Cubs 8, Angels 6

Box Score / Highlights

Like Jedi, this two-game series in Anaheim was my first chance to see the 2013 Cubs in person. And while you tend to miss a lot of the game when your group includes four children under the age of four, here’s a few things I walked away with from the Cubs’ extra innings win over the Angels.

Anthony Rizzo is a cool guy; he’s trying to help you. Prior to his single in the ninth inning, Anthony Rizzo had grounded out to first in each of his four at-bats. That’s the kind of night that can get into a hitter’s head; the kind of night that makes him start pressing in the wrong places and squandering late-inning opportunities. But not Rizzo. He came up in the tenth inning with the bases loaded and two outs–the exact kind of game-changing situation so many other Cubs’ sluggers have disappeared in in the past. Instead, Rizzo offered up the biggest hit of the night–a bases-clearing double to right, breaking the tie and giving the Cubs a protect-able cushion for the bottom of the tenth. Put it this way: a lot of hitters can inspire hope. Rizzo inspires confidence. In that situation there’s no one I would have rather step up to the plate (at least while Castro’s mojo is still AWOL).

Viva la Garza. I’ve been in the less-than-optimistic camp when it comes to Matt Garza’s return to form, but he seems to be doing well so far. Wednesday wasn’t the best performance I’ve seen from him, but it was better than serviceable, and therefore, better than what I expected. (Also in the better-than-expected camp: Ryan Sweeney.)

Trumbo in paradise. Much has been said already this season about the Angels’ high-priced roster of underperforming sluggers. What looks on paper to be a partial All-Star lineup has fallen far short of expectations, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a shakeup in the near future. One name that should be in demand is Mark Trumbo. On several other teams, he’d be one of the marquee players. For the Angels he fades into the background, despite his performance. Wednesday night he went 2-for-4 with two homers, driving in a third of Anaheim’s runs for the game and looking every bit the top-shelf hitting talent his teammates are paid to be. With a surplus of OFs and 1Bs who can hit, expect the Angels to shop Trumbo. And if Wednesday night was any indication, expect him to have several suitors.

If I could reach you, I would hit you. I cannot bring myself to trust Kevin Gregg with the baseball in his hands. Even if he’s been one of the Cubs’ most consistent relievers this season, he doesn’t inspire confidence when you watch him on the mound. In fact, he inspires the opposite of confidence. It’s an intense, concentrated worry; like the inescapable  feeling your bladder is about to explode, and you’re a great distance from shelter and a fresh pair of pants. And it’s all compounded by the still-vivid memories of his first, disastrous go-round with the Cubs. Gregg received the win for Wednesday’s effort, but the terminology is deceptive. He outlasted the Angels. Or better still: his ineptitude was overcome by theirs. (On a side note, I hit up the Portillo’s in Buena Park on the way home last night, along with what seemed to be most of the Cubs fans who attended the game. Amidst the crowd was a mildly jubilant, less-mildly drunk Cubs fan who was complaining about our shaky bullpen. He wanted me to know he was pleased we survived an inning of Marmol, even though Marmol never took the mound Wednesday. So I guess congratulations are in order for Hector Rondon, who it seems is officially the drunk man’s Carlos Marmol.)

Trip advisor. Since Southern California is a vacation destination, and there’s a good possibility that some readers might be heading out this way in the coming months, I want to give you a brief heads-up on the baseball situation in the greater LA area. Unless you’re a fan of rampant profanity, territorial aggression, drunken brawls, and a general lack of safety, I’d encourage you to skip Dodger Stadium altogether and instead head down to Angel Stadium. Seriously, the Anaheim crowd is friendly, peaceful, and into the game. None of that seems like an achievement until you’ve visited Dodger Stadium. But I strongly suggest you don’t.

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