If it were a regular-season game, you’d be talking about it tomorrow. Josh Hamilton’s first game against the Rangers was overshadowed by a lot of things: a walkoff hit, a four-homer inning, a complete implosion by Jerome Williams and — stop the presses — three damn fine throws from behind home plate by Hank Conger.
But since it’s only spring training (checking my watch, yup, one more week…) it’s getting the postgame bullet-point treatment for posterity.
• Even Mike Scioscia didn’t have a good thing to say about Williams, who lasted 1 1/3 innings, allowing 11 hits and seven runs (all earned). The veteran right-hander allowed eight consecutive hits to start the second inning before he was mercifully lifted for Mitch Stetter. “Definitely a step backwards for Jerome. He had trouble putting guys away, his ball was flat, he had trouble hitting spots.”
• That’s good news for Garrett Richards but bad news for the Angels, whose sixth starter suddenly has a 10.45 ERA. Oh, and opponents are batting .300 off Richards. It’s time to tone down any talk of the Angels’ “improved rotation depth” until one or both pitchers shows some more consistency.
• Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton hit back-to-back home runs (for the first and probably not the last time as teammates) in the fourth inning. Howie Kendrick decided to join in the fun with a solo shot and Conger’s two-run blast completed the one-inning slugfest. Collectively, they used the whole field (Pujols to left, Hamilton to center, Kendrick to right, Conger to right-center).
• Good but unmemorable bounceback game for Stetter, who got out of the second inning without allowing a runner on second base to score. He allowed two hits, two runs and a walk in his Cactus League debut four days ago.
• Conger picked off a runner at first base with an accurate throw in the second inning (OK, so Leonys Martin wasn’t gunned down diving back to the bag — he merely got caught in a rundown). He hit the second baseman’s glove not once but twice (OK, so Martin and Elvis Andrus were safe on the stolen base). The biggest problem for Conger defensively — his release point — wasn’t a problem for a night. The fact that Scioscia gave him a full seven innings to work with had to be a nice confidence boost, too.
• Here’s what Scioscia had to say about Conger: “He threw the ball great. He looked very comfortable. I thought he turned it loose. Hank understands what’s happening. He understands the need to throw the ball to his capabilities. He had a good night tonight. He’s worked hard. When you get in a groove you feel better.”
• The game ended with Martin still in the game, at home plate, against minor-leaguer Eswarlin Jimenez with the bases loaded. The result? A bases-clearing, walk-off double into the left-field corner. Game over.
• Erick Aybar hit his first home run of the spring in his first game back since helping the Dominican Republic win the World Baseball Classic. For those of you doing the math at home, that makes five Angels home runs today.
• Kendrick has a 16-game hitting streak, having hit safely in every game he’s appeared in.
• The box score is here.