By Joe Haakenson, AngelsWin.com Contributor -
MAY 24, 2002
GAME 45 - TWINS AT ANGELS
ANAHEIM -- Location, location, location.
Angels pitcher Ramon Ortiz can be as dominating as any pitcher in the majors when he is on his game. That means mixing his fastball with his slider and changeup and putting it in the right spot.
Ortiz, though, had trouble hitting those spots on Friday, and the result was three more home runs allowed and a 5-1 loss to the Minnesota Twins before 27,494 at Edison Field.
It snapped the Angels four-game winning streak and marked only their fourth loss since April 23, a stretch of 25 games. It also ended the Angels' eight-game home winning streak.
Ortiz was on the mound for the Angels' last loss, a 10-4 setback to the Chicago White Sox last Saturday. He gave up four homers in that one, meaning he's allowed seven in his past two games for a major league-high 16 homers allowed this season.
Like he did last Saturday, Ortiz got the ball up to the wrong hitters at the wrong time, and it cost him. Even though he allowed only seven hits in 7 1/3 innings Friday, the home runs did enough damage to send the Angels to just their second loss in 14 games.
``He made too many mistakes early in the game,'' Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. ``He did adjust, and that was a good sign. Every pitcher has periods when his command is not as locked in. Right now he's in a stretch where he's not able to get the ball in good locations early in the game and get his feet on the ground. He's paid the price for it.''
On Ortiz's first pitch of the game, the Twins' Jacque Jones ripped a 90-mph fastball into the right field seats for a 1-0 lead.
``I was trying to throw the ball down and away, but it went over the middle,'' said Ortiz (4-5). ``I didn't think he'd be swinging at the first pitch.''
In the third inning, Jones led off with a single and went to second on a single by Cristian Guzman. Ortiz looked like he might get out of it by getting the next two hitters on flyouts. But on his first pitch to the next batter, Torii Hunter crushed an 84-mph slider to center field for a three-run homer and a 4-0 Twins lead.
``A solo shot, it's OK,'' Ortiz said. ``With people on base, that's no good.''
In the fourth inning, it was A.J. Pierzynski's turn, homering to right field for a 5-0 lead. It was Pierzynski's first homer of the season.
``I'm human,'' Ortiz said. ``Everybody's human. Everybody makes mistakes.''
Ortiz, though, would have had to have been nearly perfect for the Angels to win this one, the way Twins starter Rick Reed pitched. Reed (5-2) baffled the Angels hitters all night, allowing only three hits on his way to a complete game. He struck out four and did not walk a batter.
Like Ortiz, Reed has had trouble keeping the ball in the park at times. Reed went into the game having allowed 12 homers this season, which ranked behind only Ortiz and Kansas City's Jeff Suppan in the American League.
But Reed kept the Angels hitters off balance all night. Darin Erstad singled in the first inning, but the Angels didn't get another hit until the fifth. That's when Brad Fullmer led off with a home run, his fourth of the season.
The Angels didn't get their third hit until Bengie Molina singled with two out in the eighth.
``He had great control, great command, nothing overpowering,'' Erstad said. ``He just picks you apart.''
Dealing with a loss is not something the Angels have had to do much lately, so Erstad said it will easy to forget about Friday.
``You expect to win every night, regardless of who you're playing,'' Erstad said. ``When we leave here, it's over. Tomorrow's a new day and you turn the page.''
ANAHEIM -- Shortstop Alfredo Amezaga was playing for Salt Lake, the Angels' Triple-A team, in Nashville Thursday night, and in the 10th inning, he got hit by a pitch and went to third on a single.
That's when Stingers manager Mike Brumley, who was coaching third, told Amezaga he was going to Anaheim.
``I started crying on third,'' said Amezaga, who started Friday at shortstop for the Angels in place of the injured David Eckstein. ``When I went out to shortstop the next inning I was still crying. I was hoping no one would hit a ground ball to me because there were tears in my eyes and I couldn't see.''
Amezaga's stay might be short-lived. Eckstein has a sprained left knee and has now missed three games, but he took ground balls Friday for the first time since the injury. He'll probably sit out tonight and Sunday, then get more rest with Monday's off day before returning to the lineup on Tuesday in Kansas City.
``If I get sent down again, who cares?'' Amezaga said. ``But I'm going to enjoy this now. I'll try to be ready if they need me later this season or next season. I wasn't thinking about being here. I was just trying to do my job.''
Amezaga is known for his slick fielding and his speed, not his offense. He's a switch-hitter but only started hitting left handed in 2000. At Salt Lake, he was hitting .235.
``I like it (switch-hitting), but it's a little frustrating,'' he said. ``Sometimes I try to do too much. I'm trying to use my speed and hit the ball the other way. It's not easy, but I'll keep on working.''
If Amezaga can start hitting, he could become the Angels' regular shortstop as early as next season.
``He's a guy we've been talking about for a couple years,'' manager Mike Scioscia said. ``We have a need in the middle (infield). Until we get Eck back, we need some depth.''
Left-handed reliever Mark Lukasiewicz, 1-0 with a 3.48 ERA in 14 games, was optioned to Salt Lake to make room on the roster for Amezaga. Even without Lukasiewicz, the Angels have 11 pitchers on the roster.
Utility infielder Benji Gil began a rehab assignment at Salt Lake Friday. Gil, out since April 5 with a sprained ankle, will need at least a week and possibly as long as two weeks before he'll be ready to join the big league club.
First baseman/DH Shawn Wooten continues to work out at the club's minor league camp in Mesa, Ariz. but will not begin a rehab assignment until next week. Wooten has been out all season after having surgery on his thumb in March.