By Joe Haakenson, AngelsWin.com Contributor -
SEPT. 15, 2002
GAME 149 - RANGERS AT ANGELS
ANAHEIM – Watching the Texas Rangers score five runs in the first inning one day earlier must have given the Angels an idea.
The Angels scored five runs of their won and went on to an easy 13-4 victory before 33,445 at Edison field, their sixth win in a row.
And more importantly, the win moved the Angels one game ahead of Oakland in the A.L. West, the first time all season the Angels have held sole possession of the division’s top spot.
The Angels had 11 hits in the game, but the big bat belonged to Troy Glaus, who hit three home runs – Nos. 25, 26 and 27 – to put the game away.
Angels starter Ramon Ortiz improved to 14-9 after giving up four runs and five hits in seven innings.
SEPT. 16, 2002
GAME 150 - ANGELS AT A’S
OAKLAND – Miguel Tejada spent much of Monday night muttering to himself, unable to understand why he kept swinging and balls in the dirt. The Oakland A's shortstop struck out twice swinging at sliders thrown by Angels starter John Lackey that bounced, but in the ninth inning he could forget about it.
With an Oakland Coliseum crowd of 22,326 chanting ``MVP, MVP,'' Tejada bounced a single up the middle off reliever Al Levine to score Ray Durham from second base and give the A's a 4-3 victory and a tie with the Angels in the American League West.
The loss ended the Angels' six-game winning streak. It was only their second loss in their past 18 games, but both have come against the A's and both were by one run.
``It was just another tough game with these guys,'' Angels second baseman Adam Kennedy said. ``It's going to come down to the wire.''
Levine entered the game in the ninth inning with the score tied at 3 and retired the first batter. But Durham, who homered to tie the game in the seventh, singled to center to get the rally started.
Pinch hitter David Justice hit a hard grounder up the middle that Kennedy was able to knock down. He picked it up but his throw to first was too late to get Justice, who was credited with an infield single.
Up next was Tejada, who was held to two hits in 14 at-bats in last week's four-game series in Anaheim and 1 for 4 Monday going into his ninth-inning at-bat. Levine was looking for a groundball that could be a double play and he got it, but it found a hole up the middle allowing Durham to score easily.
``It really doesn't matter,'' Levine said of getting groundballs in the inning. ``They might as well have been (expletive) lightning bolts. It (expletive) cost us the game.''
The Angels went into the game short-handed. Left fielder Garret Anderson was in Monday's lineup originally, but after taking batting practice he was scratched because his sore right hamstring still bothered him. Anderson suffered the injury Saturday and sat out Sunday's game in Anaheim.
Troy Glaus was moved up from the sixth spot to take Anderson's cleanup spot and took an immediate liking to it. With two on and one out in the first inning, Glaus launched his team-leading 28th home run of the season over the fence in right-center for a 3-0 Angels lead.
Following his three-homer game Sunday, it was Glaus' fourth homer in as many at-bats, tying the major league record accomplished numerous times, including three other times this season -- Mike Cameron, Shawn Green and Andruw Jones.
With a chance to make history, Glaus struck out looking in his next at-bat. But he wasn't the only Angel who stopped hitting after the first inning. After Glaus' homer, the Angels added only one more hit until Tim Salmon's one-out double in the seventh, as A's starter Cory Lidle settled into a groove.
``He did the same thing he's been doing for the last couple months,'' Kennedy said. ``He's throwing a lot of offspeed pitches for strikes.''
In the meantime, the A's worked their way back into it.
Lackey gave up two runs (one earned) and four hits in five innings, struggling throughout his performance but able to work his way out of some tough situations.
The Angels led, 3-1, in the fifth when the defense created a tough situation for Lackey, then helped him get out of it with minimal damage.
With one on and one out, Durham hit a sharp grounder to Kennedy, who had trouble getting the ball out of this glove. His throw to shortstop David Eckstein covering second was low, and Eckstein dropped it for an error. Instead of a rally-killing double play, the A's had runners on first and second with nobody out.
Lackey walked Scott Hatteberg to load the bases for Tejada, but Lackey struck out Tejada for the second time in the game. Chavez followed with a drive headed for the right-center field gap, but center fielder Darin Erstad made a running catch while crashing into the fence and all Chavez got out of it was a sacrifice fly.
Lackey walked Jermaine Dye to reload the bases, but got out of it when John Mabry's hard grounder forced Dye at second.
The Angels got solid performances from Scot Shields and Brendan Donnelly out of the bullpen, but Scott Schoeneweis wasn't so fortunate. He gave up a homer to Durham leading off the seventh that tied the game at 3.
OAKLAND -- Manager Mike Scioscia doesn't like to talk about it, but the Angels have begun trying to line up their pitching rotation for the first round of the playoffs.
The first step towards that end is starting Jarrod Washburn tonight on three-days rest, which would put him on track to pitch Game 1 of the American League Division Series on Oct. 1, either at Yankee Stadium or at home against the Twins.
``Wash feels good right now,'' Scioscia said. ``We can line him up to give us some flexibility for next week.''
The Angels could clinch a playoff spot before the end of the week, but the division championship could come down to the final weekend of the season. If that's the case, Scioscia said he would not jeopardize winning the division title to align the rotation for the playoffs.
``Absolutely our eyes are focused on winning the division, and we want to give ourselves the best opportunity,'' Scioscia said. ``But our first priority is to get to the playoffs. So let's not get that far ahead.''
Washburn, who needs two victories in his final three regular-season starts to win 20 games, has never pitched on three-days rest in the majors. But he did it in the minors.
``I love it,'' Washburn said. ``The sooner I can pitch when I'm feeling good, the better.''
Washburn went 7 1/3 innings in his last start last Friday against the Rangers, but made only 100 pitches. And he hasn't thrown between starts, as most pitchers do, for a month now.
``I wanted to feel fresh,'' Washburn said. ``Mechanically I feel good. I didn't think I had to fine tune anything.''
A's infielder Randy Velarde, who played with the Angels from 1996-99, said the success of this year's Angels is not a surprise to him. Many of the core players that are with the team now were teammates of his in 1997 and '98.
``They've been able to avoid serious injuries,'' Velarde said. ``We had solid teams but it seemed like we'd lose three or four guys at a time. And now they've got guys to back guys up if they do go down. With the exception of their start, they've been one of the most consistent teams in baseball.''
The Angels clubhouse got a little more crowded Monday when five more players from Triple-A Salt Lake joined the team. Pitchers Lou Pote and Francisco Rodriguez, catcher Sal Fasano and shortstop Alfredo Amezaga were activated. Outfielder Robb Quinlan, who was named the MVP of the Pacific Coast League, is working out with the team but has not been activated.
For Pote, who spent all of last season with the team, rejoining the team was bittersweet. When he was demoted from the club earlier this season he asked for his release. But the club refused.
``It's a little bit (awkward),'' Pote said. ``If they need someone to help them give a guy a day off, hopefully I can do that. It's the best bullpen in baseball, so what can I say? There's a bitter taste in my mouth but I have to look beyond that.''