’09 Playoff Blog

October 8. I arrived at the stadium about three hours early for Game 1 of the ALDS. I had nothing else to do, and nowhere else I wanted to be. So I brought a book, found some free street parking, and waited under the giant helmets for the gates to open. It was too early to be tense or anxious or anything, so it was nice just to be there. The calm before the storm.
The Adenhart memorial remains. Back in June, almost two months after it happened, I told a friend that anything that the Angels did this year was a bonus. I still believe that. Sure, it would have been nice to get to the World Series, but I hold this 2009 team with the same regard I hold the 2002 championship team. It is absolutely amazing what they accomplished on the field this year, given what happened off it.
My attention returned to less important matters. My normal seats for the year are out in right field, but playoff ticketing resembles an online mob rush. I like left field though – being by the bullpen is always fun, plus you get a nice view of practically the entire outfield without obstruction.
My seats were in the middle of the aisle, so I loaded up on concessions to avoid making any trips during the game. I was shivering in the 65 degree weather… and the fact that I was drinking beer and eating ice cream didn’t help matters any. But a sundae helmet! I couldn’t resist.
Big John Lackey. He’s headed off to free agency, and the Angels are unlikely to give him the money he’s sure to command on the market. Being a sports fan is tough, man. I mean, the guy won Game 7 of the World Series for us as a rookie, seven years ago. How do you not get attached?
What a beautiful sight. I have to admit though, even after Game 1, I wasn’t feeling (overly) confident about the series or anything. First off, all we had done was protect home field advantage. Second, Josh Beckett loomed the next day. That’s what makes baseball so great. You know, until the TV schedule kicks in and your team plays 9 games in 21 days after getting 2 days off over the last 50 games of the regular season…
“Bahston Sawks Cack.” Does it ever.
October 9. The Angels had beaten the Red Sox at home in the playoffs for the first time since 1986. And I had broken a personal four-game playoff losing streak (dating to 2005). Back in left field for Game 2, I happened upon the Rally Brat – a foot-long bratwurst covered with a shitload of condiments. This time, me and Rog were sitting in the second row, right over the bullpen entrance. Let the yelling commence.
Jered Weaver, of course, got cheers. Brian Fuentes got nervous encouragement – a Hispanic guy chatted me up briefly, long enough for us to affirm to one another that no, we did not trust Brian Fuentes. The best was saved for that giant douche Papelbon, however. One of the few highlights of the 2008 ALDS was Papelbon getting shit from one guy in the crowd for literally about 5 innings straight (largely concerning his wife / girlfriend). It happened again this year, albeit for a shorter duration. When he entered the game, however, we definitely flipped the switch. Leaning over the entranceway, I screamed “You suck” and “Go to hell” so loud I lost my voice in the process. The guy next to me was more direct: “Fuck you!” (I couldn’t stop laughing).
The rest, as they say, is history. The Angels won 4-1, and the pitchers (including Fuentes) combined for a 4-hitter. I spent about half an hour stuck in the stadium parking lot, but I would have been happy staying there all night. We were sending the team out to Boston up two games to none. As documented, Game 3 had a West Coast start time of 9:00 am. I watched the game at a sports bar & grill in Anaheim, alongside a ton of fans. And we saw them break the curse. Three off Papelbon in the 9th, with two outs, and two strikes. We had beaten the Red Sox. Swept them, even. ALCS.

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.

Mike Scioscia:

“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.”


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