By Joe Haakenson, AngelsWin.com Contributor -
SEPT. 5, 2002
GAME 139 - ANGELS AT DEVIL RAYS
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Stepping into the batter's box in the sixth inning Thursday night at Tropicana Field, Garret Anderson had already hit a three-run homer, a double and a single. A triple away from hitting for the cycle for the first time in his career, the Angels' left fielder ripped a line drive to right-center field.
It went over the fence.
Anderson was kidded that if he didn't touch homeplate and the play was appealed, he would have had the triple and the cycle.
``I wouldn't give up one of those to hit for the cycle,'' said Anderson, who tied a career-high with seven RBIs in the Angels' 10-1 win over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. ``You get it the right way or don't get it at all.''
The two homers gave Anderson 23 this season, passing Troy Glaus for the team lead. The double was his 51st, most in the majors.
``The difference with those two (homers) tonight was we weren't at home,'' Anderson said. ``Those aren't home runs in our ballpark; they're doubles off the wall.''
Either way, it was more than enough for the Angels to complete the three-game sweep of the Devil Rays and win their seventh in a row overall. They have had winning streaks of seven or more three times this season.
The win also moved the Angels closer to the idle Oakland A's in the American League West. They closed to within three games of the A's while increasing their wild-card lead over Seattle to four games.
Shortstop David Eckstein added three hits, extending his hitting streak to 12 games and raising his season average to .300. Angels starting pitcher Ramon Ortiz, coming off a shutout of the Orioles, gave up one run and six hits in seven innings to improve to 12-9.
Anderson has been the team's MVP this season, and in manager Mike Scioscia's eyes, Anderson should be considered for the league MVP.
``You look at his numbers (.311, 23 homers, 108 RBIs) and what he does for the club, there's no question he deserves consideration for MVP,'' Scioscia said. ``A lot of guys are the cornerstone of the club like Eck and Garret. But (the MVP) is not a motivation for Garret. He's here to drive in runs and he's doing it at a pace that puts him among an elite group in our league.''
If Anderson had a vote for MVP, he wouldn't pick himself.
``In my eyes, what I think the MVP is, no,'' he said. ``I think Alex (Rodriguez) is having a great year, playing every day, scoring runs, driving in runs, hitting home runs. That's my definition of an MVP.''
Rodriguez's Rangers, however, are pulling up the rear in the A.L. West and are winding down their season. Anderson seems to be warming up for the playoffs.
``I'm just trying to add on to what everybody else is doing,'' Anderson said. ``It's a different player every night.''
The Angels scored single runs in the first and third innings but their lead was cut to 2-1 in the fourth when Aubrey Huff homered off Ortiz, who has allowed a major league-leading 36 homers this season.
But after that, Ortiz shut down the Devil Rays through the seventh, handing the ball over to the bullpen.
``He made as many good pitches with his fastball in this game as he did his last game against Baltimore,'' Scioscia said. ``He located on the corners and had good movement. He can do a lot of things when he has command of his fastball.''
The Angels would like to see the same thing from Ortiz in his next start, which comes Tuesday in Anaheim against the A's.
``Now, I feel great,'' Ortiz said. ``I have a lot of power on my fastball. I'm consistent with my fastball, 94-, 95-mph. I don't know why, but I'm more consistent with my fastball.''
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Reliever Dennis Cook, who opted for rehab instead of surgery after he learned he had a partially torn labrum in his left shoulder, pitched the ninth inning in the Angels' 10-1 win over the Devil Rays on Thursday.
Cook, who probably will retire after the season, pitched a 1-2-3 inning, getting two groundouts and a flyout. He had not pitched in a game since July 4.
``It meant a lot,'' Cook said. ``It (his career) could have been over. I could have had surgery. I'm glad I changed my mind. I just want to go out and compete and maybe get a chance to pitch in the playoffs. I feel like I'm in a one-month tryout to make the playoff roster.''
If Cook pitches like he did Thursday, there's a good chance he will, provided the Angels make it.
``He looked better than he had for most of the year,'' manager Mike Scioscia said. ``He got his strength back and got the inflammation out. Hopefully as we go down the stretch he'll be there for us.''
Right fielder Tim Salmon returned to the starting lineup for the first time since he was hit by a pitch on Aug. 10, suffering a bone bruise in his left hand.
Salmon batted No. 7 in the order, Scioscia's way of allowing Salmon to get his timing back without having the pressure of hitting in the No. 3 spot. Salmon went 22 games without an at-bat, so it might take some time before he can get his rhythm at the plate. Until then, Scioscia said, Salmon can still be productive.
``He's going to contribute,'' Scioscia said. ``Even when he's struggling he contributes, taking his walks and getting on base. And just his presence in the lineup is important.''
Salmon went 0 for 2 with two walks on Thursday.
``I felt pretty good up there,'' Salmon said. ``The big thing is seeing pitches and getting my rhythm back. But as far as swinging with authority, I felt good tonight.''
The Angels' Triple-A team at Salt Lake won the Game 1 of the Pacific Coast League American Conference playoffs on Wednesday, beating Oklahoma (Texas Rangers) 7-5. First baseman Larry Barnes hit a three-run homer and center fielder Jeff DaVanon went 2 for 3 in the victory.
The other Angels' affiliate to reach the playoffs -- Single-A Cedar Rapids -- won Game 1 of the Midwest League West Division playoffs, 8-4, over Quad City. First baseman Casey Kotchman, their first-round pick in 2001, went 4 for 6.
Second baseman Adam Kennedy ranks second in the American League in batting (minimum 150 at-bats) since the All-Star break. Kennedy is hitting .365 (57 for 156), second to the Yankees' Bernie Williams (.381, 82 for 215).
Former Devil Rays pitcher Jim Morris, promoting the release of the DVD ``The Rookie,'' threw out the first pitch before Thursday's game. The Devil Rays might have been wise to keep him in the game as starter Joe Kennedy gave up eight runs in 5 2/3 innings.