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For Angels, it’s only big inning

Times Staff Writer

There was a familiar ring to the Angels’ eighth-inning uprising Saturday, a game-breaking, eight-run, eight-hit blitzkrieg that left the ears of the New York Yankees ringing.

From a tie score to a stunning 11-4 victory in Angel Stadium, a rally that began with Vladimir Guerrero’s home run and ended with his run-scoring single looked like a carbon copy of the outburst that helped catapult the Angels to their only World Series title in 2002.

That October, it was an eight-run, 10-hit fifth inning, in which the Angels sent 13 men to the plate, that pushed the Angels toward a division series-clinching 9-5 victory over the Yankees in Anaheim.

The Angels put together a similar rally in their American League Championship Series-clinching win over Minnesota, scoring 10 runs in the seventh inning of a 13-5 Game 5 victory before beating San Francisco in a seven-game World Series.

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Saturday, the Angels sent 12 men to the plate in the eighth and scored seven runs before making an out. Guerrero’s homer to right-center off reliever Edwar Ramirez snapped a 3-3 tie, and an avalanche of hits and runs followed.

"[Garret Anderson] and I were just talking about that, how it looked a lot like that [2002 rally],” said ace John Lackey, who gave up three runs and nine hits in seven innings but got a no-decision. “It was a close game, and we blew it up a bit.

“That definitely put us on a nice little roll in the postseason that year, but right now, we’re not going too crazy with it. Our goals are pretty high. We want to do well at the end.”

The Yankees were a remarkable 51-1 when leading after six innings this season, a testament to their effective short relief corps and their dominant closer, Mariano Rivera.

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They are now 51-2 in such games, after Mark Teixeira hit a solo homer off starter Dan Giese in the sixth to pull the Angels within 2-1, Anderson and Mike Napoli hit home runs off reliever Jose Veras in the seventh to tie the score, 3-3, and the Angels exploded in the eighth.

The Angels improved to a major league-best 73-43, the most games (30) they have been over .500 since the end of the 2002, when they were 99-63.

They are 16-5 since the All-Star break. Including playoff games, they are 71-60 against the Yankees since 1996.

And the offense, in the words of Al Pacino in “The Scent of a Woman,” is just getting warmed up.

The Angels, who averaged 3.7 runs a game in May and June, have scored nine runs or more in four of their last six games. They have 41 multiple-run innings since the All-Star break, including 21 in which they’ve scored three runs or more.

The big inning was a hallmark of the 2002 team. Could the Angels, with the addition of Teixeira to a lineup that looks as deep and potent as any in franchise history, be on a similar course?

“You don’t want to get too far ahead of yourself, but we’ve been putting together games when everyone is putting pressure on the pitchers,” Anderson said. “When you do that, that second time around, that third time around, it’s going to be tough on the pitcher.”

The Angels looked like a runaway steamroller in the eighth inning Saturday. After Guerrero’s home run, Torii Hunter doubled and scored on Anderson’s single to right.

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Howie Kendrick reached on an error, and Juan Rivera hit a two-run double. Napoli singled off reliever David Robertson, and Chone Figgins and Maicer Izturis hit RBI singles before Teixeira, the ninth batter of the inning, grounded to second for the first out.

Guerrero’s RBI single made it 11-3 before Hunter and Anderson struck out, ending the inning.

“Before you knew it, we took off,” said Hunter, who was on the other end of the Angels’ outburst against the Twins in 2002. “It was crazy. That was one of the best innings I’ve been a part of. Eight runs, especially against the Yankees? That’s unheard of.”

The Angels finished with 14 hits. They have outscored the Yankees, 21-9, in the first two games of the series, going 14 for 26 with runners in scoring position.

“It’s a fun place to be right now,” Lackey said. “We’ve been raking.”

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mike.digiovanna@latimes.com


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