By Joe Haakenson, AngelsWin.com Contributor -
AUG. 1, 2002
GAME 107 - YANKEES AT ANGELS
ANAHEIM -- The Angels have had a nice little season, winning some games and making a name for themselves. But now August is here, and until Thursday night, the one team in the American League the Angels had not played -- the New York Yankees -- were in town.
``We've heard a lot about the Angels and seen their turnaround,'' Yankees manager Joe Torre said before the game. ``Playing them is a chance to measure yourself against another good team. In case you have to face them in the postseason, you want to see how you match up against them.''
If the Yankees weren't impressed before facing the Angels, they probably are now. Angels starter Jarrod Washburn gave up one run and four hits in seven innings, got stellar defense behind him, just enough offense and clutch pitching from the bullpen in a 2-1 win before a sellout crowd of 42,897 at Edison Field.
``We've played well against them in the past but I feel a different confidence level in this clubhouse,'' Washburn said. ``I think everybody does.''
Because the Seattle Mariners also won, the Angels remain two games out in the American League West. But the Angels took a one-game lead over the Boston Red Sox in the wild-card race.
Garret Anderson's sacrifice fly in the first inning and Brad Fullmer's solo homer in the fourth inning provided all the offense the Angels would need. Second baseman Adam Kennedy and third baseman Troy Glaus made big plays on defense. But the key to the game might have been the work of the bullpen, especially in the eighth inning.
Brendan Donnelly, Scott Schoeneweis and Ben Weber combined to shut down the heart of the Yankees lineup, handing the ball over to Troy Percival, who pitched the ninth for his 25th save.
Going into the game the Angels bullpen had not allowed an earned run in nine games, a span of 22 1/3 innings. But leading off the eighth, Derek Jeter beat out an infield single against Donnelly.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia then brought in the left-handed Schoeneweis to face the left-handed hitting Jason Giambi, and the strategy paid off as Giambi struck out.
Scioscia went to the bullpen again, this time for Weber to face the switch-hitting Bernie Williams, who lined a single to center. Weber, a groundball pitcher, remained in the game to face Jorge Posada, and Weber got that groundball. Posada grounded into a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning.
``I've been saying all along this is one of the best bullpens I've ever been in,'' Percival said.
Percival pitched a 1-2-3 ninth, getting pinch hitter Robin Ventura, who has 22 home runs, on a liner to right to end it.
``Another guy coming off the bench who can hit a home run ... it's a joke,'' Percival said. ``They've got 25 guys who are All-Stars.''
Washburn improved to 13-3 with the win, allowing only an RBI single by Ron Coomer in his seven innings.
``I have a lot of adrenaline every time I pitch, but I love pitching in big games,'' said Washburn, who is 4-2 this season against the Mariners, A's and Yankees. ``And from here on out, all the games are big. I love having pressure on me. I love being out there when it matters. Everyone in here feels the say way. I don't want to play in games that don't mean anything.''
The Angels got started quickly, scoring a first-inning run off Yankees starter Jeff Weaver (7-10), which was a small victory in itself. While with the Tigers, Weaver pitched well against the Angels, particularly at Edison Field, where he held a 1.17 ERA.
Darin Erstad started the rally with a one-out walk. Tim Salmon singled Erstad to third, and Erstad scored on Anderson's sacrifice fly.
In the fourth, Fullmer hit a 94-mph fastball from Weaver over the right-field wall to put the Angels up, 2-0. It was Fullmer's first home run since June 28.
While the win was nice for the Angels, they realize they've still got six more games against the Yankees this season, including three this weekend.
``That's a terrific club,'' Scioscia said. ``The Yankees are about as tough as they get. If you had to play that team 162 games, it wouldn't be a picnic.''
ANAHEIM -- The Angels did not make the blockbuster deal before Wednesday's non-waiver trading deadline that would have made a dramatic impact, but it wasn't because general manager Bill Stoneman didn't try.
The Angels were in discussions with the Montreal Expos for outfielder Cliff Floyd before he was traded to the Red Sox for two minor league pitchers on Tuesday. Once Floyd was off the table, the Angels went after and got Alex Ochoa from the Milwaukee Brewers.
Ochoa arrived at Edison Field Thursday afternoon, met with manager Mike Scioscia and began the process of fitting in with his new team, the sixth of the major league career.
``It's always a little bit difficult because you're used to a different environment,'' Ochoa said. ``Especially when it happens during the season. But I've done it before, and I know if I play hard I'll fit in.''
Ochoa knew only one Angel player before joining the club -- outfielder Orlando Palmeiro, as both are from Miami and have relatives in Cuba. Ochoa also has to get used to a new league, having played all of his career in the National League before joining the Angels.
``It's different, but the one thing I've got to do is keep it simple -- see the ball, hit the ball,'' he said. ``I'll talk with Orlando a lot and learn as much as I can by watching. They've got a lot of great hitters on this club.''
Before Thursday's game, the Angels activated catcher Bengie Molina from the disabled list. Molina, who started Thursday's game against the Yankees, had been out since July 16 with a strained left hamstring. To make room on the roster for Molina the Angels designated utility infielder Jose Nieves for assignment.
Because Nieves is out of options, he can be claimed off waivers by another team, something that could happen as soon as today.
Nieves, who hit .289 with six RBIs in 45 games for the Angels this season, said he was disappointed but understood the move.
``This is the time something like this happens,'' said Nieves, who was acquired by the Angels in spring training of 2001 from the Cubs for pitcher Mike Fyhrie. ``Teams are looking to go to the playoffs and World Series and now is when they make their moves. It's understandable. I knew what was going on. Unfortunately, it happened to me.''
Nieves, though, was also disappointed in his playing time. He got 97 at-bats, but only nine in the month of July.
``Not really,'' Nieves said when asked if he got a fair chance. ``If you sit on the bench, it's still good to be in the big leagues. But it's not good to show your skills. It wasn't enough. I don't feel happy with the time I had.''
After averaging 75 at-bats per month in April, May and June, designated hitter Brad Fullmer had only 57 at-bats in July. Part of the reason for his decreased playing time had to do with the return of Shawn Wooten, who also gets at-bats as the DH.
But Fullmer also hasn't given the Angels what he gave the Blue Jays the past two seasons, when he averaged 25 homers and 94 RBIs. Even with his home run Thursday night, Fullmer has 11 homers and 35 RBIs, a pace for 17 homers and 53 RBIs.
``Certainly I'd like to have better numbers than I have right now,'' Fullmer said. ``I'm my own worst critic. Obviously, the first month of the season, I sucked. ... For me, I'm a lot about timing. At times it's hard to stay locked in at the plate. It's not an excuse, it's just a fact. It's important for me to get consistent at-bats.''