As you all know, yesterday was Memorial Day: a national holiday when Americans remember those brave men and women who lost their lives while serving our country in the U.S. Armed Forces.
We take the day off of worked, gather with our loved ones, and fire up the grill. We throw back some cold beers, share some good laughs, and bask in the sunshine of the approaching summer.
All this while watching baseball.
This is the American tradition known as Memorial Day.
And for Angels fans, Memorial Day 2012 was certainly one to remember.
Fans will recall the playoff atmosphere of the dramatic three and a half hour game against the New York Yankees in front of a packed house of 44,016 at Angel Stadium of Anaheim.
We’ll remember how the Angels rallied back after falling behind 3-0 to score a season-high four runs in the bottom of the first inning.
We’ll talk about the way that resiliency continued throughout the game as the Angels picked up 9 runs and 15 hits, including 3-RBI games from Kendrys Morales & Howard Kendrick and another dynamic performance by Mike Trout.
We’ll recall the way the once fledgling bullpen held it together when staff ace Jered Weaver was forced to leave the game with lower back pain after throwing just 12 pitches, and how it was former-closer Jordan Walden who shut down the Yankees, giving up just 2 hits and no runs over 2 innings while getting Derek Jeter to ground into a force out to leave the bases loaded to end the top of the 9th.
But perhaps more than anything fans will recall the late-inning heroics of outfielder Mark Trumbo who hit a 1-1 change-up about a mile high and 450-ft deep into the Anaheim night to give the Angels a 9-8 victory in explosive walk-off fashion. Trumbo’s team-leading 8th HR of the season capped off an impressive night at the plate which saw the slugger go 3-for-5 while falling just a single short of the cycle.
With their victory over the Evil Empire, the Angels have now won a season-high seven games in a row and taken their record back to the .500 mark for the first time since April 10th.
Despite early season struggles, Scioscia and the Halos seem to have hit their stride. Or, at the very least, they’ve figured out how to win.
All of this reminds of another game I remember.
It was a Thursday night in late August of last year and the Angels were playing the Rangers in the finale of a 4-games series at The Big A.
The Halos were 1-7 in their previous 8 games and staring down the barrel of a 4-game sweep at the hands of their AL West rivals.
Despite a strong pitching performance by Weaver, the Angels found themselves trailing Texas 1-0 in the bottom of the 9th .
Torii Hunter led off the inning with a line drive single to center field. Some of you might remember what happened next.
The fans roared as Trumbo stepped up to the plate. With one on and nobody out, the slugger crushed a 1-1 slider down the left field line for his 2nd career walk-off HR.
To paraphrase the late Rory Markas, that wasn’t just another Halo victory. Trumbo’s walk-off halted the Angels 5-game losing streak, prevented the 4-game sweep, and kept the team just 6 games back of the Rangers in the standings. The Halos would keep that spark alive as they went on to win seven of their next eight.
That late August game shared many similarities to what we witnessed last night: playoff atmosphere, rival teams, and late-inning (possibly season-changing) heroics.
Will the outcome be the same this time around? Can the Angels use the spark of Trumbo’s HR to keep their momentum rolling once again? Will this be the game-changer the Halos need to finally turn their season around?
Only time will tell.
But as we sit here, 50 games into the 2012 season, I can honestly say that I feel hopeful about the direction the Angels are heading.
And, for that, I will always remember Memorial Day.