By Joe Haakenson, AngelsWin.com Contributor -
APRIL 16, 2002
GAME 13 - RANGERS AT ANGELS
ANAHEIM -- First, Darin Erstad used his head. Then, he used his bat.
After nearly taking down the outfield fence with his head in an attempt to make a catch in second inning, Erstad lined a two-run double in the bottom of the 10th inning to overcome a 5-4 deficit and give the Angels a 6-5 win over the Texas Rangers Tuesday night before 15,385 at Edison Field.
The Rangers had taken a 5-4 lead in the top of the 10th on an RBI double by Rafael Palmeiro, which set up the bottom of the inning. With one out, Jose Nieves reached on an infield single off Rangers closer John Rocker.
David Eckstein followed with a walk, which brought up Erstad, who lined a 0-2 pitch into the right field corner, scoring both baserunners to win it. Erstad had never faced Rocker before Tuesday.
''He has great stuff and he throws hard, but he's struggled with his command,'' Erstad said of Rocker. ''I'm just locked in to an area and hope he throws it there, because you can't cover the whole plate with a guy like that.''
Angels starter Aaron Sele struggled early but made it through 6 2/3 innings, allowing four runs and eight hits. His early troubles also made it a busy night for Erstad.
In the second inning Frank Catalanotto sent a pitch from Sele over Erstad's head in straight-away center. Erstad, though, never slowed down in trying to make the catch and ran into the fence head-first.
By the time the right fielder Salmon retrieved the ball and threw it in, Catalanotto had a triple and Erstad had a headache. The very next batter, Rusty Greer, hit a Sele pitch into the left-center field gap. Erstad made a diving attempt but missed and Greer had an RBI double.
Erstad's hard work finally paid off in the next inning when Mike Lamb hit a rope to right-center, where Erstad made a spectacular diving catch.
''I was born with the instinct to catch the ball, it's what I do,'' Erstad said. ''I don't worry about what steps I have to take, just catch the stinking thing.''
He came up empty in the second inning, other than a face full of fence, impressing his new teammate on the mound.
''It's not what I think of him, it's what Erstad thinks of me after I tried to kill him,'' Sele said. ''The guy runs through walls for you.''
Said Erstad: ''I'd do that every day for him. It's better than going 0 for 4 like I used to when I faced him.''
Erstad said his neck is a little stiff and he has a cut on the bridge of his nose as well as a strawberry on his right knee.
''That's what it's all about,'' he said. ''You live for these games.''
The Angels went most of the way without third baseman Troy Glaus, who left the game after three innings because of a problem with his contact lenses. Likewise, Rangers right fielder Kevin Mench, playing in place of the injured Juan Gonzalez, might have had a problem seeing the scoreboard in the first inning.
The Angels trailed, 3-2, in the bottom of the first and had Garret Anderson on second with one out when Salmon hit a fly ball to Mench, who thought it was the third out.
As Anderson tagged at second, Mench faked a throw to the stands, then flipped the ball to first-base umpire Alfonso Marquez, who had run to shallow right field. The ball hit Marquez and fell to the ground as Anderson scored.
''We were all yelling, 'Throw it in the stands, throw it in the stands!' '' Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.
Mench, who made his major league debut last week, had another embarrassing moment in the sixth inning when he lined a single to right field then tripped over his own bat. However, he was able to get up and scramble to first base in time.
Sele, winless in his first two starts with an ERA of 9.90, could not have started out much worse. His fourth pitch of the game was a three-run homer by Alex Rodriguez, which prompted this response from a fan in the upper deck: ''Go back to Seattle, Sele. They need help losing.'' Sele, though, settled down and didn't allow the Rangers to score after the second inning.
''Any time the team wins, as a starting pitcher you can live with it,'' Sele said of his performance.
ANAHEIM -- The Angels got some much-needed good news Tuesday regarding Troy Percival, who has been out since April 2 with a strained muscle in his right side.
Not only did Percival throw at 100 percent during a simulated game Tuesday afternoon, but he'll rejoin the active roster on Thursday, one day earlier than he expected.
''I knew I was eligible to come off April 18, but I've been thinking that was Friday,'' said Percival, who recorded a save in his only appearance this season.
The Angels considered sending Percival to Single-A Rancho Cucamonga to throw in a rehab game, but Percival said there is no need.
''I was throwing 94-96 (mph), my breaking ball was good and I actually threw a couple of changeups,'' Percival said of his 15-pitch effort. ''My velocity is like that at the beginning of every season, and it works its way up to the upper 90s as we get further into the season.''
Though Percival deemed himself fit to rejoin the team, manager Mike Scioscia preferred to take the cautious approach.
''Depending on how he comes out of it (today), he's ready to pitch in a game,'' Scioscia said. ''He was hitting his spots well and his pitches were sharp.''
In Percival's absence, Al Levine was 3 for 3 in save opportunities. He'll go back to his eighth-inning role.
''This should help the starters because there's not as much pressure to go as long,'' Percival said. ''Go six quality innings, and we've got (Dennis) Cook for the seventh, and Al for the eighth. It just shortens the game.''
For the second game in a row, second baseman Adam Kennedy was not in the starting lineup because the opposing team had a lefty pitching. In Sunday's game, it was Oakland's Barry Zito. Tuesday it was the Rangers' Doug Davis.
Kennedy began the night hitting .200 overall and .200 (1 for 5) against lefties this season. Jose Nieves, batting .111 entering the game, started at second in Kennedy's place.
''Right now at this juncture you have to look short-term and get through the rough spots,'' Scioscia said of the lineup. ''You can adjust when you need to, but you have to deal with the situation you have.''
Bench coach Joe Maddon left the team to be with family in Hazelton, Penn. following the death of his father. Maddon is expected to rejoin the team on the upcoming road trip.