APRIL 21, 2002
GAME 18 - ANGELS AT A’S
OAKLAND -- The Angels got a solid performance from their starting pitcher, played good defense and had timely hitting. But when their game against the Oakland A's ended, the Angels walked off the field with their heads down.
Greg Myers hit a pinch-hit, three-run homer in the ninth inning off Angels closer Troy Percival to lift the A's to a 6-5 victory before 20,088 Sunday night at the Oakland Coliseum. The Angels immediately left Oakland for Seattle having lost three of four in the series.
''I ain't got nothing to say, bro,'' Angels catcher Bengie Molina said. ''Sorry.''
Most of the Angels tried to focus on the positives they could take out of the game. Starter Aaron Sele gave up three runs in 6 1/3 innings and was relieved by Dennis Cook, who threw 1 2/3 scoreless innings.
Garret Anderson had three hits, Orlando Palmeiro, Tim Salmon and Molina each had two. Jeff DaVanon got down a key sacrifice bunt with two strikes. The Angels went 4 for 7 as a team with runners in scoring position. First baseman Scott Spiezio made two outstanding defensive plays.
They took a 5-3 lead into the ninth, but Percival served it up quickly. Making only his third appearance of the season, Percival gave up singles to Miguel Tejada and Terrence Long before yielding the home run to Myers.
Percival said his pitches that were hit weren't such bad pitches, but the pitch selection was. Tejada went the other way with a curveball that was up and singled to right. Long also went the other way, hitting a fastball that was up to left field for a single.
Up stepped Myers, a longtime friend of Percival's as both are from Riverside.
''He's a good friend of mine but that doesn't mean I want to throw a pitch he hits for a homer,'' Percival said.
Percival fell behind in the count 2-0, then threw a 96-mph fastball belt high. Myers was looking for it and pulled it over the fence in right field. Percival said he wanted to throw the pitch down and away.
''That one really sucked,'' Percival said of the pitch. ''It sucked worse than the other two.''
Percival didn't pitch between April 2 and April 19 because of a strained muscle in his right side. But he said he isn't rusty physically.
''It's not so much rust physically, it's rust mentally,'' Percival said. ''I'm thinking about what pitch to throw. Obviously my arm strength was there. It's my pitch selection that was very poor tonight.
''I've been playing the game a long time and I know what I want to do. But when I second-guess my pitch selection, a lot of pitches are up in the zone. And that's what I did.''
The rest of the Angels offered words of support for their closer.
''You're never happy with a loss,'' Spiezio said. ''We know Percy usually shuts the door. He's a very dominant closer. But it happens to the best of them. It happened to Mariano Rivera in the World Series. You learn to accept them, but it's magnified because of our record.''
The Angels began the season with much optimism, but 18 games into it they are off to their worst start in 26 years. Sunday's loss left the Angels at 6-12, matching the 1976 Angels for the worst start through 18 games in club history.
They are also a season-worst 8 1/2 games behind the American League West leading Seattle Mariners, who the Angels play in a three-game series starting tonight.
“It's not disheartening,'' Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. ''All you can do is battle. We put ourselves in that position as we did tonight, we're going to win a lot of ballgames.''
Percival said the loss isn't one he is going to dwell on.
''Hopefully I'm out there 55 to 60 times a year,'' Percival said. ''If you carry it over, it's going to be a long year. You've just got to regroup and make better pitches than I made tonight.''
OAKLAND -- Center fielder Darin Erstad, recovering from a mild concussion, returned home to Southern California Sunday afternoon. Erstad, who spent Friday night and most of Saturday in an Oakland hospital after hitting his chin on the ground trying to make a catch, will be examined today by Angels team physician Dr. Craig Milhouse.
Milhouse will determine whether further testing is needed. A CT scan, X-rays and an MRI on Erstad's head and neck all have come back normal. Erstad is not expected to join the team for the three-game series in Seattle.
Manager Mike Scioscia is hoping Erstad can return to the field Friday in Anaheim against the Toronto Blue Jays. If Erstad is unable to play, the Angels likely will put him on the disabled list and call up help from the minor leagues.
Scioscia said it's doubtful Erstad would rejoin the team and play off the bench.
''If he's ready to play he's going to play,'' Scioscia said. ''If he needs special handling we'll consider DHing him.''
In the meantime, Garret Anderson has moved from left field to center. Scioscia said initially that he didn't want to break up the ''continuity'' of the outfield, but since it seems Erstad will be out at least three more games, the move was made.
''I think it gives us a good look, but we're not going to shuffle him back and forth on a daily basis,'' Scioscia said. ''Out of all the options we have, Garret has shown he can play a good center field.''
Anderson, who played all of 2000 in center and most of 1999 there, said he has no problem with the move. In fact, he prefers playing center.
''It is and always will be (his favorite position),'' Anderson said. ''I'm not saying that I should be out there (instead of Erstad). Even as a kid, that's where I wanted to play. But my dad always said I'd be a corner outfielder because I'm not the prototypical center fielder.''
Anderson agreed with Scioscia that he shouldn't be moved back and forth between positions, though he said center field is the easier position.
''You get truer reads on the ball and you don't get tricked,'' Anderson said.
The Angels' offense went into Sunday's game having scored 16 runs in its previous two games, but Scioscia wasn't about to declare the team's slump finished.
''It's not like you break out for one game and say 'Hallelujah,' '' Scioscia said. ''The type of team we have, we need to have the approach of putting pressure on clubs every inning of every game. I'm not going to say, 'OK, they're back.' We expect to consistently grind, where we're executing well and getting good two-out hitting.''
Scott Spiezio wore a microphone for ESPN during batting practice before Sunday night's nationally televised game. Why Spiezio?
''Probably because no one else would do it,'' Spiezio said.