October 19. America! The Angels came home to lick their wounds on this Monday, down 0-2 in the series against the Yankees. It was not a particularly good weekend for me. The plan: get an early morning oil change, leave LA early enough to avoid traffic, and watch the Angels game in Vegas. The reality: pay for unexpected, expensive car repairs, wait six hours, see the shitty “Couple’s Retreat,” get stuck in LA traffic for two hours, listen to the Angels lose on the radio, and arrive in Vegas 8 hours later than expected. And that was just Game 1.
Game 2 might have been worse. Vlad Guerrero left a small village on base, Brian Fuentes (surprise!) grooved an 0-2 pitch to A-Rod in the 11th, and the Angels went on to lose in 13 innings. It was a model guillotine game. From about the 5th inning on, when the offense failed time and time again to convert with RISP, I was waiting for it. …The fact it took five hours made it that much more brutal.
It was time to get back in the swing of things, and cheer the team back into the ALCS. A giant American flag, an awesome – if unsettling flyover (from my now-familiar friend, the C-17 Globemaster III). After a quick review of thunderstix instructions, I was ready. And Game 3 was essentially a mirror-image of Game 2.
Thankfully, there were a few differences. This one took 4:21. This one ended in 11 innings. And of course, the good guys won this one. Jeff Mathis walk-off double! It was beautiful.*
*I have to admit something though; I completely missed Vlad’s game-tying homer in the 6th. I thought he struck out, wondered why people were still looking (and not cursing), wondered why Damon was backing up, couldn’t track the ball beyond the fence… then paused for a second and joined everything else around me cheering. Not my proudest moment.
October 20. An utterly forgettable Game 4 – other than this baby with giant earmuffs (I presume his parents have watched Mr. Holland’s Opus). It was one of those games where I started out going: “Okay, let’s get some runs off Sabathia!” Then: “Okay, let’s keep this game within 4.” Then: “Okay, 7-1. it’s still all-right, need a bit of a miracle, that’s all.” Then “…fuck.” 10-1 Yankees.
October 22. I realized it was likely my last game of the season, so I went all out to work a little karma for the team. By my awesome logic, it was a fitting night for a Halocane (some ridiculously strong alcoholic slurpee) and a footlong Rally Brat (this time with marinara and cheese; I have no idea why the toppings were different).
Furthermore, according to my excel file – based solely on the ticket stubs and printouts I’ve kept, it was a personal watershed. Excluding the lone exhibition, it was the 100th Angel game I’ve ever been to! For the record, I was 58-41 overall (52-36 in the regular season, 6-5 in the playoffs, 56-39 at home, and 2-2 on the road). The longest winning streak was 7, the longest losing streak was 4 (the first four game I went to, incidentally). And now, my third ALCS Game 5 (2002, 2005).
I’m sure you were fascinated by all of that. Here’s a picture of Joba Chamberlain looking douchey. Game 5 of the 2009 ALCS was definitely one of the better games I’ve been to. The Angels scored four quick runs off Burnett in the first inning, and then he and Lackey matched zeros for the next five innings. Ever the optimist, I kept thinking to myself, “Hmm, this is almost too easy.” I was waiting for the other shoe to drop.
And of course, it did. Fortunately, it worked out in the end (I already wrote about this). But honestly, it had to. I mean, Tim Salmon threw the first pitch out to Scot Shields. My all-time favorite Angel to my current favorite… it was definitely a good omen. I cheered John Lackey knowing it might be the last time I see him in an Angels uniform. That’s the case for Guerrero, Figgins, Abreu, Escobar, and Oliver as well. Sigh.
As I said though, I feel nothing but pride. Thinking back to April and that fateful day, I wouldn’t have believed that this team could manage to hold it together. Let alone come within two wins of the World Series. They won 97 games (just three shy of last year’s franchise record), swept the Red Sox, and lit up the halo one final time in 2009.
“It was a special group in there to keep going. Special group in there to keep bringing Nick’s memory forward every day. Every day we came to the park and he’s still with us. And I’m sure we’ll have a little peace in that as we move forward.”