Angels' frequent flier

Times Staff Writer

The Angels' part-time catcher beat up on the Dodgers on Sunday. Mike Napoli doesn't play every day, but he nearly leads the American League in home runs.

"He's got, what, 70 at-bats and 10 home runs?" Torii Hunter said. "That's crazy power."

Napoli has 89 at-bats, and he's homering more often per at-bat than anyone else in the major leagues. He hit two home runs and drove in a career-high five runs Sunday, powering the Angels to a 10-2 rout of the Dodgers at Angel Stadium.

Casey Kotchman and Maicer Izturis had three hits apiece for the Angels, and Jered Weaver struck out five consecutive batters at one point en route to the victory, but Weaver nominated Napoli as the player of the day, with a succinct analysis of his performance.

"He threw down the right fingers and hit the crap out of the ball," Weaver said.

The Dodgers put on an awful performance in losing for the ninth time in their last 11 games against the Angels. They struck out 11 times, without an extra-base hit. Derek Lowe gave up seven runs and 10 hits, both season highs, in five innings.

Backup catcher Gary Bennett overthrew first base for the second time in three days. First baseman James Loney overthrew second base for the second consecutive day, a throw that sailed right over the bag because shortstop Chin-lung Hu did not cover after yelling at Loney to throw home.

And the game ended, fittingly enough, with Andruw Jones striking out, for the third time. In the second inning, Izturis brazenly turned an apparent single into a double, by running on a routine ball hit to Jones in right-center field.

Jones, whose average has dropped to .167 and whose slugging percentage (.273) has fallen below his on-base percentage (.275), appeared overmatched against the 94-mph fastball of Angels rookie reliever Jose Arredondo.

"He's not overmatched," Dodgers Manager Joe Torre said. "He's just falling backward, in the bad habit of flying out of there."

The Angels fly out of the country today, headed to Toronto on a pleasant note. They scored four runs in the second inning, their most productive inning in their last 48, and cruised from there. Napoli hit a three-run homer in the second, a run-scoring single in the fourth and a solo homer in the sixth.

Carlos Quentin of the Chicago White Sox leads the AL in home runs, with 11 -- one every 13.2 at-bats. Lance Berkman of the Houston Astros leads the majors with 16 -- one every 10.2 at-bats.

Napoli has one every 8.9 at-bats, and more home runs than Vladimir Guerrero and Garret Anderson combined. Yet Manager Mike Scioscia said his catchers cannot hit their way into an everyday job.

"It's not going to really hinge on what they're doing offensively," Scioscia said. "First and foremost, you have to be doing the job behind the plate."

Napoli has started 25 games; the Angels are 13-12 in those games. Jeff Mathis, the other catcher, has started 21 games, and the Angels are 13-8 in those games. The Angels' earned-run average is 5.07 with Napoli catching, 3.34 with Mathis.

Yet Napoli has started seven of the last 10 games, a trend worth watching. When he came off the field Sunday, he said Scioscia stopped him.

"Good job," Scioscia told Napoli, "on the catching side."

And then Scioscia smiled. The two home runs were good too.


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