Wednesday, February 10, 2010

By Geoff Bilau - Senior Editor

In the top of the fifth inning of their Aug. 18 game at Jacobs Field in Cleveland, Angels catcher Mike Napoli smashed a line drive single into center field off Indians starter Fausto Carmona. It was Napoli's second hit of the game, lifting his batting average to .302.

And though Napoli popped up and struck out in his final two at-bats of the Angels 5-4 victory, his average at the game's conclusion was .300. While it's always noteworthy when a batter (especially a career .256 hitter) eclipses the magical .300 mark, this particular moment was altogether monumental. Napoli was just one of nine Angels hitters who finished that game with a batting average of .300 or better.

Chone Figgins: .308
Bobby Abreu: .310
Juan Rivera: .310
Vladimir Guerrero: .313
Kendry Morales: .303
Torii Hunter: .307
Maicer Izturis: .300
Mike Napoli: .300
Erick Aybar: .313

It would last only those final four innings and the time leading up to the next day's game — Angels manager Mike Scioscia inserted .275 hitting Howie Kendrick for .300 hitting Izturis and Napoli flew out to left field after walking twice, dropping his average back to .299 — but it was historic, however fleeting as it may have been.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it marked the first time since 1934 that any Major League team at least 100 games into its season finished a game with every player in its starting lineup hitting .300 or better. Mickey Cochrane's Tigers accomplished the feat Sept. 9, 1934, against Boston — which was all the more impressive considering pitcher Lynwood "Schoolboy" Rowe and his .301 average was batting ninth. The Tigers lineup that day included four Hall of Famers (Cochrane, Hank Greenberg, Charlie Gehringer, Goose Goslin) and two All-Stars (Rowe, Gee Walker).

The Angels hitting heroics helped rookie starter Trevor Bell win his first Major League game — one that he and Angels fans won't soon forget.
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