Morales provides yet more muscle
It may be the best money the Angels never spent.
First baseman Mark Teixeira spurned an eight-year, $160-million offer to return to Anaheim to sign an eight-year, $180-million deal with the New York Yankees last winter, leaving the Angels with the unproven Kendry Morales at first base.
Teixeira, who is being paid $22.5 million per year, is having an All-Star season, batting .283 with 26 home runs, 77 runs batted in and a .548 slugging percentage. Morales is getting only $600,000 this season but is giving the Angels far more bang for the buck.
The switch-hitting first baseman hit two three-run home runs Sunday, both from the right side, to highlight a 13-4 victory that gave the Angels a three-game sweep -- make that demolition -- of the Minnesota Twins.
The Angels, who have won 13 of 15 games and are 16-3 in their last 19 road games, banged out 15 hits after amassing 19 hits in an 11-5 victory Friday and 18 hits in an 11-6 win Saturday.
That marked the first time in the franchise’s 7,752-game history that the Angels, who lead the major leagues in batting average (.290), runs (590) and hits (1,040), have had 18 hits or more in consecutive games.
The 35 runs were two shy of the club record for runs in a three-game series, set against Kansas City in August 2004. The 52 hits were two shy of the club record for hits in a three-game series, set against the Yankees in August 1988.
“Thank God they’re getting out of here,” Twins right fielder Denard Span said. “The last two days, they were just pretty much stealing our lunch money.”
And in the middle of their two big rallies Sunday was Morales, the Cuban native who keyed a five-run, game-breaking fifth inning with an opposite-field, three-run shot and highlighted a four-run eighth with a three-run home run to left field.
Morales, who hit .249 with 12 home runs and 45 RBIs in 249 big league at-bats from 2006 to 2008, is batting .299 with a team-leading 23 home runs, 69 RBIs and a .581 slugging percentage.
“Just doing my job is the biggest relief,” Morales, speaking through an interpreter, said of replacing Teixeira. “He’s a horse. I don’t want to compare myself to him. It’s about me doing the job with an opportunity I’ve been given.”
The Angels said in July 2008 that they felt comfortable trading first baseman Casey Kotchman to the Atlanta Braves for Teixeira because they were confident Morales could do the job if Teixeira did not re-sign as a free agent.
Morales has made General Manager Tony Reagins look very wise.
“I don’t know if there’s satisfaction on our part, but he’s getting an opportunity to show what he can do,” Reagins said.
Said Manager Mike Scioscia: “As much as we liked Kotchman, we had to feel pretty confident we had someone to fill that role if Tex didn’t re-sign with us.”
Morales, who was so raw in 2005 that Scioscia nicknamed him “Brick Hands,” has inspired even more confidence with his solid defense -- he has gotten a lot better at scooping balls in the dirt -- and his booming bat.
He had only one home run and 10 RBIs in 75 at-bats against left-handers before Sunday, but both of his home runs, which gave him a career-high six RBIs, came against left-handers.
“It has to do with seeing the ball from that side,” said Morales, who has been benched against several left-handers lately. “The more at-bats I get, the better I see the ball.”
His hitting has helped the Angels go 17-3 since Torii Hunter and Vladimir Guerrero went on the disabled list.
“We’re doing good, but those are two big pieces of the lineup,” Morales said.
Is Morales starting to think of himself as a big piece?
“No, never,” he said. “I don’t even know how to answer that. Things are going well right now, but I don’t want to get lost in this.”
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A look at some of the Angels’ offensive numbers this season:
35 runs against Minnesota, two shy of the club record in a three-game series
52 hits against the Twins, also two shy of the club record in a three-game series
590 runs scored, tops
in the majors
1,040 hits, also tops in the majors
Go beyond the scoreboard
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