Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Game 15: Rounding Second

Rays 8, Angels 3

Note: Our blog was recently mentioned by Middlebury grad Spencer Wright on his own blog, and we were very happy to read what he had to say. Hope you guys check out his blog. Thanks Spencer!

As the four of us left the Angels game on Monday night, we had successfully completed the first half of our thirty game schedule. In the proverbial baseball diamond that is our trip, the end of the Angels game marked our arrival to second base: halfway from home, and halfway to home; a thirty game slate down to fifteen. In light of that benchmark, I was hoping to provide some of our reflections from the midway point. After the game, we discussed the highlights of the trip. I asked four questions, open to the car, and we each gave an answer. They are shared below. As for the game, it was not too exciting, except for the fact that we saw Albert Pujols and Mike Trout, the best hitter of this generation and the best hitter of the next generation, each hit home runs. More on the game in the rundown below this post.

Who was the most exciting hitter to watch?
Andrew McCutchen (Craig)- The Pirates superstar and National League MVP favorite McCutchen put on a show for us in Pittsburgh. He energized the crowd, with his bat and his legs, putting up two base hits and creating a run with his aggressiveness on the base paths. His skill level is electrifying in person.
Yoenis Cespedes
Mike Trout (Owen)- Trout, the best young hitter in baseball, had us on the edge of our seat every at-bat. He delivered with a home run into the right field bleachers, and even his ground-out was exciting because of how fast he looked running down the line. The biggest disappointment of Monday's game was having the final out come with Trout on deck.
Yoenis Cespedes (Damon)- The Cuban outfielder, in his first year in the United States, has the raw power to crush major league pitching. We saw the action the ball gets off his bat multiple times in the two games we watched of his, most notably with his line drive home run to left at the Coliseum.
Miguel Cabrera (Jeff)- If Trout does not win American League MVP, it will likely go to Cabrera. He seemed like the best pure hitter we saw play, knocking in three runs with a double and a home run, and doing it all with his beautiful, effortless swing that seems more perfect in person.

Who was the most exciting pitcher to watch?
Aroldis Chapman (Jeff)- The Reds closer, who has been clocked at 105 miles per hour, threw his fastball at about 99 in the game we watched. His status as one of the best arms in baseball was confirmed by his three strikeouts in a perfect 1.1 innings pitched.
Aroldis Chapman
Mat Latos (Damon)- Another Red, Latos dominated over seven innings in Milwaukee, allowing one run and striking out eight. He seemed to have the most movement on his pitches, considering the number of swings-and-misses we saw.
David Price (Craig)- Price led Tampa Bay to the win in Minnesota, and the young ace seemed to have control of the game from beginning to end. His mechanics, as well as his control, movement, and ability to dictate the game with his arsenal of pitches, make his pitching performances special to watch.
Stephen Strasburg (Owen)- The Nationals ace did not have his usual fastball control in San Francisco, but he showed why he is considered so great by adjusting and beating hitters with his off-speed stuff, then turning to his fastball selectively (and effectively).

What was the most exciting play to watch?
Walk-off home run in Chicago (Owen)- Nothing better than a walk-off home run, and that Jordan Danks did it in a game with playoff implications made it that much sweeter.
Andrew McCutchen
Andrew McCutchen creates a run (Damon)- After a bloop single in the middle of a 0-0 game in Pittsburgh, Andrew McCutchen made a dash for second base when the ball was bobbled. The throw in was mishandled and bounced back toward the outfield, and before it was picked up McCutchen was on third. He then scored on a groundout, giving the Pirates a lead which they would not let up. What stood out about McCutchen was that he knew the team needed a spark, and he willed it to happen.
Russell Martin double in Detroit (Craig)- With the Yankees down three, and Tigers' closer Jose Valverde needing only to strike out .192 hitter Russell Martin to finish the game, Martin doubled home two runs (against all odds), bringing the tying run to the plate. Though the Yankees lost, it added a dose of temporary uncertainty to what appeared to be a done deal of a game.
Aramis Ramirez diving play (Jeff)- With two outs and a man on third late in the game, the Brewers third baseman made a phenomenal full extension catch on a ground ball down the line, then got up and made the throw across the diamond in time to get the hitter, ending the inning, and keeping the Brewers within reach of the game. It was a game they would eventually come back and win, by one run.

What are you most looking forward to in the second half of the trip? 
Going to Marlins Park (Owen)- Marlins Park opened just this year, and it will be the newest stadium we see this trip. It should be interesting to see the state of the stadium-designing world.
Marlins Park
Seeing the Red Sox play (Jeff)- As a Red Sox fan, I have been longing for the last day of the trip, the only time we get to see my team. It's disappointing to not see them play more (we have seen the Mariners and Yankees play twice), but it will make that last game even better.
Staying at the Rogers Centre (Damon)- After an all-night drive from Kansas City to Toronto, we are staying in the hotel built-in to the stadium. The room overlooks the field, an experience unique to Rogers.
Sweet Caroline (Craig)- Since we finish at Fenway, it sets up a special moment in the 8th inning of the final game. With the first 268.5 innings behind us, and 1.5 to go, we will join the Fenway Faithful in their musical tradition, singing Sweet Caroline before the bottom of the 8th, and cherishing our last moments of summer.

Here's to hoping we have the same luck in the second half as we had in the first. Thanks for reading along so far.

Games watched: 15
Games to go: 15
Thuuz Score: 29
Stadium: Angels stadium was a bit disappointing. The waterfall over the rocks in center field is nice, as are the giant helmets outside, but it seems that Angels stadium came just a little too early for the state-of-the-art wave of the 2000s.
Food and Drink: Enjoyed the California hot dogs, the halo dog, and a wide selection of beer.
Fan Atmosphere: We were disappointed with the turnout at the game, which was sub-par. How can you not come out to see Mike Trout during this historical season?
Scoreboard: Angels Stadium might have had the best scoreboard so far. From the pregame videos, which showed highlights from the team's history, to the highlights of comebacks and great plays throughout the game, Angels Stadium was as good as it gets.
Tim Kurkjian Award: With men on first and second, Rays batter Jose Molina walks on a pitch far outside the strike zone. Angels catcher Bobby Wilson steps out to catch the pitch, then throws down to first, attempting to pick off the runner who now has the right to go to second because of the walk. Learn the count, Bobby.
Miles traveled: 7,203
Miles to go: 30 (Giants @ Dodgers, August 20, 7:05pm)

Click "Read more" for more pictures, and for my first half stadium rankings.

Because I am writing the halfway post, I wanted to include a ranking of the first fifteen stadiums. This ranking reflects my gut feeling, a far cry from our more in-depth rankings which have come out previously. I just wanted to give a big picture summary of the relative quality of the ballparks. Bear in mind that every stadium has been impressive.

1. Wrigley Field
2. PNC Park
3. AT&T Park
4. Yankee Stadium
5. Target Field
6. Miller Park
7. Coliseum
8. Comerica Park
9. Nationals Park
10. Citizens Bank Park
11. Busch Stadium
12. Safeco Field
13. Coors Field
14. Angels Stadium
15. U.S. Cellular Field

I know for certain that Craig, Damon, and Owen, if they were to make their own lists, would diverge significantly from mine on certain ballparks.

In front of the stadium, and the huge Angels helmet

Centerfield, nicest part of the park

Beef brisket sandwich
Albert Pujols after a home run
Craig and his uncle Charlie

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