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Angels’ Timing Is Everything

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The hits weren’t back-to-back home runs--actually, neither ball was even hit very hard--but considering the circumstances, Tim Salmon and Garret Anderson put together two of the best successive at-bats of the season Sunday, keying a five-run seventh inning that led to the Angels’ 8-6 victory over the Minnesota Twins before 15,356 in the Metrodome.

Salmon, facing a steady stream of nasty breaking balls, fought off a Mike Trombley curve and dumped a two-out, two-run double into right field to pull the Angels within 6-5.

Anderson, who had one hit in seven at-bats against reliever Greg Swindell this season, then stroked a two-run single to right against Swindell that put the Angels in front, 7-6.

Eddie Murray followed with an RBI double to make it 8-6.

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Mike James, making his first appearance in a week, pitched scoreless seventh and eighth innings, and closer Troy Percival blew the Twins away in the ninth for his fifth save and the Angels’ 17th come-from-behind victory.

“I just caught a break,” said Salmon, who homered in the sixth inning and had a sacrifice fly in the first. “I faced Trombley in the minor leagues and knew he had that sweeping curve, but he usually threw it outside. This time, he was coming inside with it.”

With the bases loaded and the Angels trailing, 6-3, Salmon seemed helpless as he looked at two Trombley curves, both knee-bucklers that were called strikes.

He took another for a ball before nicking the fourth with the end of his bat, getting just enough of the pitch to loop it over first baseman Scott Stahoviak’s head for a two-run double.

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“After the first two, I was like, ‘Dang, how am I going to hit this thing?’ ” Salmon said. “I was a little nervous. Those were nasty curves, and I’ve never seen him throw it that many times in a row. But I got lucky, no question about it.”

Anderson’s hit was anything but lucky.

He turned on a fastball and grounded a ball through the second-base hole.

“Tying the game with a hit is a big deal, but giving your team the lead with a two-out hit is huge,” Anderson said, “especially when [Swindell] has gotten me out a lot and probably expects to get me out again.”

Tony Phillips, who tripled and scored in the first inning, started the seventh-inning rally with a one-out walk off Twin starter Rich Robertson, and Luis Alicea, who had three hits, singled.

Minnesota Manager Tom Kelly, wanting Dave Hollins to bat from the left side instead of the right, went to Trombley, but Hollins foiled that strategy by drawing a walk to load the bases.

Jim Leyritz flied to shallow left, the runners holding, before Salmon, Anderson and Murray came through with their hits, as the Angels earned a split of the four-game series and ended snapped a two-game losing streak.

Salmon, whose season has evolved into a series of hot and cold streaks, is eight for 18 with two homers and nine RBIs in his last five games.

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“When he starts swinging the bat, this is a different team,” Collins said. “I hope he’s on an upswing now, because he’s one of the keys to the team.”

So is James, the set-up man who sat out six games because of elbow tendinitis. But the right-hander was sharp in his return Sunday, pitching two hitless innings in relief of starter Dennis Springer, striking out Greg Myers with a wicked fastball to end the seventh and walking one in the eighth.

“That just changes the whole bullpen, the whole scene late in the game,” Collins said. "[James] can give you two innings to get to Troy. Our bullpen was tired--I’ve seen a lot of ice bags down there lately--but he makes our bullpen that much better.”


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