It was exactly how Angels general manager Tony Reagins drew it up before the season.
A quality start from the rotation...check!
A bullpen that shuts teams down...check!
Players that can handle pressure situations better...check!
More power, but still aggressive...triple check!
Watching the Angels' 6-3 Opening Day victory over the Minnesota Twins Monday was like watching an episode of The A-Team. High drama, explosive moments, and somewhere at the end, Reagins had to be smoking a cigar thinking, "I love it when a plan comes together."
It didn't take long for Hideki Matsui to show why he is such a good fit for the Angels. Under the pressure and scrutiny of an armada of Japanese media that specifically came to cover his four at-bats, Matsui knocked in the winning run and added an insurance bomb in the eighth.
A jovial Matsui seemed to instantly endear himself to the Angel faithful, as winning tends to do.
On the flip side, new reliever Fernando Rodney faced boos in the eighth when his first six pitches as an Angel were all balls—none of which came close to the strike zone. The fans then derisively cheered when he finally got his seventh pitch over for a strike.
It actually ended up being a typical Rodney outing. Rodney, who seems to always put himself under as much pressure as possible before getting out of a jam, ultimately got a double-play ball to secure his first hold of the season.
Three home runs from three different Angels demonstrated in dramatic fashion the team's major shift in philosophy from small ball to an aggressive, power-hitting lineup.
The Angels have eight starting positional players capable of hitting at least 20 home runs in a season. There is less of a need for Chone Figgins-type slap hitters when most of their lineup is automatically in scoring position every time they come to the plate by virtue of the long ball.
New leadoff hitter Eric Aybar gave the Angels even less of a reason to miss Figgins, as he got on base three times and scored twice.
Starter Jered Weaver, who struck out six in six innings, had strong command of his off-speed pitches and only made one mistake all game—a second-inning fastball to Delmon Young that caught too much of the plate. Young hit a two-run bomb to left to tie the game.
Kevin Jepsen pitched an inning of scoreless relief, and closer Brian Fuentes showed why he has been an All-Star four of the past five seasons by cruising to his first save with a perfect ninth inning.
It's just one game, but the strategy by Reagins to let the young guys take the reins of this team and surrounding them with quality, clutch veterans who play specific roles worked to perfection on day one.
We will see if it works on day two when 17-game winner Joe Saunders takes the mound at 10:05 p.m. (ET) against Minnesota's Nick Blackburn.
Note: There were 104 press credential requests from Japanese media to cover Matsui's debut as an Angel.
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