Good teams find ways to win ball games.
In Game 1 in Anaheim John Lackey was pitching a gem.
Up to bat in the sixth was Jason Bay, the new "at-least-he's-not-Manny" left fielder for the Boston Red Sox, and two time strike out victim to unflappable Lackey.
One pitch hangs a little over the plate when he's looking fastball, then lands in a bullpen, and the whole team unraveled.
Well, the whole team but Lackey.
Not that it mattered, since he'd be replaced an inning later.
A starting pitcher's job, by definition, is to go out there and give your team a chance to win a ball game, and John Lackey did just that, and then some.
Problem is, so did their guy.
What's his name again? Oh yeah, Jon Lester. The kid who won the deciding game of last year's World Series. The Kid who overcame cancer AND pitched a no-no this year vs. KC.
I admit I could probably beat KC with my wickedly deceptive changeup, but that's a whole other story.
Neither team blew up the runs or hits in Game 1, but the Angels are going to have to respond in Game 2 to stand a chance in this series.
To get it done this time, the Halos will have to concentrate on the following areas:
1. Productive At Bats
Jon Lester got ahead of a lot of hitters, especially once he found his rhythm, as he often does, in the third inning or so. Dice-K, the Sox starter in Game 2, is very similar, and often struggles early.
Howie Kendrick took one at bat to around 12 pitches and continued to make Lester work for it.
The rest of the Angels lineup swung at everything.
Stuff in the dirt, stuff outside, fooled on the breaking ball, all of it. That's got to change, especially early, so they can put some early runners on and establish their own tempo in the ball game.
Which leads me to...
2. Stop Pressing. It's just another game.
At the end of the day, it is just another game. It seemed like every Angel, with the possible exception of Lackey, was waiting for the Boston Red Sox to bring the game to the Angels.
That is as much of a recipe for disaster as I can imagine when playing the Red Sox. If you get suckered into playing their game, you will lose ball games.
Relax. Wait for your pitch. Focus on the little things. Do your job, be patient in the box, in the field, and ESPECIALLY on the base paths (this means you Vlad). Be confident in YOUR brand of baseball. It got you 100 wins this season and if you continue to play, or manage to do it a little bit, it will continue to reward you in the post season.
3. Support your pitcher.
Something apparent in John Lackey's statements today, and his exit approach to the dugout last night, spoke volumes (and I'm not talking about the loud expletives and glove smash in the dugout).
He said afterwards, and I'm paraphrasing a little, that it's tough to be in a position where you can't make a mistake and when one mistake can cost you a ball game.
Lead off hitters at the top of the order are supposed to "set the table". If you look at the box score last night, batters 2-5 did their jobs. Not exceedingly well, or even with any extra base hits (another whole article), but they got hits. The problem was there was never anyone on base when they did.
The entire Angels' mantra is get runs while you can, manufacture, manufacture, manufacture.
It's tough to do when you're up there pressing, swinging, and hacking.
Take a deep breath.
Enjoy the moment, and you'll enjoy the outcome.
Up next? Game 2 Post Game, tonight. Stay tuned.
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