By Joe Haakenson, AngelsWin.com Contributor -
MAY 22, 2002
GAME 44 - ROYALS AT ANGELS
ANAHEIM – It would have been completely understandable had the Angels lost Wednesday night's game to the Kansas City Royals. After all, a team can't win every night.
And besides, they had fallen behind 5-0 to the best pitcher no one's heard of in Royals starter Paul Byrd, who entered the game tied for the American League-lead with seven victories.
But Byrd eventually tired and the Angels started scoring. And scoring.
Tim Salmon's two-run homer in the seventh got the Angels going, before a five-run eighth inning pushed the Angels past the Royals for a 7-6 victory before 16,163 at Edison Field.
The big hits in the fateful eighth were Darin Erstad's two-run double, which tied the game at 5, and Garret Anderson's two-run double, which gave the Angels the lead.
Troy Percival pitched the ninth and gave up a run but got his eighth save and the Angels' torrid stretch continued. The win was the Angels' fourth in a row, their 12th in 13 games and their 21st in 24.
Meanwhile in Seattle, the Mariners lost and the Angels moved to within 1 1/2 games of the top spot in the A.L. West, the closest they've been since April 8.
Asked if there was a belief among the players that anything is possible, Percival said: ``If there wasn't before, there is now. ... We've had heart in the past, but this is different. It doesn't matter what inning it is, just give us a chance.''
The Angels got the chance when they started a rally with two out and nobody on in the seventh inning, down 5-0 and seemingly ready to write this one off. Byrd had thoroughly controlled the Angels hitters all night, allowing only two hits when Brad Fullmer came to the plate.
Fullmer got the Angels' third hit of the night with a double to right-center, and Salmon followed with a two-run homer to left field, just inside the foul pole.
``We started to see some light at the end of the tunnel,'' manager Mike Scioscia said of Salmon's homer.
Byrd managed to get the last out in the seventh, but after giving up a single to Jorge Fabregas and a walk to pinch hitter Orlando Palmeiro to start the eighth, Byrd was finished.
The Angels then teed off on Royals reliever Darrell May. May, a lefty, was brought in to face the Angels' left-handed hitters due up, but retired only one of the four he faced.
First, it was Adam Kennedy, who doubled home one run to make it 5-3. Erstad followed with a double into the right-field corner, scoring both Palmeiro and Kennedy to tie the game at 5.
After an intentional walk to Troy Glaus, Anderson followed with another double to the right-field corner, scoring Erstad and Glaus for a 7-5 lead.
``These guys never think they're out of a game,'' Scioscia said. ``They keep grinding to the last out. That element has to be in place for a championship-caliber club.''
While it might have seemed a mere formality that Percival would close it out once the Angels had the lead, the Angels had a noticeably different look on defense in the top of the ninth because Scioscia had sent Palmeiro up to hit for shortstop Jose Nieves.
Because regular shortstop David Eckstein is out with a sprained knee, Scioscia moved Glaus from third base to shortstop. Glaus played shortstop in college at UCLA.
Scioscia also moved first baseman Scott Spiezio to third and Erstad from center field to first base. Erstad wound up making a nice catch on a line drive by Michael Tucker.
It proved to be a big out because Percival had already given up a double to Luis Alicea and later gave up an RBI single to Raul Ibanez.
``That was incredible,'' Percival said of Erstad's play. ``The guy hasn't played first base all year and he makes that play.''
Percival struck out Neifi Perez and Carlos Febles to end it. Angels reliever Ben Weber, who pitched a perfect eighth inning, got the win.
Angels starter Scott Schoeneweis managed to get through seven innings, but not before giving up the five runs. He gave up only seven hits, but hurt himself by walking five. The big inning was the third, when the Royals put together a four-run rally.
ANAHEIM -- Upon his recent retirement, Jose Canseco estimated that 85 percent of the players in the major leagues have used steroids, a figure at which the Angels' resident fitness expert scoffs.
Angels designated hitter Brad Fullmer takes body-building seriously, so much so that he's appeared in Muscle & Fitness magazine. While he wouldn't deny the possibility that steroid use in the majors exists, he said it was ridiculous that Canseco even guessed.
''I have no idea (what percentage of major leaguers have used steroids),'' Fullmer said. ''I think it's inappropriate for him to speculate. There's certainly no evidence (of Canseco's claims). If he has a beef with teams and the league, I don't know why he's taking it out on the players.''
Major League Baseball does not test for steroids, but as far as Fullmer is concerned, he isn't interested in knowing who's using and who isn't.
''I just mind my own business,'' he said. ''I don't ask and I don't care what other people do.''
Shortstop David Eckstein was not in the starting lineup for the second consecutive game Wednesday because of sprained left knee. Eckstein had an MRI exam performed Wednesday, which confirmed the sprain and showed no further damage.
''There was a lot of relief,'' Eckstein said of the MRI results. ''With a knee, you never know. Whenever there's an MRI, you think the worst.''
Eckstein hurt his knee Monday night sliding into first base feet-first while trying to avoid a tag.
''It bugs me that I went in feet-first,'' Eckstein said.
Eckstein started all of the club's first 41 games before missing Tuesday's game.
''I want to do that one of these years,'' Eckstein said of playing in all 162 games. ''There's no way I'd ask of a day off.''
For the second night in a row, Jose Nieves started at shortstop, and second baseman Adam Kennedy took leadoff spot.
Utility infielder Benji Gil played seven innings at shortstop during a minor league camp game in Mesa, Ariz. on Wednesday. Gil, out since April 5 with a sprained ankle, is expected to begin a rehab assignment for Triple-A Salt Lake on Friday.