By Joe Haakenson, AngelsWin.com -
MAY 30, 2002
GAME 50 - ANGELS AT TWINS
MINNEAPOLIS -- Their game against the Minnesota Twins Thursday night won't end up on the club's season-highlight package, but the Angels might have trouble erasing it from their memory banks.
The Angels seemed to get a break when Twins starter Brad Radke aggrevated a groin injury and had to leave two batters into the game. They built a 5-0 lead and seemed in position continue their roll against American League Central teams.
But the Twins rallied to tie the game in the eighth and won it, 7-6, in the 10th inning on Cristian Guzman's sacrifice fly off Lou Pote before 14,521 at the Metrodome. On the play, the Angels had only two outfielders, having moved center fielder Darin Erstad to first base to form a five-man infield.
It's something Angels manager Mike Scioscia has used before in similar situations and nearly worked on Thursday. The Twins had runners on first and third with one out when Erstad was brought in, and the next batter up, Denny Hocking, grounded out to Erstad at first.
With one out, the Twins had runners on second and third, but Scioscia decided against walking Guzman intentionally to load the bases and create a force at any base.
``It was pick your poison,'' Scioscia said, noting that Doug Mientkiewicz was on deck. ``The matchups behind Guzman were just as tough. You load the bases and it puts pressure on Lou. You pitch to Guzman and it gives Lou the freedom to make some pitches.''
Guzman, though, swung and hit the first pitch, sending the Angels to their second loss in three games on the trip.
The game included a foul ball by Tim Salmon that hit a speaker high above the Angels dugout. But pitcher Eddie Guardado alertly spotted the ball and made a diving catch in foul territory to record the out.
``We've had it happen to us here before, and it won't be the last time,'' Scioscia said. ``The ball Mo (Vaughn) hit a couple years ago would still be going. But it hit a speaker and fell in for a single.''
There were also balls that should have been caught that weren't, like the one Angels center fielder Darin Erstad overran in the fourth inning. Instead of making the catch for the third out, Erstad missed Brian Buchanan's jam shot to shallow center and it became a two-run triple.
``I just missed it,'' Erstad said, noting that the Twins remind him alot of the Angels. ``They scratch and claw and never give up. They have a great bunch of players over there. They battle like we do. That's why it's always a dogfight when we play these guys.''
Things went well for the Angels early, as they built a 5-0 lead by the third inning. In the first, Erstad hit his fourth homer of the year, a 427-foot solo blast to the upper deck in right field.
In the second inning, Adam Kennedy led off with a double, the first of his four hits in the game. He went to third on Jorge Fabregas' grounder to first and scored on a grounder to short by Jose Nieves.
The Angels opened it up in the third with three runs. Salmon and Kennedy each drove in one with a single and Fabregas plated the third with a grounder to first base.
Meanwhile, Schoeneweis was pitching his game. He allowed three hits through three innings, but no runs. He escaped a jam in the third inning after the Twins put runners on second and third with one out.
But in the fourth Angels starter Scott Schoeneweis created his own trouble by walking leadoff batter Tom Prince. By the time the inning was over, the Twins scored four to cut the Angels' lead to 5-4.
They eventually caught the Angels at 6 in the eighth inning after Scioscia brought in closer Troy Percival with two on and two out. Guzman's single off Percival tied it, but Anderson threw out A.J. Pierzynski at the plate.
``You win some, you lose some, but these are the in-between ones you need to win,'' Erstad said. ``We felt like we let that one slip away. Yeah, it stinks, but when you get your butt kicked 15-0, it stinks too. I guess I never met a loss that didn't stink.''
MINNEAPOLIS -- Designated hitter Brad Fullmer's contract is up after this season, but where he plays next year is still up to the Angels. Fullmer, who will be eligible for arbitration, will not be eligible for free agency until after the 2004 season.
Fullmer signed a two-year, $6.5 million deal with the Blue Jays before the 2001 season and is making $4 million this year. He said when he was acquired by the Angels in a trade with the Blue Jays for pitcher Brian Cooper that Anaheim was a perfect fit for him, and he hasn't changed his mind.
``I like it here,'' said Fullmer, who is hitting .276 with four homers and 18 RBIs. ``But I don't have any say, it's up to them. Obviously, I think we have a good team. There's a lot of season left, but we're good. And there's a lot of guys like me here, blue-collar guys that get after it.''
Fullmer is a native of Chatsworth and went to Montclair Prep High, but he lives in Henderson, Nev. during the winter and rents a place in Newport Beach during the season.
Utility infielder Benji Gil rejoined the team Thursday after being out since April 5 with a sprained left ankle. Gil was injured while playing first base and colliding with the Rangers Rusty Greer.
``I thought it would be a week,'' Gil said. ``The weird thing is, the day after it happened it didn't feel that bad. When they told me it would be four-to-six weeks, I thought they were crazy.''
It turned out to be nearly eight weeks, but Gil finally made it back and will start tonight's game at either second base or shortstop.
``He's ready, he's done everything he needs to do over there (for Triple-A Salt Lake during a rehab assignment),'' manager Mike Scioscia said.
Shortstop David Eckstein is still not quite ready to play defense, his sprained left knee affecting his lateral movement. Eckstein can hit and run the bases, but defensively ``he's not at the level he needs to be,'' Scioscia said.
There's a chance Eckstein, who hurt the knee trying to avoid a tag at first base on May 20, will return to his shortstop position this weekend. He's likely to start at DH tonight.