By Joe Haakenson, AngelsWin.com Contributor -
JUNE 23, 2002
GAME 72 - ANGELS AT BREWERS
MILWAUKEE -- The Angels offense was so good during the series against the Milwaukee Brewers, it only needed two innings Sunday afternoon to complete its work for the day.
The Angels got all five runs and six of their nine hits in the first two innings and made it stand up in a 5-2 win over the Milwaukee Brewers in front of 23,751 at Miller Park, completing a three-game sweep and winning their fourth in a row.
Because Seattle also won, the Angels remain two games back of the first-place Mariners in the American League West, and one game ahead of third-place Oakland.
Darin Erstad had the big hit, a three-run double with two outs in the second inning off Brewers starter Ben Sheets (4-8). The last time the Angels faced Sheets was the final spring training game in Arizona on March 28. Erstad wasn't in the lineup that day but the first nine Angels hitters in that game got a hit off Sheets, leading to a seven-run inning.
It wasn't quite as good for the Angels on Sunday, but it was enough for starting pitcher Kevin Appier, who snapped a personal five-game losing streak.
Appier (6-6) went six innings and allowed only one run and six hits. He got help from relievers Ben Weber (2 1/3 innings) and Troy Percival, who struck out the only two batters he faced for his 17th save in 19 chances this season.
It was Appier's first victory in more than a month (May 20) and the first time he lasted at least six innings in his past four starts.
``It seemed like forever,'' Appier said. ``I didn't feel super great but I still felt better than I had been feeling. I was a little bit of a pick-me-up.''
Appier has been working between starts with pitching coach Bud Black in an effort to correct minor mechanical flaws in his delivery.
``(The changes were) not as much as you might think,'' Appier said. ``My breaking ball was better. I wouldn't say my location was super good. Overall some pitches were excellent but there are still some parts I need to work on.''
Appier reached the seventh inning with a shutout, but gave up a solo homer to Tyler Houston, a walk to Matt Stairs and a double to Mark Loretta and that was it. Weber replaced Appier and got out of the inning without giving up a run.
``I didn't feel tired that inning,'' Appier said. ``But I really didn't know where the ball was going.''
The Angels opened the scoring in the first inning after David Eckstein singled and went to third on a double by Erstad. Orlando Palmeiro, batting in the No. 3 spot for the eighth time this season, grounded out to shortstop to drive in Eckstein.
Garret Anderson followed with an RBI single to make it 2-0.
In the second inning, Adam Kennedy got a one-out single, the first of his three hits. Three batters later, the bases were loaded with two outs for Erstad, who grounded one inside first base and down the right-field line, clearing the bases.
``I had only faced him one time before and that was in spring training,'' Erstad said of Sheets. ``With two strikes I was just trying to react and put the ball in play.''
Erstad went 8 for 16 with seven RBIs in the series, but said he's been lucky.
``I'm really not swinging the bat that well,'' he said. ``I'm just finding holes. That's just the way the game goes. Sometimes you hit the ball hard right at people. That's baseball. Nobody's been able to figure it out, so you just go out and compete.''
Erstad is hitting .405 (17 for 42) on the road trip and has his average up to .306, best among the club's regulars. But he said he doesn't feel comfortable at the plate and hasn't since 2000, when he hit .355 and led the majors with 240 hits.
``I never say I feel comfortable at the plate,'' he said. ``There's always room for improvement. I never say I like where I'm at.''
At 43-29, the Angels matched the franchise's best record through 72 games, accomplished in 1998 and '82.
MILWAUKEE -- The Angels went into Sunday's game against the Milwaukee Brewers hitting .282, the best team average in baseball. They also struck out 351 times, the fewest in the majors.
Hitting coach Mickey Hatcher, though, doesn't take any credit. Instead, he credits the players' approach. It started in spring training when manager Mike Scioscia and Hatcher emphasized situational hitting.
``It's all them, it's not me,'' Hatcher said. ``I'm trying to keep 'em positive. They work hard and keep it simple. It's just getting that feeling and continuing our philosophy of putting the ball in play and making things happen.
``If there's a guy on second, I don't care who it is, it's `I'm getting the guy over for the next guy.' ''
Hatcher acknowledged that the approach is more difficult to sell to some hitters than others.
``It's tougher to get power hitters to do it,'' Hatcher said. ``An example is Troy Glaus. We got together in spring training and he said it wasn't part of his game and I said I'm going to make it part of your game. He worked hard and started hitting more balls up the middle.''
Glaus left the game in the fifth inning Sunday when a recurring nerve problem in his right foot flared up. The condition is called Morten's Neuroma, and according to athletic trainer Ned Bergert, the pain feels like an electric shock when the nerve becomes entrapped.
With Glaus, the condition is between the third and fourth toes on his right foot. Scioscia said he expects Glaus to be able to play today in Texas.
Glaus struck out and walked in his two plate appearances Sunday as he continues to be one of the few Angel hitters to struggle. Glaus is batting only .155 (11 for 71) in June with six RBIs in 20 games.
``He's not getting pitches to hit right now,'' Hatcher said. ``He could walk every time up there. Everywhere we go, teams as saying `We're not going to let him beat us.' I'm telling Troy to take his walks and eventually they'll have to pitch to him.''
Glaus was involved in Scioscia's lineup juggling Sunday, getting dropped in the order from third to fifth. Tim Salmon was not in the starting lineup and Orlando Palmeiro started in his place in right field and batted third.
``This isn't about Troy,'' Scioscia said of the lineup change. ``We're trying to get the most productive lineup in front of (Garret Anderson and Glaus).''
It's possible that Glaus will hit fifth on a permanent basis, meaning Salmon will move back to the No. 3 spot, where he was for all of spring training and the start of the season.
``I don't think there's a sense of urgency of having to put Tim back in the No. 3 spot, but that could be the most productive long-term lineup,'' Scioscia said. ``Tim's an outstanding on-base guy who's probably strikes out less than Troy.''