By Joe Haakenson, AngelsWin.com Contributor -
GAME 41 - ANGELS AT WHITE SOX
CHICAGO -- If the Angels wanted to put together a highlight video of their recent hot stretch, the top of the ninth inning of Sunday's game against the Chicago White Sox could serve as the intro.
Pinch-hitter Orlando Palmeiro goes the opposite way with a double to left. One out later, Palmeiro steals third on his own. On the next pitch, the squeeze is on and David Eckstein bunts a tough pitch -- a slider low and away -- to the right side. Not only does Palmeiro score, but Eckstein beats it out for a base hit.
They call it little ball, but it has been big for the Angels as they continued to roll with a 6-1 victory before 19,869 at Comiskey Park. The win was the Angels' 18th in their past 21 games and moved them to within four games of the Seattle Mariners in the A.L. West, the closest they've been to the top spot since April 11 when they were 3 1/2 out.
Another huge factor in the Angels' run is the pitching, and it was starter Jarrod Washburn's turn on Sunday. He battled through a stiff back to go seven innings, allowing one run and three hits, improving to 4-2 and lowering his ERA to 3.48.
Angels starters have pitched into the seventh inning or later in 22 of the club's past 32 games. It has all added up to seven consecutive series wins. They haven't lost a series since losing two of three to Seattle on April 22-24.
``The challenge of the season is not to do this for two or three weeks,'' Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. ''But for six months.''
Troy Glaus and Darin Erstad had the big hits, Glaus getting a two-run double in the first inning and Erstad a two-run double in the fifth. Both came off losing pitcher Mark Buehrle (7-3), who entered the game tied for the American League-lead in victories.
While the hits by Glaus and Erstad were big, the little ball mentality has taken over the Angels offense. Get 'em on, get 'em over, get 'em in.
``In spring training we focused on it a lot,'' said Erstad, who had three hits Sunday to extend his hitting streak to nine games and raise his batting average to .313. ``Early in the season we didn't have baserunners to do it. But yeah, it's awesome. It puts the other team on its heels because they don't know what to expect.''
The Angels have only 34 homers this season, more than only Kansas City and Tampa Bay in the A.L. Only one player -- Glaus -- is on pace to hit more than 30 this year.
Only two years ago, the Angels became the first A.L. team to have four players with 30-plus homers.
``The difference is the way the whole lineup is in touch with the situational aspect we need,'' Scioscia said.
The Angels scored three runs in the first inning, two on Glaus' double and another on Bengie Molina's two-out, RBI single. When Erstad's double in the fifth made it 5-0, the White Sox were still looking for their second hit off Washburn.
Washburn gave up a two-out double to Kenny Lofton in the third, a leadoff homer to Royce Clayton in the sixth and a two-out double to Carlos Lee in the seventh and that was it. Impressive because it came against a White Sox team that began the day tied with Seattle for the major league-lead in runs scored.
``With that lineup, you're in trouble every inning,'' Washburn said. ``Whether they're on base or not. It's a great lineup with great hitters and they can open it up in a hurry.''
Scioscia agreed, which is why he scoffed when questioned about Eckstein stealing second base in the ninth inning with a five-run lead.
``With (Ray) Durham, (Maglio) Ordonez, (Paul) Konerko and (Frank) Thomas coming up (in the bottom of the ninth)?'' Scioscia said. ``Those guys can put up runs in a hurry.''
Troy Percival pitched the ninth even though it wasn't a save situation, because he hadn't pitched in a week. He allowed a two-out single to Konerko, but struck out Thomas to end it.
CHICAGO – Ho-hum, another boring season for Garret Anderson.
The Angels left fielder appears on his way to a typical season. Even though he's in a mini-slump (hitless in 12 at-bats), he's hitting .287 with six homers with 27 RBIs, which means he's on pace to have 24 homers and 107 RBIs. And that would be right on line with his career averages of .296, 19 homers and 90 RBIs.
Anderson, though, is overlooked nationally. He's never been an All-Star. Part of it could be because he's never had that one, truly remarkable season. He's hit more than 30 homers only once, and he's driven in more than 100 only twice.
``(Hitting coach Mickey Hatcher) jokes around, saying he hopes he's around the year everything falls my way,'' Anderson said. ``But maybe it's not in the cards for me to be that kind of hitter. The players that have great years also usually have a year where there's a big dip. I'd prefer to do what I'm doing and be boring.
``Everyone wants to have a great career, but for me, I'd rather not have that off year. I'd rather be consistent.''
Anderson has played in at least 150 games for six consecutive seasons and has played in all 41 games this season. He's never been on the disabled list. And in a game with so many ups and downs, Anderson hopes those who matter appreciate the type player he is.
``You do it year after year, people will eventually notice what you've done,'' he said. ``In any kind of business, you have to like that.''
Coincidence, Darin Erstad says.
Erstad was hitting .242 when he sustained a concussion and missed seven games starting April 20. Since returning, Erstad has hit .366 (30 for 82), raising his average to .313. But the time off wasn't the cause for the turnaround, he said.
``I didn't see 'the light,' '' Erstad said. ``No angel came down and touched me. I don't know ... but I don't want to go through that (concussion) again.''
After Sunday's game, the Angels activated right-handed reliever Donne Wall from the disabled list. Wall had been out since April 28 with tightness in his right arm. To make room for Wall, the Angels sent right-handed pitcher Matt Wise to Triple-A Salt Lake.
Wise pitched in three games will with the big club this season, and had no record with a 2.25 ERA.