Angels are finding their offense
Since Morales' injury, L.A. is 10-3 and a 10-1 win over Dodgers has them feeling good
LOS ANGELES -- Hideki Matsui typically gives fairly succinct answers. Since he gives interviews through an interpreter, it can leave the questioner little time to reload.
"Perhaps somewhere, subconsciously, there's a sense of urgency," Matsui said through interpreter Roger Kahlon. "Not that we spoke about it or anything like that, but maybe we individually felt that way and things started to come together."
If Matsui's right, the Angels seem to be driven by some powerful subconscious impulses these days. You could chalk up this rollicking Angels road trip to inferior competition before they landed at Dodger Stadium, where the Dodgers had been romping over National League competition for weeks.
After Friday night's 10-1 win behind a 13-hit attack that started against Chad Billingsley, you've got to start looking for some other explanations.
Ever since Morales broke his leg, some of the Angels struggling hitters have snapped out of their funks, Matsui among them. He's 17-for-48 (.354) with two home runs and 10 RBIs since Morales fell in a heap on home plate. Leadoff man Erick Aybar is on fire, batting .450 this month, and Howie Kendrick has been driving the ball with more regularity (11 RBIs on this road trip).
None of this increased production is going to fool the Angels into stopping their pursuit of Morales' replacement. Manager Mike Scioscia spoke extensively before the game about the need to explore outside options, but it might make them hesitate to deal premium young talent by the trading deadline to land a rent-a-bat.
Scioscia called a team meeting the day after Morales got hurt and reminded his players that moping their way through slumps wasn't going to help them survive the loss of their best hitter. In his public comments that day, Scioscia put the onus on the struggling hitters to soak up some of Morales' production.
Those hitters appear to have found their focus.
"These guys were going to hit at some point. We had started to see some things before Kendry got hurt," Scioscia said. "These guys were much better than some of their numbers indicated. We feel we can score runs even with Kendry out."
Torii Hunter was the Angels' steadiest producer other than Morales before the injury. He has been just as steadfast since, smashing an opposite-field, three-run double in the sixth inning to ice Friday's game. He has 14 RBIs in the past 11 games.
Hunter had a slightly less esoteric take on the Angels' hot streak since losing Morales.
"Baseball is a crazy game, man," he said.
By the numbers
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Joel Pineiro managed to get on base in his first three plate appearances Friday and scored all three times.
That was a nice little story line, but the best part about it from the Angels' perspective was this: All that running didn't seem to tire him out. Pineiro (5-6) looked sharper in the ninth inning than he did in the first as he picked up his third complete game.
Pineiro's three runs scored were the most for an Angels pitcher in 48 years. Ken McBride scored three runs in a 1962 game against the Kansas City Athletics before the American League added the designated hitter rule in 1973.
Pineiro reached on a wild pitch after striking out in the third inning and walked his next two at-bats.
"I got lucky to get on base," he said. "[Billingsley] was throwing the ball hard. I thought I had no chance at all."
Scene and heard
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The Angels have caught World Cup fever in the form of a clubhouse pool. Players hung the national jerseys of the teams they selected from a hat at their lockers.
Reliever Francisco Rodriguez had a Team France jersey, though his real affections are with the Mexican team. He grew up in the border town of Mexicali.
Back when Rodriguez was playing Mexican summer baseball, a scout for a minor-league soccer team saw him playing in a pickup game and offered him a contract on the spot, Rodriguez said.
"He said, 'I'll send you a contract right now to come to Pachuca and play,'" Rodriguez said.
Apparently, the general manager of Rodriguez's baseball team, Los Tigres, got wind of the offer and put an end to negotiations.
Quote of the day
"Pretty soon there are going to be three leagues: The American, the National and the Pac-10." -- Scioscia, alluding to college realignment talks.
The Angels feel as if they're seeing real signs of improvement from left-hander Scott Kazmir (5-5, 5.40 ERA), who has won three of his last four starts after dropping three straight. Kazmir, who pitches Saturday night, has been working all season on bringing his slider back into action. It has been a spotty process, but if he can do it, he'll be a much more formidable pitcher.
The Angels face Dodgers rookie John Ely (3-2, 3.00), who has been so good he helped put the heat on Chicago White Sox general manager Kenny Williams. The Dodgers got Ely in the trade that sent Juan Pierre to Chicago.
Mark Saxon covers the Angels for ESPNLosAngeles.com.