By Joe Haakenson, AngelsWin.com Contributor -
MAY 5, 2002
GAME 30 - ANGELS AT BLUE JAYS
TORONTO -- Ramon Ortiz spent much of spring training as the butt of his teammates' jokes. When the season ended last year, he was 26. But when he applied for his visa in January, a discrepancy between his birth certificate and passport was discovered, revealing he's actually 29.
The native of the Dominican Republic, however, is no joke on the mound, as the Toronto Blue Jays found out Sunday afternoon before 24,046 at SkyDome. One out away from the first shutout of his major league career, Ortiz gave up back-to-back homers to Jose Cruz Jr. and Carlos Delgado before settling for a complete game in the Angels' 8-2 victory.
The win was the Angels' fifth on the six-game trip and ninth of 10 overall. The offense continued its recent surge with 15 hits, including three each from Scott Spiezio and Bengie Molina.
But Ortiz was the story. Until the two homers in the ninth, he dominated. Through eight innings only one Blue Jays baserunner reached third. That was Cruz, who led off the seventh with a triple.
Ortiz responded by striking out Delgado, Raul Mondesi and Darrin Fletcher. And his teammates enjoyed every minute of it.
''It was awesome,'' pitcher Jarrod Washburn said. ''He got a little older and a lot better. He's matured a ton. All the age jokes aside, he definitely got a lot older and wiser on the mound.''
Ortiz throws a sinking fastball, a straight fastball, a slider and a changeup. All of his pitches were working for him Sunday, as they have been all season. He's pitched into the seventh inning in all six of his starts. In his past three starts, he's given up three earned runs in 25 innings, lowering his ERA to 2.44.
Sunday's complete game was his second of the season, and going back to last season, Ortiz has the Angels' last four complete games. Losing the shutout was disappointing for him, but not overly so.
''With two outs in the ninth, I said, 'Oh my God, a shutout,' '' Ortiz said. ''But you never know in baseball. Two pitches, two home runs with two outs. It was OK. I'm happy, I'm very happy. I say thank you to the God for that game.''
Ortiz struck out 10, matching a career high, and did not walk a batter. He retired the side in order in five of the nine innings. He gave up five hits in all.
''When he's on, he's one of the best out there,'' said Molina, the Angels' catcher. ''He's shown that. ... He's improved a lot with (his maturity on the mound). He doesn't get mad anymore, he doesn't start thinking like that. He's so calm now. He even calms me down now.''
Ortiz was so excited about Sunday's game, he set some lofty goals for himself.
''I want to pitch one day in the World Series,'' he said. ''I want to be like Pedro (Martinez), (Roger) Clemens, (Randy) Johnson.''
Ortiz improved to 3-3, but the offense scored a total of three runs in his three losses. The offense has made up for it in Ortiz's last two starts, scoring 29 runs.
Sunday, the offense had at least one hit in every inning but the eighth, and scored at least once in each of the first five innings. Blue Jays starter Luke Prokopec (1-4) lasted only 1 2/3 innings, having allowed four runs and five hits.
After going 0 for 12 with runners in scoring position in a 4-1 loss Saturday, the Angels went 5 for 16 with runners in scoring position Sunday.
TORONTO -- Manager Mike Scioscia had more time than he would have liked to reflect on Saturday's 4-1 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays.
After the game, Scioscia got into the elevator at the team's hotel with bullpen catcher Orlando Mercado, radio broadcaster Terry Smith and six people on vacation from the Canadian province of Newfoundland.
Between the first and second floors, the elevator got stuck. And that's where the nine remained for nearly two hours until an engineer arrived to fix the problem.
The group got to know each other pretty well, talking about life in Newfoundland and baseball.
''We weren't scared, but it was uncomfortable in there. It was hot,'' Scioscia said. ''We had Terry take three breaths every minute. As long as we rationed our breathing, we were OK.''
Scioscia was able to maintain a sense of humor about it, and the hotel offered the group room service as an apology. Scioscia, though, had already finished dinner.
Of the Angels' 15 hits in Sunday's 8-2 win over the Toronto Blue Jays, not one was a home run. They have only 18 homers all season, ranking ahead of only Tampa Bay, Kansas City and Pittsburgh in the all of baseball.
But the Angels are still scoring runs. In winning nine of the past 10 games, the Angels have scored 84 runs.
''Baseball's weird,'' first baseman Scott Spiezio said. ''Sometimes, everybody's hitting home runs. Sometimes you go a long time between home runs. Two years ago we hit a lot of home runs (a team-record 236). This year, we've hit very little. They're nice, but as long as you're getting on base, executing and getting guys in, you don't worry about it.''
Catcher Bengie Molina hit .409 (9 for 22) on the trip, raising his season average to a club-best .327. Even though Molina tries to put all his energy into catching and calling games for the pitchers, his offense has been noteworthy.
''I can't remember ever feeling like this at the plate,'' Molina said. ''I'm seeing the ball really well and putting a good swing on it almost every time. It's a good feeling to have. I hope it lasts all year.''