Friday, May 3, 2013

By Joe Haakenson, Contributor - 

MAY 3, 2002

TORONTO -- A bloop hit, an error, a walk and suddenly Troy Percival was in the eye of the storm again. The Angels closer, called upon to save a two-run lead in the ninth inning Friday night against the Toronto Blue Jays, didn't blink.

With the bases loaded and one out, Percival struck out Carlos Delgado and got Raul Mondesi to ground out to second base and lift the Angels to their eighth consecutive win, 6-4, before 13,183 at SkyDome.

''You don't ideally write it up that way,'' Percival said. ''Delgado and Mondesi with the bases loaded is not a situation you're looking forward to.''

But like last week when Percival struck out both Mondesi and Delgado to finish off a 4-0 win in Anaheim, the end result was all that mattered.

The winning streak is the fourth longest in club history and put the club back at .500 (14-14) for the first time since they were 3-3 on April 8. And what's important to the Angels now is not just that they're winning, but how they're winning.

They fell behind in the first inning when starter Aaron Sele gave up three runs. They rallied to take the lead in the seventh on Darin Erstad's three-run homer and the bullpen held the lead going into the ninth when Percival slammed the door for his fourth save of the season.

''We're not getting lucky,'' Percival said. ''We're playing good, solid baseball every day. It's different when you're getting wins because of fluke things. We're doing something every day to win ballgames.''

Before Percival had a chance to save it, the Angels had to rally. Sele gave up a solo homer to Eric Hinske and a two-run homer to Mondesi in the first inning. But Percival and starting pitcher Jarrod Washburn noticed a flaw in Sele's delivery and told him about it.

Sele fixed the problem and got through six innings, allowing only one more run on Homer Bush's solo homer in the fifth.

''I was flying open too early,'' Sele (2-2) said of his delivery. ''If I didn't make an adjustment, it was going to be a short day.''

Instead, Sele settled in and allowed the Angels offense to rally. Having scored 69 runs in the seven wins heading into the game, it seemed like an inevitability. But Blue Jays starter Brandon Lyon snuffed out potential Angels rallies early.

Garret Anderson's solo homer in the second inning was all Lyon allowed until the sixth, when Erstad singled, stole second and eventually scored on Tim Salmon's sacrifice fly. But Erstad's big moment was yet to come.

The Angels cut their deficit in the seventh to 4-3 on Jorge Fabregas' RBI single. Adam Kennedy singled Fabregas to second and David Eckstein sacrificed the runners to second and third.

Lyon was replaced by Pedro Borbon, who surrendered both of Eckstein's grand slams last week in Anaheim but had held Erstad hitless in eight previous at-bats against him. Erstad swung at the first pitch, a belt-high fastball, and belted it into the right-field seats for a three-run homer and 6-4 lead.

''He's abused me, I knew I had my hands full,'' Erstad said of Borbon. ''I know him and he knows me. It's one on one. That's the great part of competition. But you can't talk about just one guy stepping up. We wouldn't have been in that situation without Fabregas getting that hit and Eck getting the bunt down. It's the whole package, that's how you win ballgames.''

Erstad missed seven games with a concussion and went 0 for 6 in his first game back while trying to find his rhythm. But in the four games on the trip since then, Erstad has eight hits in 18 at-bats and has raised his season average to .273, the highest it's been since April 3, also at .273.

''Now he's got that edge back that he needs to play,'' Percival said of Erstad. ''He's up there mano y mano, and has that look in his eyes. You know he's right.''

The same could be said about the Angels, who have outscored their opponents, 75-25, during the streak and climbing back to the .500 mark.

''We don't look at it as getting to .500,'' Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. ''Today's game is over. Now our challenge is tomorrow's game. That's the way you approach it. We're going to stay the course, and worry about tomorrow's game.''


TORONTO -- He hit 47 homers in 2000 and 41 last season, but third baseman Troy Glaus has only five this season, which puts him on a pace for 29.

Glaus, though, said his home run total is inconsequential to him. What matters are his RBI and runs scored totals. And so far Glaus has delivered. He has 27 RBIs, which puts him on a pace for 156. He's scored 23 runs, a pace for 133. Both would be Angels single-season records.

''Home runs don't matter; it's RBIs and runs scored. That's the way I've felt all my life,'' he said. ''Hitting home runs is nice, but it's only one run. Driving in two or three is better than going 1 for 4 with a solo homer any day.''

Glaus also is hitting for a higher average this year. Even though he went 0 for 3 Friday, he's hitting .290 this year, well above his .254 career average coming into the season. One reason Glaus has been so productive at the plate is his willingness to be more of a situational hitter and hitting to right field.

''It's a matter of understanding the situation and not trying to do too much,'' Glaus said. ''Not get too big in situations when maybe a single to right would be good enough.''

His approach is reflected in how he's done in clutch situations this season. Glaus is hitting .382 with runners in scoring position.
Glaus also gives credit to his teammates, who have been on base often recently.

'The more times you come up in certain situations, the more familiar you are with those situations,'' he said. ''The last two or three weeks I've had a bunch of opportunities and I've been doing all right.''


Ramon Ortiz began the season as the Angels' No. 5 starter, but so far he has been the club's most consistent starter. He's the only Angel starter to pitch at least six innings in every start and is the only starter to register a complete game. His 2.55 ERA is fifth-best in the American League.

It should not come as a surprise considering he led the team with 13 wins last season. But Ortiz's ability has never been the question. His maturity on the mound and ability to focus in certain situations had been an issue until this season.

''Very few pitchers come onto the scene like a (Freddy) Garcia, (Tim) Hudson or (Mark) Mulder,'' manager Mike Scioscia said. ''There's really a seasoning guys have to go through before settling in and being able to execute tough pitches. The couple years Ramon has spent in the majors have had an impact on him.''


Catcher Bengie Molina, who sustained a bruise to his left thigh when falling into the dugout trying to catch a foul popup Thursday in Cleveland, did not play Friday. Jorge Fabregas started in his place.

Molina is expected back in the lineup for today's game.

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