It’s easy to look at all the home runs flying off Angel bats, as they did in Sunday’s 10-5 victory over the New York Yankees before a paid 31,103 in Anaheim Stadium, and conclude that power is the sole reason the Angels lead the major leagues in runs.
But the Angels, who maintained their 9 1/2-game lead in the American League West, do much more around the bases than trot, and their aggressive baserunning may be producing as many runs as their booming bats.
Before Jim Edmonds’ two-run home run in the fourth inning and Garret Anderson’s three-run homer in the fifth and Greg Myers’ two-run blast in the fifth, the Angels tied the game Sunday with two plays that accentuated their prowess on the paths:
--First inning, Edmonds on third, one out, Chili Davis hit a fly ball to medium right field. Edmonds retreated to the bag, figuring he would bluff to home and at least force a throw from Yankee right fielder Paul O’Neill.
But O’Neill, playing as if he thought Edmonds would hold, was flat-footed when he made the catch. Edmonds tagged and easily beat the throw, pulling the Angels within 2-1.
--Second inning, with Damion Easley running from first, Tony Phillips ripped a single to center. Easley raced around second and, much to his surprise, got the green light from third-base coach Rick Burleson to head home.
Yankee second baseman Pat Kelly’s relay reached catcher Mike Stanley on one hop and ahead of Easley. But Easley kicked the ball out of Stanley’s glove with his sliding foot, then whacked him in the head with his elbow, and was safe with the run that made it 2-2. An inning later, Stanley left the game because of dizziness.
“That’s how we’ve been playing all year, aggressive on the bases,” said Phillips, who Sunday joined Edmonds as the first Angels to score 100 runs in a season since the 1987 trio of Brian Downing (110), Devon White (103) and Wally Joyner (100).
“We’re not a station-to-station team by any means. We go from first to third on singles, we get good jumps off second, and it’s one of the reasons we’re scoring so many runs.”
The Angels now have 147 homers, third most in baseball, and 655 runs, but they might also possess one of the game’s most misleading statistics: They rank 27th out of 28 major league teams in stolen bases with 43.
“Stolen bases are overrated,” said Willie Randolph, Yankee third base coach and former second baseman. “Our great Yankee teams in the 1970s didn’t steal a lot of bases but scored tons of runs.
“Speed is a luxury--it can get you through some tough times--but I’d rather have a good overall baserunning team. The Angels are aggressive on the basepaths, they have a lot of eager young players who are looking to make their mark, and that puts a lot of pressure on the defense.”
Angel Manager Marcel Lachemann credits Burleson, the former Boston Red Sox and Angel shortstop, for the team’s baserunning success. Burleson has molded the Angels into a feisty, run-hungry group--just like himself.
“It’s no secret we don’t have any real burners--Tony is our stolen base leader, and he’s, what, 36 years old?” Burleson said. “But we can go first to third, second to home, with anybody, and that sets the tone for the offense. It’s our style, and the players are proud of it.”
Angel pitchers appreciate it. Mark Langston gave up four runs on eight hits in 6 2/3 innings Sunday to improve to 13-2, and the Angels have averaged 7.1 runs a game in his 23 starts. “This team has picked me up the entire year,” Langston said.
Edmonds, who now leads the major leagues in runs (101) and runs batted in (95), had his third four-hit game of the season Sunday, and Phillips and Easley each had two hits and two runs.
Langston gave up a two-run homer to Bernie Williams in the first, but the Angels countered with their run in the first, two in the second (Edmonds knocked in the go-ahead run with a single) and two in the fourth on Edmonds’ 29th homer of the season.
Yankee starter Sterling Hitchcock walked Davis and J.T. Snow to open the fifth, and Anderson followed with a towering, three-run homer to right, his 13th of the season. Anderson leads all AL rookies in RBIs with 57 despite playing in only 69 games. Myers followed Easley’s single with his seventh homer of the year.
“It was one of those days when everything is in sync,” Easley said, “and we turned it up to full throttle.”