Sorry, it was just a reflex from last night. I was praying that there wouldn't be any little children around us last night so I can harangue Darrin Erstad with "I hope you get Syphilis!" and "Did you learn to hit like that from Christian Peter? Or maybe Lawrence Phillips?" Unfortunately, there were kids around and the experience of being reprimanded by an angry parent at a Michigan-Michigan State game for adding a string of obscenities to MSU's fight song stays with me to this day. (If I had a pair, I would have reminded this guy that he brought his child, in a Michigan State jacket, into the Michigan student section and he would have to live with my filthy mouth.) The sad thing last night is that the kid was with his Dad and Dad's two friends, both of whom were about as weathered and red as two people could be and they were double fisting $6.25 beers for the whole game. What a glorious example to set. It did lead to a nice discussion between my brother Dan and I, playing the "guess which suburb they're from" game. He went with Villa Rica; I commended him for the 20 West/85 South decision and then went with Carrollton. Oh, about the game:
1. A surprisingly strong outing from Horacio Ramirez, who gave the Braves eight strong innings. That said, he wasn't especially strong on his three true outcomes - one homer allowed, two walks, three strikeouts - and was lucky in a couple instances that line drives were hit at people. (On the other hand, Bengie Molina's homer looked like an opposite-field pop-up.) He was also very lucky in the 8th inning that Darrin Erstad's towering blast that would have put the Angels ahead hooked foul, although I would have attributed that disaster to Cox and Mazzone for leaving Ramirez in after getting tagged by Robb Quinlan (who was hitting .164) and Chone "What the hell is wrong with nice, normal Sean?" Figgins for extra base hits. The last two nights have illustrated one of two things: 1) Cox, for all of his strategic success, is not a good tactician in some areas and one of those areas is pulling pitchers, since he's left tired starters in in the 8th inning of the past two games; or 2) Cox has no faith in his bullpen, other than Chris Reitsma right now. Last night, though, the Angels' 2-3-4 hitters were all lefties and Cox had John Foster available, having only thrown 1.2 innings in the past six games and still not having allowed an earned run this year.
2. Celebrity sightings at Hawks games: Jamie Foxx, Michael Vick, Samuel L. Jackson, Terrell Owens, Ludacris, Lil' Jon, Big Boi. Celebrity sighting at the Braves game last night: Bill Engvall and Larry the Cable Guy. Big ovation.
3. Andy Marte's debut was pretty good. For all the hype, I expected four homers and several Caminiti-esque throws across the diamond. Instead, Marte went 0-3 with an RBI and a fly-out to the wall in left. He also made a beautiful defensive play on a bunt. The most encouraging sign from him was that he got ahead of Byrd in his first two at-bats, which allowed him to take some cracks at swinging for power.
4. Aside from Ramirez, the hero last night was Ryan Langerhans, who had three singles and made a terrific throw from the wall in left to almost nail Figgins at second in the 8th. Furcal also played a pretty good game. He was very unlucky not to knock in a run in the second when he hit a screamer at Adam Kennedy at second with two on. He made up for it with a homer in the 7th and he used his normal, short swing to hit the ball out, which means that he won't necessarily change his swing after showing a little power. He also got to show off his arm for the final out, which is always a treat.
5. The Angels miss Vlad Guerrero in a big way. Not only is he their best hitter, but he leaves them very vulnerable to left-handed pitching. They also aren't a very deep team, as evidenced by the fact that their two pinch hitters last night were Quinlan (542 OPS) and Jeff DaVanon (573 OPS). You know you're in a world of hurt when a Braves fan is mocking your offensive stats.
6. I don't put that much stock into batting orders, but batting Brian Jordan, the weakest hitter in the line-up, other than Brayan Pena and the pitcher, clean-up doesn't make much sense. I guess he can handle the "pressure" better than Andruw or one of the youngsters, but the guy has no power anymore.