By Joe Haakenson, AngelsWin.com Contributor -
AUG. 22, 2002
GAME 126 - ANGELS AT YANKEES
NEW YORK -- The Angels will have you believe it was only one loss, no more, no less.
But their 4-2 setback to the New York Yankees Thursday night had a little more significance in the standings, what Angels manager Mike Scioscia calls their ``report card.''
For the previous two days, the Angels were among the teams in a three-way tie for first place in the American League West. After Thursday's loss before 43,222 at Yankee Stadium, it's now a two-way tie between the Seattle Mariners and Oakland A's, and the Angels are in third place for the first time since June 25.
With a possible strike only a week away, the Angels are out of playoff position. But that could change as soon as today, considering the Angels are still only one game out.
``None,'' Scioscia said when asked the significance of being in third place. ``We're going to look at the standings the last day of the season. We're not going to get off the track that got us here. We didn't look at the standings when we were in first place and we're not going to start where we are now.''
Scioscia has preached that tunnel vision all season long to his players.
``It doesn't matter,'' center fielder Darin Erstad said of the standings. ``We have a lot of baseball left.''
That is, if there is no strike starting next Friday.
``I'm not worried about that,'' Erstad said.
Yankees starter David Wells, whom the Angels knocked around for five runs in two innings on Aug. 3 in Anaheim, went 7 2/3 innings to get the win over Angels starter John Lackey. Lackey (5-3) went eight innings for his first major league complete game. But he gave up a career-high 11 hits, including a two-out, two-run single by Raul Mondesi in the first inning that put the Yankees ahead to stay.
Wells (14-6) gave up an RBI double by Troy Glaus in the fourth inning and a solo homer by Alex Ochoa in the fifth, but nothing else. He had only three strikeouts, but two came at a critical time in the game.
After Glaus' RBI double gave the Angels runners at second and third with one out, Wells struck out Shawn Wooten (looking) and Benji Gil (swinging) to escape. Wells' cut fastball was his pitch pitch on Thursday, resulting a lot of groundballs and popups.
``He cuts his fastball inside,'' Erstad said of Wells. ``When we faced him in Anaheim the last time you could tell something wasn't quite right, but he was on his game tonight.''
The Yankees loaded the bases against Lackey in the first inning when Derek Jeter singled, Jason Giambi was hit by a pitch and Robin Ventura walked. But with two outs, Mondesi grounded a single in the hole between shortstop and third base.
``I threw him a fastball on the first pitch, and he's a guy that swings early in the count,'' Lackey said. ``He got a groundball that found a hole. If it finds a player it ends up being a good pitch.''
Lackey said his first-inning troubles had nothing to do with pitching in Yankee Stadium for the first time in his career.
``I can't guarantee performance every time, but I guarantee it wasn't because I was scared,'' Lackey said. ``I never was nervous, playing here just makes it more fun.''
The Angels left town losers in two of the three games, finishing the season-series 3-4 vs. the Yankees. And it doesn't get any easier from here, as they head to Boston for a four-game series against the Red Sox. They face Pedro Martinez tonight and another Cy Young award candidate, Derek Lowe, on Sunday.
``Our objective is the same whatever the team, whatever pitcher is on the mound,'' Scioscia said. ``We've been in a little bit of a lull offensively but I've got a good feeling about this club down the stretch.''
NEW YORK -- Tim Salmon's road to recovery took a detour Thursday when the team placed the right fielder on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to Aug. 14. Salmon, who is eligible to return next Thursday, suffered a bruised left hand when hit by a pitch on Aug. 10 in Toronto.
Salmon was hoping to return for today's series-opener in Boston. He took live batting practice on back-to-back days Tuesday and Wednesday in New York and planned to hit with his teammates during batting practice Thursday.
But after Salmon felt discomfort when hitting off batting coach Mickey Hatcher in the underground batting cage Thursday afternoon, the decision was made to put Salmon on the DL.
``Any time you lose someone of Tim's caliber, it's huge,'' manager Mike Scioscia said. ``But it's nothing other clubs don't face, and it tests the depth of an organization of a championship-caliber club, which we think we are.''
For now, the Angels will continue to platoon Orlando Palmeiro (vs. right-handed pitchers) and Alex Ochoa (vs. lefties) in Salmon's spot.
The injury could not have come at a worse time for Salmon and the Angels. The Angels are in a three-team divisional race and are in the middle of a tough road trip. Also, before the injury Salmon was hitting well. Overall, he's batting .297 with 18 homers and 76 RBIs.
``It's unfortunate; I'm so frustrated,'' Salmon said. ``It started off day-to-day, but I never had a hand injury like this. Doctors say it's so unpredictable what to expect, and I'm seeing it first hand. The bottom line is if you can't swing the bat, you can't swing the bat.''
Taking Salmon's spot on the roster will be second baseman Chone Figgins, who will join the team today in Boston. At Triple-A Salt Lake, Figgins is hitting .305 and leads the Pacific Coast League in triples (18), stolen bases (39) and runs (100).
``Right now we have enough outfield depth and our pitching's in good shape,'' Scioscia said, explaining the promotion of Figgins. ``We've had guys in platoon roles and we need a player to pinch run.''
The Angels are likely to go with Mickey Callaway to start Sunday's game in Boston in place of Aaron Sele, who was placed on the DL Wednesday with a partially torn muscle in his right shoulder.
Callaway, 9-2 with a 1.68 ERA in 17 games (14 starts) for the Stingers, was acquired last winter in a trade with the Devil Rays for minor league shortstop Wilmy Caceres. Callaway pitched in relief in two games for the Devil Rays last season and pitched in five games (four starts) for them in 1999.
Scott Schoeneweis, who started 15 games for the Angels before being replaced by John Lackey in the rotation in June, isn't likely to get the start because he's pitched well as the only lefty in the bullpen and he hasn't pitched more than two innings since his last start, which was June 25.
``I knew if something did happen to any of the starters I'd be stuck in the bullpen,'' Schoeneweis said. ``Because I wouldn't be ready to start short term and I have solidified myself in the bullpen. But hey, whatever's best for the team.''
Schoeneweis said if Sele is out longer than the anticipated two to three weeks, he'd like another shot in the rotation.
``(An injury to a starter) is not something I wanted to happen, but if it's more long term I hope I'd be considered to get back in,'' he said.
The Angels got even more bad news Thursday when they found out Pedro Martinez, who was scheduled to start Thursday against Texas, was held back a day and will start tonight against the Angels.
The Red Sox didn't want to put Martinez through a possible rain delay on Thursday, so they started Dustin Hermanson instead.
It sets up a matchup vs. the Angels' ace Jarrod Washburn. Asked his reaction to facing Martinez for the first time in his career, Washburn said, ``Cool, huh?''