Ah interleague! Baseball fans either love it or hate it. There doesn’t seem to be much middle ground. Whichever camp you happen to fall into – although, seriously, considering the team’s strong interleague record, Angels fans should love it! – I think we can all agree that there is a lot fans can learn about their team watching them play by the opposite league’s rules in less familiar venues, against less familiar opponents. For example, here are but five of the things Angels fans learned from this weekend’s epic – one might even say sweeping! – series against the Rockies:
1) Torii Hunter batting second is one hell of a good idea. In fact, with 23 hits, 21 runs and 16 RBIs between them in 42 at bats, to say that the whole Mike Trout, Torii Hunter, Albert Pujols combination at the top of the lineup was effective would be a gross understatement. And when Kendrys Morales or Mark Trumbo is having a good game in the lineup just behind them, look out. Yeah, um, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say we’ll probably be seeing this lineup configuration for a while.
2) Mark Trumbo doesn’t slump, he waits...and then he unleashes the full power of his mighty bat in a hitting display that brings teammates across home plate, fans to their feet and expressions of ‘why me?’ to the faces of opposing pitchers. Some people have a goal simply to visit as many states as possible. Trumbo would apparently like to clobber baseballs over fences in as many states as possible, an admirable goal from the fans' perspective to be sure.
3) Albert Pujols can still play a decent third base and Kendrys Morales looked pretty darned good at first for a guy who hasn’t played the position for, at this point, two seasons. Neither option is anything more than a short term solution to a uniquely interleague problem at this time, but it was still fun to see. Besides, yes I’m a softy, but watching Morales’ face light up over getting to play in the infield once again, however briefly, was touching, sweet and ultimately good for Angels fans to see. We like this man. We’ve been patiently rooting for his recovery since the accident and it’s such a feel good story to see Morales’ hard work paying off and his recovery progressing. Besides, starting with realignment next year, teams are going to have to contend with interleague play throughout the season instead of just in June. It’s great to know that the Angels have options that allow them to bring all of their strong bats into the lineup even without the DH.
4) When you take a fly ball pitcher with an increasingly troublesome propensity for giving up the long ball early and often, and you put him in a ballpark that is famously beyond homerun friendly, these situations don’t exactly cancel one another out. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. You are all shocked. Hey, I never said that everything fans learned from this interleague matchup was positive…or even particularly new. Oh, as we all know the game ended well enough. The offense picked Santana up and the Angels came away with the win. But I don’t think any fans left the game with a nice comforting feeling that Santana’s situation will improve with the altitude anytime soon. And so the unpleasant questions about what should the Angels do with Santana once Jered Weaver returns from the DL continue…but let’s end this on an up note, shall we?
5) Texas proved that Ernesto Frieri is in fact human and can give up the occasional hit and the Rockies confirmed it. But, okay, so every now and then a batter is going to reach first. It’s not like it’s doing them any good. As MLBN rehashed over the weekend, A’s pitcher Brandon McCarthy once cleverly tweeted ‘Siri, how do you get Josh Hamilton out?’ Well, at this rate, soon pitchers may well be tweeting ‘Frieri, how do you get (insert slugger of choice’s name here) out?’ because unlike Siri, Ernasty continues to prove he really knows how.
Good lessons all. Now, bring on the Dodgers and the rest of the NL West!