By Joe Haakenson, AngelsWin.com Contributor -
JUNE 2, 2002
GAME 53 - ANGELS
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Angels and Minnesota Twins finished their weekend series with nothing lost and nothing gained, other than maybe a little respect for each other.
The Angels held on for a 5-4 win Sunday afternoon before 18,657 at the Metrodome to gain a split in the four-game series against the American League Central Division leader.
Angels starter Aaron Sele (5-3) went seven-plus innings to get the win, getting help from the bullpen and support from the offense, which included three hits each by Orlando Palmeiro and Garret Anderson.
Troy Percival threw a perfect ninth to finish it off for his ninth save, and the Angels returned to Southern California having split the six games on the trip to Kansas City and Minnesota.
During the Angels' hot stretch, the only team with a winning record against them are the Twins, who have won four of seven.
``Any time you come away from here with a win, it's going to give you a lift,'' Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. ``We played a very tough club. I hope they're saying the same thing about us. I think both clubs showed neither club is going to quit.''
Sele has had trouble in the first inning this season, and he found himself in a jam in the first on Sunday. He walked the first batter of the game, Jacque Jones, and two outs later, walked Corey Koskie.
Torii Hunter followed with a hard grounder that ate up shortstop Benji Gil, who made an error and loaded the bases. But Sele escaped when second baseman Adam Kennedy made a nice play on David Ortiz's grounder up the middle.
After Sele gave up a solo homer on the first pitch of the second inning to Brian Buchanan, he found a groove. He didn't allow another hit until A.J. Pierzynski's one-out double in the seventh.
``He locked himself in and found his (arm) slot,'' catcher Jorge Fabregas said of Sele. ``He gained confidence as he went on. When he doesn't feel confident, you could see him out there wondering at times. You can see the frustration on his face and he becomes timid. But today he was more aggressive. He finished his pitches strong.''
Sele gave up a season-high 11 hits in his previous start against Kansas City, but Sunday he gave up a season-low three hits. The difference for Sele was his command, particulary with his curveball.
``When he's executing his pitches, you see what he can do,'' Scioscia said. ``That's a good offensive lineup. One of the few mistakes he made all day was the fastball to Buchanan. Aaron pitched a very effective game.''
Said Sele: ``We mixed our pitches well and the guys played outstanding defense. Any time you play in the dome crazy things happen, but the guys played well out there.''
The Angels took the lead in the fourth inning on consecutive RBI singles by Fabregas and Gil for a 2-1 lead. They increased their lead to 3-1 on an RBI double by Scott Spiezio in the fifth, and then 4-1 on an RBI single by Palmeiro in the sixth.
The Twins rallied with a run in the seventh to knock Sele out of the game, cutting their deficit to 4-2. But the Angels got a big run in the eighth when Palmeiro tripled and scored on Darin Erstad's groundout. Palmeiro was a home run short of the cycle.
In the bottom of the eighth the Twins got a two-run homer by Doug Mientkiewicz off Dennis Cook. But that's as close as they got.
``It's good from our standpoint to win these close ones,'' Angels right fielder Tim Salmon said. ``We really haven't had much of a challenge in the last month. `Challenge' isn't the right word, but we've played well early in a lot of games and had big leads.''
MINNEAPOLIS -- While on his rehab assignment having recovered from thumb surgery, first baseman/DH Shawn Wooten strained a muscle in his right side that will keep him out three to six weeks.
Wooten suffered the injury swinging the bat in Friday's game for Triple-A Salt Lake. He was about a week away from joining the big league club after missing all season because of the thumb injury suffered March 13 in a spring training game.
``It's a big window because we don't know how long it's going to be,'' manager Mike Scioscia said. ``But it's not something you mess around with.''
Wooten led the team in hitting last season with a .312 average, but he missed the last month of the season because of surgery on his wrist to repair cartilage damage.
``The last couple of years he's been banged up,'' Scioscia said. ``Before this he's been healthy. He got hit with a couple things and you can't do much about it. I don't think his history says he's absolutely injury prone.''
The Angels have made do without Wooten's bat all season, but Scioscia says the club was looking forward to having him back.
``When Woot's swinging well he can hit righties and lefties,'' Scioscia said. ``He's an important part of the club. I wouldn't say his role is filled. We have a lot of confidence in (Benji) Gil, but I it's not like we won't miss Woot.''
Wooten was hitting .294 (5 for 17) during his rehab assignment for Salt Lake.
The Angels finished the month with a record of 19-7, the best month of May in the franchise's history. Overall, they are 31-22, fourth best in the American League behind the Red Sox, Yankees and Mariners.
But the impressive record in May means little if the club folds in September, like it has in past seasons. In 1995, '97 and '98, the Angels led the division as late as August and September only to end up watching the playoffs on television.
``It's always good when you're playing well, but at the same time you have to maintain the outlook that it's only May,'' said right fielder Tim Salmon, who has the longest tenure with the club. ``We can't lose sight of the fact that we've got to keep playing this way for four more months. There's a tendency at times when you're playing well to get complacent. We can't let that happen.''
That might have happened in '95, when the Angels held an 11-game lead in early August only to blow the lead and lose a one-game playoff to Seattle. That team had a lot of talent, but possibly some young players that didn't know how to handle the early success.
Salmon says this year's team is different.
``We have enough young players coming into their own with some veteran leadership,'' he said. ``But with these younger players there is a sense of maturity. I don't see the immaturity of, `Hey, we're on top of the world.' ''