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  • Jun

    Things Fall Apart

    Written by Mike Laws

    Things fall apart

    Stropian implosion in six-run Angel seventh

    L.A. Angels 9, Orioles 5


    Guys, an idea. I think we should enlist Miguel Gonzalez as life-coach for Pedro Strop. We could film it. Might make for a good bud-com. You know, Miguel getting Pedro to confront/resolve his issues with pressure situations by shoving the reliever into a whole sequence of escalatingly tense scenarios: Strop has to rush into a burning building; Strop has to merge onto 695 in a stick at rush hour; Strop has to wait in line behind, like, three people at the ATM. Some of it could be played for laughs: Maybe Miggy has a stopwatch and throughout the movie is seen recording how long it takes for Pedro to totally blow a gasket, with a montage of Stropian freakouts (most of them likely involving the patented jump-turn/shout-behind-you-at-no-one/slam-fists-against-hips move). And of course you’d have the obligatory turnabout where it turns out Gonzalez can learn something from Strop, too, like how to live, brother, or how to cock one’s hat, or possibly both. And in the end it’d be Gonzalez and Strop, brothers in action, combining for a big playoff win or something. And on into the sunset. Et cetera. Scene.


    But back to — ugh — real life. The bullet points …


    • In the end, the only thing Oriole starter Jason Hammel got really wrong was making it necessary for Strop to ever enter the ballgame. Well, I guess that and the Hank Conger home run he coughed up in the third, and the two-out RBI double from Howie Kendrick in the fourth. But still, through six, Hammel had been kind of weirdly effective, humming right along despite showing various signs that not everything should’ve been working out so well: He needed a lot of pitches, for one, and appeared to miss up in the zone with a lot of his deliveries, many of them off-speed offerings that somehow largely avoided getting walloped. (See the curve Albert Pujols took for a ball just high, with one away in the first, before grounding into a double play: a perfect encapsulation of how Hammel operated throughout, which is to say he didn’t get punished, and got rewarded for it.) Anyway, entering the seventh Hammel had surrendered just the two runs on six scattered hits while walking and striking out one, benefiting from a pair of twin-killings and, it would seem, a real low L.A. team average on balls in play. So maybe it just all caught up with Hammel in the seventh, when, now visibly tired, he conceded an Alberto Callaspo single to center and issued a four-pitch walk to Brad Hawpe, and was lifted in favor of Strop … 


    • Which, where to even begin? You had to know it wouldn’t be good when on the first pitch Pedro unleashed Conger chopped a single back over the box, with Strop offering an awkward-looking jump-stab even though the ball was now back down to about head-level, with the predictable result that it clipped off the top of his glove and went directly upward, and an already-panicked-looking Strop, by the time he recovered it, had no play. Bases loaded, now, nobody out — not exactly the situation in which Pedro’s proven to excel. And, treated to a chorus of early boos after he fell behind 2-0 to Erick Aybar, Strop then pumped a get-me-over fastball the Angel shortstop simply pounced on, socking a bases-clearing triple to right-center — and coming in to score when Ryan Flaherty’s relay eluded Manny Machado (and Strop was busy backing up home rather than third). Strop then actually got an out, grounding Mike Trout out to third. Then he walked J.B. Shuck on four pitches. The boos ratcheted up a click or two. Pedro then got ahead of Pujols 0-2, one of the strikes a reminder of how nasty his stuff can be, but the third pitch of the at-bat reminding us, also, how much of the time it doesn’t matter. Pujols drilled it into the seats in left-center, bouncing Strop from the ballgame (finally) and staking the Angels to an 8-4 lead.


    • And at this point it feels like it’s not even worth mentioning the offensive effort from the Orioles, in this one — which, while good though maybe not great, or anything, should’ve been enough to sew up the sweep. Two in the first from a pair of RBI groundouts (Nick Markakis and Adam Jones, picking up Nate McLouth and Manny Machado, who’d singled and doubled, respectively) begat two more by way of the long ball: Chris Davis’s twenty-first on the season, a moon-shot to straightaway center that led off the Oriole third and restored the Oriole lead, then the sixth-inning Adam Jones drive that added to it, another liner that left the Yards to left in what seemed to be about a half a second. It seems even less necessary to take up any more time talking about the Orioles’ fifth run, which came on another run-scoring groundout (Davis, after Jones reached on a three-bag error consisting of Josh Hamilton losing a ball in the sun) and anyway was essentially nullified by the equally boring sac-fly-scored marker the Angels put up against Brian Matusz in the ninth. So 9-5, is the final: Not a good way to enter the important, and potentially really revealing, series against the hyperoffensive Boston club. Though I’m sure we’re all looking forward to a full two hours or so of Gary Thorne taking the name Felix Doubront and really Frenching it up …


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