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Despite Cabrera’s Slump, Lineup Staying the Same

Times Staff Writer

There is no question the Angels’ offensive resurgence and their 19-7 run in July coincided with Orlando Cabrera’s move from the second to third spot in the batting order.

The Angels were 35-41 on June 27, 6 1/2 games back in the American League West, when Manager Mike Scioscia moved Cabrera to the third spot and placed Maicer Izturis second behind leadoff batter Chone Figgins.

With the Angels thin through the middle -- this was before Juan Rivera went on a tear -- Scioscia thought another table-setter at the top would add some depth to the lineup, and he was right. The Angels are batting .304 and averaging six runs a game since July 1, and they have moved back into contention.

But has this lineup run its course, and could another change be in order?

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Cabrera, the team’s most productive and consistent hitter through June, is batting .242 (15 for 62) with eight runs batted in and six runs scored in his last 15 games. His average has fallen from .292 to .285 and he has run into a rash of fly-ball outs. His two-run double to left in the fifth inning Friday was his first hard-hit ball in days.

And a closer look reveals that Izturis, and not Cabrera, had more to do with the Angels’ July run. Cabrera hit .238 with three homers, six doubles, 11 RBIs, nine walks and 12 strikeouts in July. Izturis hit .311 with two homers, nine doubles, 14 RBIs, nine walks and 16 strikeouts during the month.

With Vladimir Guerrero, Garret Anderson and Rivera producing in the four, five and six spots, and Cabrera hardly a prototypical No. 3 hitter, would the Angels be better off moving Guerrero, Anderson and Rivera each up a spot and Cabrera to second? Or keeping Izturis in the second spot and dropping Cabrera to seventh?

“We’re always looking at options, but the way this lineup has unfolded, the three guys at the top have fueled our resurgence,” Scioscia said. “You’re always faced with some things that might make you reconsider, but right now Izzy is doing a good job in the two hole and we’ve been setting the table for the middle. To take that out now ... we’re not quite there. But as more guys swing the bats better, it’s going to open up more options.”

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Ervin Santana, knocked out of Thursday’s game by a vicious Jason Michaels first-inning line drive that hit him on the inside of his left knee, said he felt “a lot worse” Friday than he did Thursday.

But the right-hander said he felt confident that he would make his next start Tuesday in Texas, even though his knee continued to swell and the imprint of the ball’s laces remained on his knee.

“Everything I do, it hurts a little bit,” said Santana, who rode an exercise bike Friday. “But I think I’m going to pitch on Tuesday.”

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Since doctors were able to pinpoint the source and site of the inflammation in Darin Erstad’s right ankle, the first baseman has received two cortisone shots, which he said have been more effective than the four he received earlier this season. Erstad has begun jogging lightly and hopes to return in September.


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