By Joe Haakenson, AngelsWin.com Contributor -
JULY 29, 2002
GAME 104 - RED SOX AT ANGELS
ANAHEIM -- The Angels fans stood on their feet, waiting to cheer the last out. But unlike in 1986, when the Boston Red Sox spoiled the Angels' best chance to go to a World Series, this time that final out came.
Angels closer Troy Percival got Johnny Damon on a comebacker with the potential tying run on second base to give the Angels a 5-4 win over the Red Sox before 27,929 at Edison Field. The Angels rallied from a 4-3 deficit with two runs in the eighth inning to provide the margin of victory and send home these fans happy, at least this time around.
With the win, the Angels remained in a virtual tie for first place in the American League West, two percentage points ahead of the Seattle Mariners, who also won Monday. The Red Sox fell two games behind the Angels and Mariners in the wild-card race.
Down 4-3 in the eighth inning, the Angels got a leadoff home run from Darin Erstad off Red Sox lefty Alan Embree. It was Erstad's first home run at home since July 26 of last season. Tim Salmon followed with a triple off the wall in right field, despite right fielder Trot Nixon's efforts. Garret Anderson then lofted a blooper to shallow center field. Damon made a sliding catch, but Salmon was able to tag and score to give the Angels a lead.
``It's been our trademark all year,'' Salmon said of the Angels' 31st come-from-behind victory of the season. ``We've got gutsy guys throughout the lineup and tonight it was me and Ersty's turn. Darin got the crowd into it with his homer and it got all of us (players) excited. I wasn't thinking home run but I was feeling a little frisky; I just wanted to get (his arms) extended.''
Percival gave up singles to Shea Hillenbrand and Carlos Baerga in the ninth, but got the final out for his 24th save. Brendan Donnelly and Scott Schoeneweis combined for two scoreless innings of relief, and Scott Spiezio had three hits, including a home run.
``It's amazing how we can feed off each other one night to the next, one inning to the next even one at-bat to the next,'' Salmon said.
Angels starter Aaron Sele was coming off one of his best performances of the season, holding the Oakland A's to one run in seven innings last Wednesday. Sele pitched well on Monday, but a couple mistakes hurt him.
Mistake No. 1 came in the fourth inning when Brian Daubach hit a two-run homer, tying the game at 3. Mistake No. 2 came in the sixth, when Hillenbrand's solo homer gave the Red Sox a 4-3 lead.
Sele was finished after six innings, having allowed the four runs and seven hits.
``It all starts with our pitchers,'' Erstad said. ``They give us a chance and keep us in the game.''
Erstad went into the game hitting only .193 (16 for 83) in July, so he arrived at the ballpark early for extra batting practice, which paid off in the eighth.
``I thought I did,'' Erstad said when asked if he figured anything out during the batting practice session. ``It just took me about seven hours before anything happened.''
The Angels scored one run in each of the first three innings off Red Sox starter Casey Fossum. In the first, Salmon reached on an error and scored on Anderson's double to the gap in right-center. With the hit, Anderson extended his hitting streak to 15 games.
Spiezio hit a solo homer in the second, and in the third David Eckstein singled and eventually scored on Salmon's groundout.
After the Red Sox tied the game the Angels missed an opportunity to get even in the seventh after putting runners on first and third with nobody out. But relievers Rolando Arrojo and Embree worked their way out of the jam to hold the lead. At least for one inning.
Many in the crowd chanted ``Let's go Red Sox'' throughout the game, but they could not be heard after the Angels' rally in the eighth.
``Our fans are awesome,'' Erstad said. ``You can't help but hear the Red Sox chants, but our fans don't want any part of that. They're in it with us.''
The Angels began the night with a 9-3 record vs. the American League East this season, but it was a deceptive 9-3. The Angels had yet to play the East's top two teams in the Red Sox and New York Yankees, whom the Angels play later this week.
With two of the league's top teams in town this week and the Angels fresh off another series victory over the Seattle Mariners, there is a lot of talk about the playoffs. While Scioscia acknowledged there is still a lot of baseball left in the season, he said he isn't concerned about the players looking ahead.
``We're not hiding the fact we're a championship-caliber club,'' he said. ``We know where we want to be, but we don't want to miss any spots along the way.''
ANAHEIM -- While the Angels might still trade for a reliever if the right deal comes along, it seems they've re-directed their focus towards acquiring a right-handed hitting outfielder.
The Angels currently have four outfielders on the major league roster in starters Garret Anderson, Darin Erstad and Tim Salmon and reserve Orlando Palmeiro. But the top outfielders in the organization are inexperienced, and in some cases injured, leaving the Angels worried about depth should one of their starters get hurt and have to miss more than a few games.
One outfielder the Angels have an interest in is Alex Ochoa of the Milwaukee Brewers. Ochoa, 30, is hitting .259 with six homers and 21 RBIs for the Brewers this season, and has a .279 career average. He's played for five teams in his major league career, including the Mets, Twins, Reds and Rockies.
Ochoa, who is making $2.75 million this season, is eligible for free agency after this season.
Angels starting pitcher Ramon Ortiz idolizes fellow Dominican Pedro Martinez, and tonight the two will oppose each other for the second time in their careers when the Angels play the Red Sox. The two first faced each other on Aug. 8, 2000, when Ortiz out-pitched Martinez in a 2-1 Angels win, Ortiz throwing a complete-game two-hitter.
While Ortiz said the game two years ago left him in awe, this time around it's different.
``I don't like to face Dominican pitchers,'' Ortiz said, ``but I have to. I try to look at it like I'm pitching against Boston, not Pedro. Everyone knows Pedro's the best pitcher in the major leagues. Pedro's a great guy, a great player and a great pitcher.''
Ortiz said the two remain friends but they don't talk as much as they used to. They live about one hour and 45 minutes apart in the Dominican.
Catcher Bengie Molina will begin a rehab assignment tonight playing for Single-A Rancho Cucamonga in a home game against Visalia. Molina has not played since July 16 because of a strained left hamstring. Initially he was expected to miss four to six weeks, but he has made a quick recovery.
Molina is eligible to be activated on Thursday.
Garret Anderson's RBI double in the first inning Monday extended his hitting streak to 15 games, the longest by an Angel this season. Anderson holds the franchise record for the longest hitting streak, 28 games, set in 1998.