A sleepy morning in Angels camp


Not a lot happening around here today. The biggest topic of conversation surrounds when Albert Pujols is going to run the bases. Mike Scioscia said “this weekend.” Then, a few minutes later, Pujols was down by third base jogging and rounding the bag. A debate ensued among reporters as to whether that constituted “running the bases.”  It was decided that, no, that did not count.

Mike Scioscia used to give his little press availability in his office, but now he does it outside:


It’s my third straight year of coming to Tempe, and for the third straight year Scioscia corrected a reporter who said that some random problem X was the team’s biggest issue, saying “no, personally I worry about the bullpen.” I think all managers worry about the bullpen. Even managers with good bullpens worry about the bullpen. I imagine it’s no coincidence that managers have more influence over the bullpen than anything else. Managers are all zen and don’t worry as much about that which they cannot control. Or something.

Soon that little scrum devolved into Scioscia and Pedro Gomez discussing their favorite restaurants in Phoenix. Scioscia’s is Chelsea’s Kitchen. Gomez’s is Trattoria Arrivederci. If you go, tell ’em Pedro sent you. But you can’t prove that.

Josh Hamilton was teaching Jered Weaver how to hit lefties here:


I guess it could conceivably come up in interleague play. If I’m Scioscia, though, I tell Weaver to keep the bat on his shoulder, don’t get beaned and get his butt back to the dugout.

Pujols looked fine taking grounders:


Guy could fall out of bed and play baseball. It’s hard to describe, but just seeing him do, well, anything, makes you realize how friggin’ talented he is. He looks better than anyone else simply pulling his windbreaker over his jersey.

Coach Dino Ebel hits flies to guys:


They don’t seem to have one of those fly ball machines here. Maybe Casey Kotchman’s fly ball machine injury has fundamentally changed teams’ relationship with technology. I dunno.

The red rock/butte backdrop both here and at Phoenix Municipal where the A’s play scream Cactus League more than anything else here. I still remember the first time I saw Cactus League highlights on ESPN or whatever back in the 80s. In my mind, they all look like this:


From the players’ parking lot, this stuck out in the sea of Escalades and Tahoes:


Someone is trying to keep a low profile.

Really, not much happening here today. Just a nice, 70-something degree day without a cloud in the sky and a baseball game starting in an hour or so. Life is hard.

Maybe Alcides Escobar shouldn’t bat leadoff

Alcides Escobar

Alcides Escobar finished with a .292 OBP this year. He came in at .246 in 117 at-bats in August and .257 in 109 at-bats between September and October, so he wasn’t exactly flying high entering the postseason. Still, that didn’t stop Ned Yost from putting him into the leadoff spot for Thursday’s Game 1 against the Astros.

Yost finally did reconsider hitting Escobar first in September. It took Alex Gordon‘s return to health, plus the previous addition of Ben Zobrist to the lineup, in order to make that happen. However, it didn’t stick. Escobar hit ninth in each of his starts from Sept. 7-26, batting .236 with a .276 OBP during that span. With five games left to go, he was suddenly returned to the leadoff spot. The Royals went on to win all five games. Yost saw it as a sign, even though Escobar went 5-for-22 with no walks in those games.

Escobar went 0-for-4 in Thursday’s loss to the Astros. He did not swing at the first pitch of the game, which probably explains the defeat.

It’s been difficult to argue with Yost since last year’s World Series run and this year’s incredible run out of the game. The blind spot with Escobar, though, gets rather infuriating. One can defend hitting him leadoff against the Astros’ lefties. His career OBP against southpaws is .319 (.316 this year). Against righties, he’s the most obvious No. 9 hitter alive, with a career .258/.290/.342 line (.252/.284/.314 this year). He’s not a pace-setter. He’s not a spark plug. He’s a liability.

Astros top Royals in Game 1 of ALDS

Houston Astros' Jose Altuve, left, celebrates with teammate Luis Valbuena after scoring a run during the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

After shutting out the Yankees in the AL Wild Card game on Tuesday, the Astros beat the Royals 5-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday at Kauffman Stadium. Road teams are now 4-0 to begin the 2015 postseason.

The Astros grabbed an early 3-0 lead against Yordano Ventura through two innings. Chris Young took over for the Royals after a 47-minute rain delay and was very effective for the most part, allowing just a solo homer to George Springer over four innings while striking out seven batters. Colby Rasmus, who homered in the Wild Card game, took Ryan Madson deep in the eighth inning to give the Astros’ bullpen some extra breathing room.

Collin McHugh stayed in after the rain delay and ended up tossing six innings while allowing just four hits and one walk. Kendrys Morales did all the damage against him with a pair of solo homers. He’s the first Royals player to hit two home runs in a postseason game since George Brett in the 1985 ALCS.

The Royals’ offense showed some signs of life in the bottom of the eighth inning with back-to-back two-out hits against Will Harris, but Oliver Perez got Eric Hosmer to foul out to end the threat. Luke Gregerson tossed a scoreless ninth inning to finish off the victory.

Consistent with their identity during the regular season, the Astros won despite striking out 14 times. The same goes for the Royals, as they struck out just four times. Despite putting the ball into play more often, the Kansas City lineup wasn’t able to muster anything aside from the home runs by Morales.

Game 2 of the ALDS will begin Friday at 3:45 p.m. ET. Scott Kazmir will pitch for the Astros and Johnny Cueto will get the ball for the Royals.

George Springer homers to extend Astros’ lead over Royals

Houston Astros' George Springer (4) celebrates with teammates after scoring a run in the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
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After Kendrys Morales brought the Royals within one run in the bottom of the fourth inning with his second solo home run of the game, George Springer took Chris Young deep in the top of the fifth to extend the Astros’ lead to 4-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS.

According to Statcast, the ball traveled an estimated 422 feet and left Springer’s bat at 109 mph. Royals fans are happy it was just a solo home run. It could have been worse, as Jose Altuve singled to lead off the fifth inning before being thrown out trying to steal second base during Springer’s at-bat.

The Royals will try to answer as we move to the bottom of the fifth inning at Kauffman Stadium.