Angels’ win is a real hit
It was an impressive and somewhat stunning sight on the Progressive Field scoreboard Tuesday night.
After Mike Napoli singled in the fifth inning against the Cleveland Indians, all nine Angels in the starting lineup, which was posted above the left-field bleachers, were hitting .300 or better.
By the end of the Angels’ 5-4 victory, which featured Trevor Bell’s first big league win and closer Brian Fuentes’ 35th save, the Angels were still rolling a .300 game.
That’s nine starters, each hitting .300 or better and each with 227 at-bats or more. In the middle of August. Perhaps fittingly, this achievement came in the Angels’ 300th win over the Indians.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, you’d have to go back to the 1930 New York Giants and St. Louis Cardinals to find lineups in which each player hit .300 or better and had at least 200 at-bats.
“That’s crazy, man,” center fielder Torii Hunter said. “That’s unbelievable.”
Hitting coach Mickey Hatcher noticed the scoreboard after Napoli’s hit and told Chone Figgins to take a look.
“He said he’s never seen that in baseball before,” Figgins said. “I’ve never seen it before, either.”
That offensive balance and depth, combined with power and speed, have helped the Angels overcome their pitching woes and surge into first place in the American League West, 5 1/2 games ahead of Texas.
The Angels scored five runs, three earned, off Indians starter Fausto Carmona in the first three innings, with Bobby Abreu, Kendry Morales and Erick Aybar each knocking in runs to stake Bell to a 5-1 lead.
Bell, the 22-year-old right-hander, wobbled in the third, giving up five consecutive one-out singles to Grady Sizemore, Jamey Carroll, Asdrubal Cabrera, Shin-Soo Choo and Jhonny Peralta, the hits by Cabrera and Peralta driving in runs to cut the lead to 5-3.
But with the bases loaded, Bell got Travis Hafner to chase a full-count changeup in the dirt for strike three and raced to the third-base line to snag Luis Valbuena’s short popup to end the inning.
When Napoli, the Angels catcher, came to the mound and told Bell to throw a 3-and-2 changeup to Hafner, “I got a little nervous,” Bell said. “I didn’t want to put it over the plate. Even if I walk him, one run is better than four.”
Bell then jammed Valbuena with a fastball, inducing a check-swing popup that Bell was determined to catch.
“I would have laid out for that,” Bell said, “even if it was in the dugout.”
Bell then retired six of the next seven batters before yielding to Jason Bulger with one out in the fifth. His final line: 5 1/3 innings, three runs, nine hits, two strikeouts, two walks.
“Even if we won, 10-9, and I got the win,” Bell said, “it would have been a dream come true.”
He needed some help. With the Angels clinging to a 5-4 lead, the bases loaded and one out in the seventh, reliever Kevin Jepsen got Hafner to chop a grounder to second baseman Maicer Izturis, who flipped to Aybar to start a sharp inning-ending double play.
“That was a tough double play, because Izturis was playing a little deep and Aybar had Peralta bearing down on him,” Manager Mike Scioscia said. “That’s as good a turn as you’re going to see.”
Fuentes, who failed to retire any of the eight batters he faced in his last two games against Cleveland, closed out the ninth, enabling Bell to leave with a few game balls and the scorecard from his first win.
“I think tonight he showed his moxie,” Scioscia said. “That 3-2 changeup to Hafner, going hard in to Valbuena to get that popup . . . that’s indicative of a kid who isn’t scared and is going to make his pitches.”
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The Angels made a remarkable turnaround from their first 58 games this season to the next 58 games. The statistics (through Monday):
*--* First 58 Last 58 Season Record 29-29 42-16 71-45 Batting Average 274 308 291 Home runs 44 90 134 Runs per game 4.65 6.97 5.87 Slugging 404 502 454 OBP 337 372 355 ERA 4.83 4.87 4.85 *--*