By Joe Haakenson, AngelsWin.com Contributor -
SEPT. 6, 2002
GAME 140 - ANGELS AT ORIOLES
BALTIMORE -- As the Angels got dressed following their game against the Baltimore Orioles Friday night at Camden Yards, the clubhouse television was showing another game.
No, not the Oakland A's game against the Minnesota Twins. It was the college football game between BYU and Hawaii. The Angels don't seem too concerned about what the A's are doing, not when they're winning themselves.
Behind the pitching of starter John Lackey and key hits from Adam Kennedy and Brad Fullmer, the Angels won their eighth consecutive game, 6-3, over the Orioles before a crowd of 24,045.
It marks the third time this season the Angels have won as many as eight in a row. They have not won nine straight. Their record of 86-54 is five games better than the franchise's previous best record through 140 games. The 1986 team was 81-59.
And because the A's lost, snapping their 20-game winning streak, the Angels moved to within two games of first place in the American League West. Seattle won, so the Angels' lead in the wild-card race remained at four games.
Lackey (8-3) continued to pitch the way he has since he was called up in June to replace Scott Schoeneweis in the rotation -- execute his pitches, pitch with poise and pitch deep enough into the game.
About the only thing Lackey can't do, he says, is dress as snazzy as Schoeneweis, whose locker is next to Lackey's. Overhearing Lackey's comment, Schoeneweis reminded Lackey, ``If it wasn't for me, you wouldn't be here.''
Lackey laughed it off, like he has just about everything since making his major league debut on June 24. He gave up three runs and four hits in six innings Friday, overcoming a slow start when he yielded two runs in the first inning.
``There's a little bit of pressure but mostly this is exciting for me,'' Lackey said. ``These guys gave me a great opportunity to be here and be in a pennant race.
``I used to be keyed up, too intense, like in high school. But I've learned to harness it, make it good energy and not distract me.''
Lackey settled down after Jay Gibbons' RBI double in the first made it 2-0. He retired the next 12 batters he faced, the streak ending on Mike Bordick's solo homer in the fifth. But by that time, the Angels offense had taken a lead.
Kennedy hit a two-out, two-run homer off Orioles starter Sean Douglass (0-2) in the second inning. It was Kennedy's sixth homer of the season, but his third in the past six games.
``It's just being a better hitter,'' Kennedy said of his recent power. ``You hit the ball with authority when you're being a better hitter. It's nice to see the ball fly like that when you hit it well.''
Fullmer singled home a run in the third to put the Angels up, 3-2, and Garret Anderson hit a solo homer -- his third in two days and 24th of the season -- to put the Angels up, 4-2. It was 4-3 in the eighth when Fullmer came up with a key hit, driving home two with a single to right field with two outs and the count 1-2.
``I've been terrible (.240) with runners in scoring position this year,'' Fullmer said. ``Now, I'm just trying to shorten up a little bit and use the whole field. Maybe I was trying to do too much before, I don't know. I tried to be short and the ball found a hole.''
Lackey turned the ball over to the bullpen after the sixth, when Brendan Donnelly (1 2/3 innings), Schoeneweis (one-third inning) and Troy Percival (one inning, 34th save), blanked the Orioles on two hits over the final three innings.
Even though the Angels are well aware of their upcoming games vs. the A's, they seem content to ignore them until they have to. They have two more games against the Orioles this weekend, meaning it's possible they can go into that series tied with the A's.
``We're not looking at where we've been and we're not looking at where we are,'' Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. ``We're looking at tomorrow.''
BALTIMORE -- Friday was the seven-year anniversary of Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken Jr.'s 2,131st consecutive game played, breaking Lou Gehrig's record, and it came against the Angels. Four Angels players who were with the team then are still in uniform with the club now -- Troy Percival, Tim Salmon, Garret Anderson and Orlando Palmeiro.
Another player, Rex Hudler, is now one of the club's television broadcasters. Hudler was asked to do numerous interviews Friday about that day, what he calls the highlight of his 21-year professional baseball career.
``I remember coming to the ballpark that day and they had Mike Mussina pitching,'' Hudler said. ``There was no chance I was playing because I usually played only against left-handers. But I was in the lineup (at second base).''
The baseballs used in the game had special orange stitching and a No. 8 logo imprint to commemorate the game, and Hudler remembered how he and his teammates did their best to secure one of the game-used balls.
``In the third inning there was a popup to shallow right field and I was camped under it, but Salmon called me off and caught it for the third out,'' Hudler said. ``I said, `What are you doing?' And he said, `Hud, you'll get one, I've got mine.' ''
In the bottom of the fifth, Ripken hit a popup to shallow right-center that Hudler ran down and caught for the final out of the inning.
``I went after that ball like it was an 8-carat diamond,'' Hudler said. ``After I caught it I ran right into the clubhouse and put it in my briefcase.''
Hudler still has the ball, which Ripken later signed. Hudler's daughter, Alyssa, also did some art work on the ball, scribbling on it with a marker when she was 3. The highlight of the night, Hudler said, was when Ripken did a lap around the field after the top of the fifth inning and the game became official.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia was a minor league instructor for the Dodgers that year, and said he watched the game on TV.
``I remember feeling how special a moment it was even though it was through the TV screen,'' he said. ``I had goose bumps watching it.''
Shortstop David Eckstein extended his hitting streak to a career-best 13 consecutive games on Friday with a fourth-inning single. He went 2 for 4 with two walks, raising his season average to .302.
Eckstein, who is hitting .542 (26 for 48) during the hitting streak, hit just .219 (21 for 96) in September/October of last season. So he made it a point to improve upon that this season.
``I just made sure I did something every day in the offseason, no matter what,'' Eckstein said of his workouts. ``If my body was used to doing something every day, it wouldn't get tired late in the season.''
Eckstein still plays at a break-neck pace, but says he gets his rest when he's away from the field. He gets at least eight hours of sleep every night and he's never had a beer or any alcoholic beverage in his life. And that might explain his energy on the field.
``With Eck there's no such thing as pacing yourself,'' Scioscia said. ``In this game you learn to pace yourself as far as outside activities.''
Hudler said the Oakland A's have purchased 2,500 Rally Monkeys, the Angels' stuffed animal mascot that is sold at Edison Field. Presumably, the A's will distribute the monkeys to some of their fans when the Angels play in Oakland Sept. 16-19.
What those fans will do with the monkeys remains to be seen.
The Salt Lake Stingers, the Angels' Triple-A team, completed a three-game sweep of Oklahoma (Texas Rangers) with a 1-0 victory Friday in the Pacific Coast League's American Conference championship. Salt Lake next will play either Las Vegas (Dodgers) or Edmonton (Minnesota Twins) for the PCL title.
Both reliever Dennis Cook (shoulder) and right fielder Tim Salmon (hand) felt fine Friday, one day after playing Thursday for the first time in a while. Cook had been out since July 4 and Salmon since Aug. 10.