By Joe Haakenson, AngelsWin.com Contributor -
GAME 56 - RANGERS AT ANGELS
ANAHEIM -- For 8 1/3 innings Wednesday night, the Angels' ``Little Ball'' approach was, well, just too little.
They managed only two runs off Texas Rangers starter Ismael Valdes (seven innings) and Anthony Telford (one inning) heading into the bottom of the ninth, trailing 4-2. Then they went big, getting home runs on consecutive pitches by Brad Fullmer and Tim Salmon off Rangers closer Hideki Irabu with one out in the ninth.
Problem was, the two homers only tied the game. In the top of the 10th, Herbert Perry's one-out triple off Al Levine scored Calvin Murray to give the Rangers a 5-4 lead.
But in the bottom of the 10th, the Angels rallied again with three runs, the final two coming on Troy Glaus' two-run homer off Irabu to give the Angels a dramatic 7-5 win before 15,301 at Edison Field.
It was the Angels' fourth win in a row and kept them within two games of the first-place Mariners in the A.L. West.
Glaus came to the plate in the 10th hitless in his first four at-bats. After striking out against Rangers starter Ismael Valdes in the third inning, he slammed his bat and helmet to the ground.
But with the score tied at 5 and Darin Erstad on first base in the 10th, Glaus hammered a 2-1 fastball into the rock formation beyond the center field fence for the win.
``There's nothing you can do about the first four at-bats,'' Glaus said. ``(Bench coach) Joe (Maddon) has been telling me for years, it only takes one at-bat to have a great day. Tonight it worked out.''
Though Glaus' homer won it, the winning rally began in the 10th with Adam Kennedy's ground-rule double to right field. David Eckstein, whose error in the seventh inning led to an unearned run, squared to bunt Kennedy over to third.
Eckstein bunted toward third base, but the third baseman Perry broke back to cover third and by the time Irabu picked the ball up Eckstein easily beat it out. Erstad followed with a slow grounder to shortstop that forced Eckstein at second but scored Kennedy to tie the game.
``Eck's a terrific bunter,'' Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. ``That bunt was tough to read and Eck put it in no man's land. The home runs were obviously a big story today but our offense is more than home runs. Adam getting on base and Eck bunting for a base hit sets the tone for the whole inning.''
However, there was bunting in the ninth. Fullmer and Salmon simply unloaded on Irabu, who has two blown saves in his past five games.
``That's what makes us a good team,'' Eckstein said. ``We can do the little things, but we've got the guys who can change the game with one swing of the bat.''
Salmon was one of five Angels to have two hits in the game, raising his average to a season-high .270. And seeing the results of Wednesday's game seemed to make him wonder what's in store for this club.
``It was awesome,'' he said. ``Maybe it's one of those things that was meant to be. Like last month, everything was going our way. You just take it while you can.''
The late rally allowed Angels starter Jarrod Washburn to keep his winning streak alive, even though he got a no-decision. Washburn, who has won five decisions in a row, gave up four runs (three earned) and eight hits in 6 2/3 innings, but was out-pitched by his former teammate, Valdes.
Washburn gave up a couple of home runs, Alex Rodriguez's American League-leading 20th and Juan Gonzalez's 400th career homer. Both, however, were solo homers.
``It's quick and painless and it's over with,'' Washburn said of the solo homers.
Washburn got solid relief help from Ben Weber (2 1/3 scoreless innings) and Al Levine, who got the victory to improve to 3-1.
ANAHEIM -- The Angels made things easy on themselves this time around, agreeing to a signing bonus with first-round pick Joe Saunders of Virginia Tech.
Saunders, who was the 12th overall selection in Tuesday's draft, agreed to a pre-draft deal with the Angels for $1.825 million. The agreement was announced Wednesday.
Last year, the Angels drafted Casey Kotchman in the first round (13th pick overall). Kotchman is the son of long-time Angels coach Tom Kotchman, but it still took the two sides seven weeks before Kotchman agreed to a bonus of $2.075 million.
``I was expecting a long, drawn-out ordeal,'' said Saunders, who has been assigned to play at Rookie League Provo of the Pioneer League. ``It went so smoothly, so nicely, it was amazing. I had heard about the bad stories between the agents and different teams. But nothing like that happened here. My advisor (Chris Berry) and the Angels did a tremendous job.''
Saunders, 20, went 9-2 with a 2.86 ERA last season at Virginia Tech and expects to reach the big leagues.
``I set a goal for myself to get there as quickly as I can,'' he said. ``But you can't put a time frame on it because you don't know what's going to happen the next few years. I'm taking it one step at a time right now.''
Left fielder Garret Anderson went into Wednesday's game with 21 doubles, tied for the American League lead with Alfonso Soriano of the Yankees and Nomar Garciaparra of the Red Sox.
At his current pace, Anderson would finish with 62 doubles for the season, which would easily break the club record of 42 shared by Jim Edmonds (1998), Johnny Ray (1988) and Doug DeCinces (1982).
``He's always been a high extra-base guy,'' manager Mike Scioscia said. ``He's not always hit a lot of home runs, but he's had a lot of doubles. When he's going well he uses the whole field, and that lends to a lot of extra-base hits.''
Shawn Wooten said he felt a lot better Wednesday, but there still is no timetable for him to resume baseball workouts. Wooten, on a rehab assignment while recovering from thumb surgery, strained a muscle on his right side last Friday. He's expected to be out anywhere from three to six weeks.