Angels end slump with a gripping win
Maybe it was the chill in the air, the 65-degree temperature in Kauffman Stadium lending an October feel to the proceedings, or the fact the Angels hadn’t scored in three days, or that Texas won again to apply more heat in the American League West race.
Whatever the reason, a sense of desperation seemed to envelop the Angels on Friday night, which is rare this early in September for a team that has won four of the last five division titles and prides itself on focusing in-house and ignoring outside distractions.
But Manager Mike Scioscia acknowledged it when he said the Angels might be “gripping the bats a little tight,” and so did slugger Vladimir Guerrero when he said, through an interpreter, that the Angels were “too jumpy and trying to do too much with the bat.”
So, there was definitely a sense of relief among the Angels after Guerrero’s two-run single in the eighth ended their 23-inning scoreless streak and lifted the team to a 2-1 victory over the lowly Royals.
It didn’t matter that the Angels were outhit, 11-3, and needed a chunk of charity from the Royals, who issued eight walks in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings, to mount any scoring threats. Or that they’ve scored three runs in 29 innings.
“All that matters is the win, and we’re going to take them any way we can get them,” said Jered Weaver, who gave up one run and nine hits in seven innings to improve to 14-5. “This time of year, every win is important.”
This one ended the Angels’ two-game losing streak and kept their division lead over the Rangers at 3 1/2 games. It didn’t end their offensive funk.
“Guys are coming back at times and showing their frustration,” Scioscia said. “They’re human -- they’re not going to be on every night -- but certainly, we have a deep enough lineup that we feel we can pressure teams better than we have the past few games.”
Chone Figgins and Maicer Izturis sparked the winning rally with one-out walks against Jamey Wright. Royals Manager Trey Hillman summoned left-hander John Bale to face Bobby Abreu, but Bale strained his right hamstring on his first pitch and was pulled.
In came right-hander Roman Colon, who walked Abreu to load the bases for Guerrero, who had grounded back to the pitcher with two out and the bases loaded to end the sixth.
“I told myself, ‘Don’t try to split the ball in two,’ ” Guerrero said. “The first at-bat with the bases loaded, I got fastballs up and sliders down, and I chased. My mistake. Second time, I definitely cut down on my swing.”
Guerrero lined a hit to left field for a 2-1 lead, which relievers Kevin Jepsen (scoreless eighth) and Brian Fuentes (scoreless ninth for his 38th save) preserved.
“Everyone says he’s getting old, but the guy can still swing it,” Weaver said of Guerrero. “You can’t not have a good feeling when he’s at the plate.”
The Angels appeared to catch a break Friday when starter Gil Meche, 8-3 with a 4.92 earned-run average in 19 starts against them, was scratched because of a tired shoulder.
But they managed only one hit in 5 1/3 innings against spot starter Robinson Tejeda, who gave up a one-out single to Izturis in the first and retired the next 15 batters.
Weaver gave up his run in the fourth, when Mike Jacobs doubled with two out and Alberto Callaspo tripled, but he blanked the Royals from the fifth through seventh despite giving up five more hits.
“Weav got some big outs,” Scioscia said. “There’s a tendency when you’re pitching and your team is not scoring to try to do too much, but I think he did a terrific job of making pitches and letting the chips fall where they will.”
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)
*--* Team W L Pct GB Angels 79 54 593 -- Texas 76 58 567 3.5 Seattle 72 64 529 8.5 Oakland 59 76 434 21 *--*