By Joe Haakenson, AngelsWin.com Contributor -
MAY 29, 2002
GAME 49 - ANGELS AT ROYALS
KANSAS CITY -- Tim Salmon had four hits, including a three-run homer, in the Angels' 12-2 win over the Kansas City Royals Wednesday night before 13,662 at Kauffman Stadium. But it wasn't the hits that had Salmon almost giddy after the game.
It was the two stolen bases, a career best, that had Salmon smiling.
``I'm not a big basestealer,'' said Salmon, who doubled his season total to four and now has 42 in his 10-year career.
Salmon stole third after hitting a double in the second inning, and stole second on the back end of a double steal in the fifth.
``I don't steal very often,'' he said. ``And I don't steal third. It might be the only time in the majors. ... How about that? Two bags. It's a career high for me.''
The Angels stole six bases in all, one shy of the club record of seven set in 1981, and no Angel baserunner was caught stealing. They had 17 hits, including a three-run homer by Troy Glaus and four hits by shortstop Alfredo Amezaga.
Amezaga, who was called up earlier in the week to give the club some infield depth while regular shortstop David Eckstein recovered from a sprained knee, was optioned to Triple-A Salt Lake after the game to make room for utility infielder Benji Gil.
Gil, out since April 5 with a sprained ankle, will rejoin the team today in Minnesota. Amezaga heads back to the minors hitting .500 (5 for 10) during his brief major league stay.
``I knew that was coming down,'' Amezaga said of his return to the minors. ``Still, it's frustrating. Of course nobody wants to get sent down. When I came here, they said just have fun. I'm not here to have fun. I'm here to win games. It's serious to me.''
The Angels had at least one runner on base in every inning but the seventh, applying pressure to Royals starter Jeremy Affeldt (1-2) and four relievers. And while the Angels said the homers by Glaus and Salmon were big, they consider themselves more a team that manufactures runs.
``We walk, steal a base, hit-and-run, bunt 'em over, get 'em over,'' Salmon said. ``The mentality and makeup of this lineup is made for that.''
The Angels didn't get their offense going until the fifth Wednesday when the game was tied at 1. Amezaga led off with a single and went to second on a walk by Eckstein. Darin Erstad singled home Amezaga and Glaus followed with a three-run homer.
The Angels added a fifth run in the fifth inning, and four more in the sixth, three on Salmon's homer.
``Our offense is not built around the home run,'' Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. ``We have to stay as aggressive as we can on the bases. If there are openings, we have to keep applying pressure.
``Tonight we had little ball sandwiched around the home runs. These guys did a great job. The home runs are nice but the tone of this game was set with aggressive baserunning.''
While the offense was busy scoring runs, Angels starter Ramon Ortiz returned to the form he showed earlier in the season.
Ortiz (5-5) was coming off two consecutive losses in which he gave up 11 runs and seven homers in 13 1/3 innings. Wednesday he gave up a solo homer to Mark Quinn, but that was the only mistake he made. He went eight innings, allowing two runs and seven hits.
``I felt better tonight,'' Ortiz said. ``More strikes, better location, slider down. Only one mistake tonight.''
Despite the win, the Angels (29-20) remain three games out in the A.L. West behind Seattle, who also won on Wednesday.
KANSAS CITY -- Catcher Bengie Molina and manager Mike Scioscia disagree on why it's happening, but the fact is, it's happening.
Molina threw out 24 percent (19 of 79) of the baserunners trying to steal last season, but has improved this season so far to 55 percent (18 of 33), best among all catchers in the majors.
``It's simple,'' Scioscia said. ``His mechanics are much more consistent on a daily basis. He's thrown the ball well the last two years, but right now it's as good as I've seen him.''
Scioscia went as far as to say Molina is comparable to the Rangers' Ivan Rodriguez.
``Pudge is still the top of the class,'' Scioscia said. ``His arm strength, accuracy and glove-to-glove times are incredible. Bengie's not far behind that. He can be almost as effective as Pudge and I think his stats are bearing that out.''
Molina said the one reason he's better this year is health.
``I think nobody realized last year I had a sore (right) knee most of the time,'' Molina said. ``To throw guys out, you need that and I didn't have it last year, period. And a took a couple foul balls off my shoulder. Instead of getting stronger I was getting weaker. The only thing I felt was pain.''
Molina also credits the pitchers for being quicker to the plate this season. Starters Kevin Appier and Aaron Sele, in their first season with the Angels, are the best at being quick to the plate while still executing their pitches.
``For me to throw guys out, they have to be quick to the plate,'' Molina said.
``They've been good so far.''
At age 90, former Negro League star Buck O'Neil works for the Royals in community relations. O'Neil, who is one of the founders of the Negro Leagues Hall of Fame in Kansas City, played for the Kansas City Monarchs from 1938-55, winning a batting crown in 1946 when he hit .353.
On Wednesday, O'Neil attended a couple of school graduations, one in the afternoon and one at night. He said the question he's asked most by children is: ``What was it like?''
``It was outstanding,'' O'Neil said. ``It was segregated but we still had some of the best athletes in the world.''
O'Neil said his most memorable day came in 1943 on opening day in Memphis, Tenn. He hit for the cycle that day, and that night met a woman, Ora Lee, who became his wife for 51 years.
Results of the early balloting for the American League All-Star voting were released Wednesday, but only one Angel was even listed among the leaders. Third baseman Troy Glaus was listed fourth among third basemen, behind Boston's Shea Hillenbrand, the Yankees' Robin Ventura and the A's Eric Chavez.
The results released included the top five from each position except outfield, where the top 15 were listed.