Anderson Gives Angels Big Hit in 5-3 Victory
Manager Terry Collins juggled his lineup to try to shake the lethargy out of his struggling offense, and for one of the few times in the month of July an Angel plan came to fruition.
There was no resemblance to Murderers Row here Wednesday night, but new leadoff hitter Jim Edmonds scored twice, new No. 2 hitter Justin Baughman had an RBI and scored a run, and the team’s hottest hitter, Garret Anderson, who was moved up to the No. 5 slot, drove in the decisive runs with a two-out, two-run double in the ninth inning as the Angels beat the Twins, 5-3, in front of 10,484 in the Metrodome.
“We’ve been waiting quite a few days for that kind of hit,” Collins said. “We’ve got a long way to go, but let’s hope this is the end of our last real bad streak.”
The Angels rallied to beat the Twins here May 31, beginning a streak in which they would win 22 games in June, and there was plenty of hopeful talk about a deja vu jump-start.
“This is where we got it going last month, with a come-from-behind win,” catcher Phil Nevin said. “Well, this wasn’t exactly a come-from-behind win, but the way we’ve been going, it might as well have been. A two-out knock in the ninth of a tie game, that’s the kind of thing that can pick you up and carry you.”
Knuckleballer Steve Sparks bore much of the load for the Angels for the first seven innings, giving up six hits and three runs while striking out seven and walking two. Mike Holtz and Shigetoshi Hasegawa, who earned the victory to improve his record to 5-1, pitched the eighth and Troy Percival pitched the ninth to pick up his league-leading 28th save as the Angels moved to within a half-game of first-place Texas in the American League West.
The movement on Sparks’ floater was evident from the outset when Minnesota leadoff hitter Otis Nixon fell back out of the batter’s box . . . on a pitch that was called strike three.
“When Paul Molitor turns around to you and says, ‘Wow,’ that’s pretty impressive,” Nevin said. “I think he’s seen a few knuckleballs in his career.”
Sparks, who walked five, gave up five runs and lasted one inning in his last start, was able to establish that he could throw knuckleballs for strikes Wednesday night, and that is a must for him.
“If I can send an early message to the other team that I can throw it for strikes and then they chase a few, it expands the strike zone,” he said. “I probably threw 95% knuckleballs tonight. In this park, in a game like this where a home run could win it, I didn’t want to get beat with a fastball. I just wanted to go as long as I could and then turn it over to the guys who throw faster than 75 mph.”
The Angels, who had managed only one run in each of two previous losses to Twins’ starter Brad Radke, got eight hits against him this time, but still struggled to push runs across.
They continued their recent habit of making the least of the most, scoring one run on three hits in the second inning when Tim Salmon singled to left and Anderson extended his career-best hitting streak to 19 games with a single to right. Salmon took third on a fly out and scored on Craig Shipley’s line drive that became a sacrifice fly. Nevin followed with a single to right, but Gary DiSarcina popped up to end the inning.
The Twins got their first run off Sparks right out of the how-to-beat-a-knuckleballer textbook: Marty Cordova was hit by a pitch, stole second, took third on a passed ball and scored when Todd Walker’s bouncer slipped under the glove of DiSarcina for a single. Terry Steinbach put Minnesota ahead, 2-1, when he crushed a ball high off the wall in right-center for a double to in Walker.
The Angels tied the score in the third when Edmonds led off with a double, took third on Baughman’s sacrifice bunt and scored on a groundout.
Sparks retired the Twins in order in the fourth, fifth and sixth, but the Angels were still having trouble finishing off Radke. They finally chased him in the seventh after Edmonds singled to right with one out, took second on a wild pitch and scored on Baughman’s single to right.
The Twins tied it in the bottom of the inning on singles by Ron Coomer and Walker, with Coomer scoring as Steinbach grounded into a double play.
Baughman singled to right with one out in the ninth and one out later, Salmon walked. Then the Angels got the hit they so desperately sought when Anderson slapped a delivery from reliever Greg Swindell down the first-base line.
“When Sparks can throw a really good game at you like that and then they can bring in Percival behind him,” Walker said, “you’re going to win a lot of games with them throwing at those two different speeds.”