By Joe Haakenson, AngelsWin.com Contributor -
JUNE 6, 2002
GAME 57 - RANGERS AT ANGELS
ANAHEIM -- Juan Gonzalez might some day end up in the Hall of Fame. And if he does, he might be inclined to offer a word of thanks to the Angels during his induction speech.
Gonzalez has driven in more runs against the Angels (114) than any other team in the majors, and that includes the four RBIs he had Thursday night in the Texas Rangers' 9-8 victory before 17,948 at Edison Field.
Gonzalez's three-run homer off Angels starter Kevin Appier keyed a seven-run third inning as the Rangers avoided a four-game sweep. With the loss, the Angels missed a chance to move within one game of first-place Seattle in the A.L. West.
The Angels, though, didn't go without a fight. Down, 9-4, entering the eighth inning, the Angels scored two runs in both the eighth and ninth innings. In the ninth, Garret Anderson's second two-run homer of the night made it 9-8, and Tim Salmon followed with a double into the left-field corner.
Scott Spiezio grounded out to second for the second out of the inning, moving Salmon to third. But Orlando Palmeiro grounded out to pitcher Anthony Telford to end it.
``These guys have a lot of heart,'' Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of his team. ``There's no quit in them. Hit by hit, they built themselves back in position to win the game. We battled, that's the M.O. of this club. No matter what the deficit, the other team has to execute to get the job done and Texas did tonight.''
Gonzalez's homer was the 401st of his career, and No. 35 against the Angels. Only the Cleveland Indians (37) have been on the wrong end of more of Gonzalez's homers. He went 3 for 5 Thursday, increasing his career average against the Angels to .331.
``He doesn't miss mistakes,'' Scioscia said of Gonzalez. Juan's a tremendous offensive player. Any time you make a mistake, he'll let you know.''
Against Appier, though, Gonzalez had only one homer in 57 career at-bats and a .228 average before Thursday. Appier, though, wasn't his typical self on this night.
``Really, my breaking ball got worse and worst over time,'' said Appier, who matched a season-low by lasting only 2 2/3 innings. ``Eventually, after I threw like 50 pitches in that inning, it starts to catch up with you. Really, my breaking ball was inconsistent. At times it was good, and at times it was just hanging there.''
It hung there for Gonzalez in the third inning. The Rangers had put together three consecutive hits for one run when Gonzalez game up with one out. Appier hung a curveball and Gonzalez destroyed it.
``The pitch he hit today, he did a good job of hitting a mistake,'' Appier said. ``I left a pitch up and he crushed it.''
After Gonzalez's homer, Appier (5-4) walked the next batter, Rafael Palmeiro, and one out later, gave up a double to Ryan Ludwick.
Appier might have gotten out of it right there, but third baseman Troy Glaus couldn't come up with Bill Haselman's grounder to the hole at short, Glaus being charged with an error. That allowed one run to score, and Michael Young followed with an RBI single to knock Appier out of the game.
Lou Pote came in and gave up an RBI single to Romano, his second hit of the inning. The run was charged to Appier, who gave up seven runs (four earned) and eight hits in 2 2/3 innings, matching his shortest outing of the year.
Down 7-0, the Angels crept back in it. They scored four runs in the bottom of the third to make it 7-4 before the Rangers added single runs in the fourth and sixth inning to go up, 9-4.
The Angels' late rally made it close, but they stranded six baserunners in scoring position in the final five innings.
``We had a lot more chances to put (runs) on the board,'' Scioscia said. ``We could have made things a lot more interesting.''
ANAHEIM -- No starting first baseman in the American League has fewer home runs than Angels first baseman Scott Spiezio, but it's not something the Angels are concerned about.
Spiezio has provided just what the Angels have wanted from him: good defense and just enough offense to help keep the lineup moving. He has only two homers, but his 30 RBIs put him on a pace for 87 for the season.
``I'd love to hit 30 home runs,'' Spiezio said. ``But even if you ask the top home run guys like Bonds and McGwire, they're not trying to hit home runs. For the most part, as a hitter you're trying to drive the ball where it's pitched.''
That's just the approach the Angels want from Spiezio, a switch-hitter who hit a career-high 17 homers in 2000 and 13 last year.
``If they came to me and said they wanted me to hit more home runs, I'd do it,'' Spiezio said. ``They want me to hit line drives and hard groundballs. At least, that's what it sounds like during batting practice. I'll leave the home runs to (Troy) Glaus, Garret (Anderson) and Tim (Salmon). The rest of us get on base, hit doubles and drive in runs.''
First base traditionally is a power position, but manager Mike Scioscia says it's not something that's necessary for a team to win.
``You need to have a certain amount of power to sustain the offense the whole year, but where it comes from is irrelevant,'' Scioscia said. ``We have an abundance of power at third base (Glaus). In center field (Darin Erstad) we have extra-base power and we have power at the corner outfield spots (Anderson and Salmon) and at DH (Brad Fullmer). I think you have to look at the whole instead of just the parts.''
The Angels begin interleague play tonight against a team they've never played before: the Cincinnati Reds. The Angels play four of the six teams in the N.L Central this season, including the Reds, Pirates, Cardinals and Brewers. They will not play the Cubs or Astros.
``The N.L. Central is a tough division,'' Scioscia said. ``They're all going to be tough, Cincinnati in particular. They have a lot of power, they have good, young pitching and a real good lineup. They're aggressive running the bases. They do a lot of things that are going to be challenges.''
The Reds lead the division by two games over the Cardinals.
David Eckstein did not start at shortstop Thursday as Scioscia is taking the cautious approach. Eckstein, who did not play in the field for 11 games because of a sprained left knee, was the DH on Thursday.
Eckstein played three games at shortstop this week and made an error that led to an unearned run Wednesday night. But Scioscia said Eckstein's knee wasn't an issue. ``There's not any residual effect,'' Scioscia said. ``He's played three straight. It's good to let him catch his breath.''
Benji Gil started at shortstop Thursday.