A few years back, when the Angels were beginning to round into form as the perennial playoff team we enjoy today, the manager and starting pitchers shot a commercial. I don't remember who it was for, but I know it wasn't Howard's. In the commercial we saw Angel skipper Mike Scioscia in a card game needing an ace in his hand to win the pot. When asked if he had one, he replied, "No, I have five."
Standing behind him were the Angel starting pitchers at the time.
It was a cool commercial that has stuck with me all this time. Today, there is no ace in the Angel pitching staff. The only one who came close now calls Boston home.
However, there are five very capable starters who, according to Scioscia, are the heartbeat of the club.
The recent road trip drove that point home.
Angel starting pitching was less than stellar to kick the season off. A home E.R.A. of 5.63 will do that to you. The Angels were only able to put together three quality starts in the first two series, losing both.
It seemed the road was good to the team, however. After an emotional night in New York, where Angel designated hitter Hideki Matsui received his World Series ring, the Angels heartbeat started to pound harder.
In Toronto, the heart began to beat with the fury and consistency of the Rockettes.
This is more like it.
The Angels' road E.R.A. after sweeping Toronto is 3.36, with four quality starts.
The sweep of the Blue Jays gave the Angels their first series win of the young season and seemed to right the ship that was dangerously close to going far off course. It seems that either the pre-season wasn't long enough (as if that were possible), or the club just seemed to get its bearings outside of the Big A.
It's time now for the team to get it done at home.
Series against the Tigers, Yankees and Indians begin tonight. Ervin Santana, who pitched a nine-inning gem in Toronto, has laid down the gauntlet to his follow starting pitchers.
"We've got to keep passing that baton and keep going," Santana said.
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Joel Pineiro gets first crack at matching or surpassing Santana tonight.
There are so many over-used clichés in sports that someone should open a museum. Among them is the old adage that a team has "heart." With the Angels, we not only know that to be true, we see them on display every night, 60 feet 6 inches from home plate.
Wow, that was corny, but you get my point. Sure, things aren't all rosy in Halo-land, the third baseman still has that deer-in-the-headlights look to him and there seems to be mumblings and grumblings about playing time behind the plate, but winning is good medicine.
One game away from .500, a series win on the road and starting pitching that's starting to lock it in. This is more like it.