By Joe Haakenson, AngelsWin.com Contributor -
GAME 32 - TIGERS AT ANGELS
ANAHEIM -- Troy Glaus could have kicked himself after fouling off a 3-2 pitch that was out of the strikezone. But the Angels' third baseman would atone for his mistake.
On the very next pitch, Glaus hit a game-winning homer leading off the ninth inning that gave the Angels a 3-2 win over the Detroit Tigers before 14,722 at Edison Field.
''I was just trying to hit it out there, so maybe it falls in or maybe someone kicks it,'' Glaus said of the game-winner off Tigers reliever Fernando Rodney (0-2).
About the only person who had a chance to kick the ball was Angels bullpen catcher Orlando Mercado. Tigers left field Bobby Higginson just missed the ball as it carried over the fence in left field and landed in the Angels bullpen.
It was Glaus' team-leading sixth homer of the season, and just his first at home. But it came at the right time for the club, which rallied from a 2-1 deficit. Bengie Molina's two-out, RBI single in the seventh tied the game, setting up Glaus for the game-winner.
Angels closer Troy Percival made a rare appearance in a tie game, coming in to pitch the top of the ninth with the score tied at 2. Percival needed 14 pitches to strike out the side.
Percival (1-1) struck out Shane Halter and Wendell Magee on fastballs, Jacob Cruz on a curveball.
''His hook (curveball) is really what makes him so dominant,'' said Angels starter Kevin Appier, who gave up two runs and six hits in seven innings. ''When he snaps his curveball off like that, you can't sit on one speed.''
The victory was only the Angels' second of the season when scoring fewer than four runs, something many in the clubhouse believe is necessary.
''You're not going to blow everybody out every day,'' Appier said. ''There are games you have to find a way to win. That's what you see on those great teams.''
This was one of those games. Neither team put together any significant offense in the first three innings as Appier and Tigers starter Nate Cornejo pitched well. But the Angels broke through in the fourth on Garret Anderson's two-out, solo home run.
Appier faced the minimum number of Tigers batters through four innings. He allowed only a second-inning single by Randall Simon, who was erased on a double-play grounder.
The Tigers were able to get on the scoreboard in the sixth inning thanks to a leadoff walk by Damian Jackson. Jackson took second on Mike Rivera's groundout, and one out later, he scored on Robert Fick's single to center.
It snapped Appier's scoreless inning string of 16 2/3 innings, the longest such streak by an Angels pitcher since Chuck Finley's 19 1/3 scoreless innings April 6-22, 1998.
Outside of Ramon Ortiz, Appier has been the Angels' most effective starter. But while Ortiz does it by mixing a 93-mph fastball with a good slider and changeup, Appier is doing it with experience.
''Probably the biggest thing is I have a real good rhythm going,'' said Appier, who lowered his ERA to 2.83. ''My timing has felt right on. All my pitches have been fairly reliable.''
The Tigers took a 2-1 lead in the seventh on back-to-back doubles by Halter and Magee. Appier finished the inning, but was finished for the night, having made 118 pitches. It was the 17th time in the past 23 games the Angels starter has pitched into the seventh inning.
The Angels nearly let an opportunity get past them in the seventh before tying the game at 2. Glaus led off the inning with a double, but was still standing at second after Brad Fullmer's flyout to shallow right field and Tim Salmon's strikeout.
Molina, though, grounded one up the middle and into center field, scoring Glaus to tie the game.
The win moved the Angels to within a half-game of Oakland in the A.L. West.
ANAHEIM -- It would have been difficult, if not impossible, to imagine during spring training, when Tim Salmon hit .404. But Orlando Palmeiro started Wednesday's game against the Detroit Tigers hitting third in the lineup for the seventh time this season, the same number as Salmon.
Salmon's ongoing struggles and Palmeiro's hot bat made the improbable idea a reality for the first time on April 24 in Seattle. The Angels won that day, and going into Wednesday's game the Angels were 5-1 when Palmeiro started in the three spot.
But Palmeiro's hold on No. 3 only goes so far. Manager Mike Scioscia would prefer that Salmon was swinging well enough to hit third, but in the meantime, he likes to ''mix and match.''
''O.P.'s like a great sixth-man in basketball,'' Scioscia said. ''You try to use him to your advantage when dictated by matchups.''
Even though Palmeiro has only three home runs in 584 major league at-bats, Scioscia likes to bat him third because he gets on base (team-best .397 on-base percentage) to set the table for Garret Anderson and Troy Glaus in the middle of the lineup.
Asked about hitting third, Palmeiro does his best not to ruffle any feathers.
''I just show up to play,'' he said. ''If that's where he puts me, that's where I hit.''
Salmon has been all over the lineup, hitting fifth (10 times), sixth (nine times) and seventh (twice, including Wednesday). He hasn't been successful in any spot, batting .125 in the third spot, .206 in the fifth spot, .211 in the sixth spot and going into Wednesday's game, .000 in the seventh spot.
Salmon, who went into Wednesday's game hitting .182, has been most successful when he puts the first pitch in play. When he does that, he's hitting .357 (5 for 14).
First baseman/DH Shawn Wooten hit soft toss Wednesday and if all goes well, he'll be able to take live batting practice on Friday for the first time since he dislocated his thumb March 13.
Wooten is hoping to be back by June 1, but Scioscia said mid-June is more likely.
Benji Gil (sprained ankle) is expected to begin a rehab assignment next week and could be back with the big club in about two weeks.
Third baseman Troy Glaus, who has struggled to find a pair of proper-fitting contact lenses, now has a pair of prescription goggles. They are similar to the pair worn by Reds third baseman Chris Sabo years ago, though they are not nearly as big and awkward looking.
Glaus, though, said he isn't planning to wear them. ''Only in case of emergency,'' he said.
The Angels went into Wednesday's game hitting .229 at home and .298 on the road, but Scioscia said the difference was only coincidence, that the team just happened to get hot when it was on the road.
''We could have been on the moon, and we would have been hitting the ball well,'' Scioscia said of the club's recent hitting surge on the road.