chart from this weekend:
A pulled fly ball! Huzzah! Mike Trout’s 455-foot first-inning dinger was the first fly ball he’d put in play—on a first pitch, no less!—to the pull side in 173 plate appearances. One swing won’t fix everything, obviously, but if this is a sign of Trout’s wrist returning to full strength, the Angels might not go quite so gently into that good night.
Woe! Albert Pujols is Hurting Again
I’ve always found the experience of watching Albert Pujols run the bases a painful one, but these last couple weeks have been particularly torturous. It’s not a return of the plantar fasciitis, reportedly, but the big guy’s right foot is still hurting him enough that he could be relegated to DH duty the rest of year.
The loss of Pujols’ defense at first base will hurt the team some down the stretch, but there’s a reason the cold corner is at the bottom of the defensive spectrum—C.J. Cron can only do so much damage at first in a month. Where the Angels are liable to really feel Bert’s pain is in the lineup. Pujols didn’t exactly set the world on fire in August (.642 OPS), but since word surfaced of his ailing paw he’s been even worse (.638).
It’s been talked about ad nauseam how important having a stable base is to Pujols’ power production. If he’s unable to put his full weight on his back foot while in the batter’s box, expecting him to hit for any power seems like wishful thinking. Unless he wakes up tomorrow morning pain-free, really the best we can hope for down the stretch is that his BABIP (.221) suddenly decides to regress back to league average.
1 The last time Street surrendered three or more runs in a save situation? May 7th of this year, against that same damned Astros team. Preston Tucker and Jose Altuve also played big roles in that implosion.