By Joe Haakenson, AngelsWin.com Contributor -
MAY 14, 2002
GAME 37 - ANGELS AT TIGERS
DETROIT -- Told the Seattle Mariners had lost Tuesday night, Angels manager Mike Scioscia responded: ''Did they? I didn't see.''
That's the mindset Scioscia is preaching to his club, 9-2 winners over the Detroit Tigers on Tuesday before 12,745 at Comerica Park. Coupled with the Mariners' loss to the Blue Jays, the Angels are 4 1/2 games out in the A.L. West, the closest they've been since April 12.
The Angels have won six in a row and 15 of their past 17, matching the best 17-game stretch in club history (June 1-17 1998). But Scioscia says his players aren't patting themselves on the back.
''We're not looking at it in terms like that, because we also got off to the worst start in franchise history,'' he said of the 6-14 start. ''We're trying to keep the short-term focus. We're not looking past anything but (tonight's) ballgame.''
If it's anything like the past 17, the Angels stand a good chance of winning. They played another complete game Tuesday, getting another solid outing from starter Kevin Appier (7 innings, 2 runs, 3 hits) and more than enough offense.
Eight of the nine starters had at least one hit, including three by Tim Salmon. Salmon homered, doubled, singled and drove in four, and Troy Glaus also homered as the Angels had 14 hits.
Still, the Angels refuse to allow themselves to get too excited about the way they're playing.
''We were good about not panicking when things were not going real good at first,'' said Appier, who improved to 4-1 and lowered his ERA to 2.79. ''Still, it's been a lot different. You feel a lot of confidence in here. It's not cockiness. We don't know we can kick everybody's butt when we go out there. But we have a lot more confidence about us.
''We're glad we've been playing great lately but you can't assume tomorrow's going to be the same thing. Just keep busting our butts hard and hopefully in September we're in playoff position.''
If the Angels are to make a run for the playoffs, Appier figures to have a major role. He's allowed two earned runs or fewer in seven of his eight starts. The Angels are 6-2 in games he started.
''I think he's shown no matter the situation he's been able to pitch his ballgame,'' Scioscia said. ''A lot of it is experience. It has let him pitch beyond his years. Whether we're scoring runs or not, he's able to execute his pitches. He was able to do it when he was young, and he's definitely doing it now.''
None of the Angels pitchers have had to worry about a lack of offensive support lately. During the 17-game stretch, the Angels have averaged 7.8 runs per game. And Salmon has been a big part of it.
Salmon has hit in six consecutive games, batting .571 (12 for 21) during the streak. But he's been hitting well longer than that. Since going 0 for 5 on April 27 and seeing his batting average dip to .158, Salmon is hitting .409 (18 for 44) to raise his average to a season-high .250.
But don't ask him to explain it.
''I'm not saying anything,'' Salmon said. ''That's for you guys (reporters) to talk about. I'm not going to do anything to ... ''I'm not analyzing. I'm making adjustments, enough to where it's starting to come together. But I don't want to start analyzing. For me, it's best not to think.''
The Angels scored early, getting two runs in the first, one in the second and two in the third for a 5-0 lead. But they could have had more. In both the second and third innings, the Angels had a runner on third with one out and stranded him.
Glaus' two-run homer got the Angels started in the first, his team-leading eighth of the season. In the second, Salmon singled, went to third on a double by Scott Spiezio and scored on Bengie Molina's groundout. Brad Fullmer made it 5-0 in the third with his two-run double, scoring Erstad and Anderson, each who singled.
The Tigers got on the scoreboard in the third inning when Wendell Magee doubled and eventually scored on Michael Rivera's sacrifice fly. Dmitri Young's solo homer in the fifth made it 5-2.
That would be as close as the Tigers would get. Salmon put the game away with his three-run homer in the seventh, and he added a 420-foot sacrifice fly in the ninth.
DETROIT -- When the Angels signed pitcher Aaron Sele to a three-year, $24 million contract, one of the things they were banking on was innings. But Sele, making his eighth start of season tonight against the Tigers, has yet to last seven innings in any of his first seven starts.
Sele has struggled with his mechanics for most of the season, though he has made slow progress throughout.
''A number of things have happened,'' pitching coach Bud Black said. ''Coming to a new team, it's taken time getting to know the catchers, and the catchers getting to know him. It's had a real impact on pitch selection.
''And it's human nature to try to do a little too much with a new team. When you do that, your mechanics tend to get off kilter.''
Though he hasn't been good, Sele has been consistent. In each of his past three starts, he's given up four runs and nine hits. He's given up more than four runs only once this season and more than nine hits only once.
And Sele finds a way to win. In 1998 with Texas, he won 19 games with an ERA of 4.23, and he won 18 games with a 4.79 ERA in 1999. Despite a 5.75 ERA this year, he's 3-2.
''To his credit, when he's really had to, he's made pitches to keep himself in games and get a victory,'' Black said. ''Even though he's not totally locked in, he's a winning pitcher.''
The Angels have won 15 of their past 17 games, but so far the national media haven't paid much attention. The spotlight in the A.L. West primarily falls on the Mariners and A's, and it seems even the Rangers get more attention.
Manager Mike Scioscia, though, said the lack of attention paid to his team is inconsequential.
''We've got a different focus than worrying about what the opinion of our club is in the media or in baseball,'' Scioscia said. ''Our focus is in house. We know we're a championship-caliber club.
''Our focus is not missing steps along the way that lead to a championship. Whatever the perception is of the talent level of our club is really immaterial.''
Utility player Benji Gil had hoped to begin a rehab assignment early this week, but it won't happen until the end of this week at the earliest. Gil sustained a severely sprained ankle on April 5.
Reliever Donne Wall (tightness in right arm) threw a bullpen session Tuesday and felt fine. He's eligible to come off the disabled list but likely will go out on a rehab assignment before the Angels consider activating him.
Shortstop David Eckstein went into Tuesday's game as the toughest player in the majors to double up. He had not hit into a double play all season until he did so in his 149th at-bat of the season Tuesday on a hard-hit ball to shortstop with Darin Erstad on first.