Angels’ 6-3 victory over Seattle is good for all concerned, especially Vernon Wells
Reporting from Seattle
The Angels, who had lost nine of 11 games as they embarked on a 12-game trip in which they will touch all four corners of the country and travel 6,822 miles, needed this.
General Manager Tony Reagins, who is feeling heat for his January trade that brought Vernon Wells and the four years and $81 million left on his contract to Anaheim, needed this.
Hitting instructor Mickey Hatcher, the object of harsh criticism from fans calling for his firing amid the drought-like conditions surrounding the team’s offense, needed this.
But most of all, it was Wells who needed what the struggling left fielder provided Monday night, a two-homer game that lifted the Angels to a 6-3 victory over the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field.
Dan Haren allowed three runs and seven hits in six innings, striking out seven and walking none, to improve to 6-4, and the relief trio of Rich Thompson, Scott Downs and Jordan Walden (15th save) held Seattle scoreless over the final three innings.
But it was Wells who, after poring over video Monday afternoon and making a slight adjustment in his stance by standing more upright at the plate, stood tallest.
His solo home run to left field in the third inning tied the score, 2-2, and snapped the Angels’ streak of 63 innings without a homer. And his two-run shot to left-center in the seventh gave them a 5-3 lead.
“This is not going to happen every night,” Wells said, “but this is a little bit of what I’m capable of doing.”
Asked if he needed to remind some Angels fans of that, Wells said: “No comment. There’s a lot of baseball to play. I know what I’m capable of doing. Been there, done that.
“I don’t mind struggling, to be honest with you. Struggling can be good for you as an athlete and a person. Eventually, it makes you better.”
To say Wells’ transition from Toronto to Anaheim has been rocky is like saying LeBron James has had a rough go of it with sports fans this week.
Pressing in an effort to show his new team and fans that the Angels were wise to trade for him, Wells hit .183 with four homers and 13 RBIs before suffering a right groin strain on May 9 that sidelined him for almost a month.
Not only was Wells looking over the hill at 32, it appeared his contract might be another albatross around the neck of the Angels, who are just getting out from under Gary Matthews’ five-year, $50-million deal this season.
The situation didn’t improve much last week, when Wells went hitless in his first two games after being activated and was booed by fans in Angel Stadium.
“I’ve had my share of boos — that’s what society is about,” Wells said. “It drives you. It makes you want to be better.”
Wells had three hits and scored three runs in Saturday night’s win over Kansas City, and the Angels hope Monday night’s performance, which pushed his average to .196, will catapult him at the plate.
“Hopefully he’ll get his rhythm and start to square balls up more,” Manager Mike Scioscia said. “He got some big hits tonight.”
If not for a Mariners miscue, though, Wells probably wouldn’t have even batted in the seventh. With Seattle leading, 3-2, Jeff Mathis led off with a double and took third on Maicer Izturis’ grounder to first. Torii Hunter hit a grounder to third baseman Chone Figgins, who threw home in time to nail the sliding Mathis.
But Seattle catcher Miguel Olivo thrust his glove into Mathis’ chest so hard that the ball squirted out, allowing Mathis to score the tying run. Bobby Abreu flied to center, and Wells crushed his sixth homer of the season for a 5-3 lead.
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