ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -- After grinding out another critical
victory behind Paul Byrd's solid pitching, the Los Angeles Angels
were in a somber mood. They were mourning the death of their team
chaplain, Chuck Obremski, who fought cancer for two years.
"I think it was amazing that he died the minute we took the
field," Byrd said Sunday after beating the Detroit Tigers 5-3. "I
usually take the field at :03, :04, and I was getting ready to go.
But Darin Erstad wasn't ready, so it kind of threw me off a little
"We took the field at :05, and that was the exact minute he
died. Maybe it was a coincidence, maybe not, but it was powerful.
It was nice that we won and were able to dedicate the game to
Obremski, 48, presided over the regular Sunday chapel services
in both clubhouses during Angels homestands for several years,
right up to the final game of the previous homestand. After the
Angels won their only world championship in 2002, they gave him a
World Series ring the following Easter Sunday.
Everyone around the league knew how weak he was and how
difficult it was for him to do his job, but they all marveled at
the way he never gave in to his illness.
"His goal was to last through the season -- and in my mind, he
did," Byrd said. "He had battled cancer for a couple of years and
he didn't feel sorry for himself. He finished strong and went out
with a lot of courage and went out fighting, and that's what we
want to do as members of the Angels. We want to finish strong on
Erstad and Juan Rivera each drove in two runs and Vladimir
Guerrero hit an RBI double, helping the first-place Angels maintain
their two-game lead in the AL West over Oakland.
Byrd (12-10) allowed a run and seven hits in 6 2/3 innings,
striking out six and walking one. The right-hander worked with
runners on base in each of the first five innings, giving up his
only run on a double-play grounder by Brandon Inge with the bases
loaded in the fifth.
Byrd is 3-1 with a 0.91 ERA over his last four starts after
going 0-4 with a 5.40 ERA in his previous seven outings.
"I love the pressure and I love that every game counts," he
said. "I've been on last-place teams and first-place teams, and
this is what it's all about. Coming down the wire, every pitch
means something and you can't take anything for granted. It's very
exciting. I think all of our guys have really turned it up a
Detroit center fielder Curtis Granderson, batting leadoff for
the second time this season so that second baseman Placido Polanco
could rest a sore right shoulder, was 5-for-5 with a first-inning
double to set a career high for hits.
"I haven't had enough time up here to go ahead and say, 'Hey,
yeah, I belong.' I've only had a little scratch of the surface,"
Granderson said. "I was put in the leadoff role a little more this
season in Triple-A in about 50 percent of the games. At first it
was more of a mental thing. But then I just start to think, I'm
only going to lead off one time."
In Thursday's 8-6 victory over the Angels, the 24-year-old
rookie hit a three-run, inside-the-park homer and robbed Bengie
Molina of a home run. In 33 games, Granderson is hitting .318 with
six homers and 16 RBI.
"He's an incredible young player," Byrd said. "I was
unfamiliar with him, but I threw everything everywhere, and he was
Scot Shields came on in the ninth for his 72nd appearance this
season, tying the Angels' record set in 1967 by Minnie Rojas. He
gave up a two-run single to pinch-hitter Dmitri Young before
Francisco Rodriguez got two outs for his 38th save in 43 tries.
Matt Ginter (0-1) allowed five runs and 10 hits over 4 1/3
innings in his first start for the Tigers after 13 relief
appearances. He got the assignment in place of Nate Robertson, who
is 0-4 with a 9.41 ERA in his last four starts and 6-14 overall.
Robertson complained of fatigue in his shoulder after giving up
seven runs and seven hits over three innings in a 9-3 home loss to
Minnesota last Tuesday night.
Ginter was a full-time reliever with the White Sox before the
Mets converted him into a starter last year. The right-hander did
both this season with Detroit's Triple-A Toledo club, going 4-3
with a 5.09 ERA in 10 starts for the International League champion
A couple days ago, Tigers manager Alan Trammell said Ginter was
best suited for middle relief, as opposed to starting. The Angels
helped drive that point home with a three-run first, including
Guerrero's RBI double, a run-scoring groundout by Erstad and
Rivera's RBI single.
Ginter threw 68 pitches. His highest pitch count in his 13
relief appearances for the Tigers also was 68, in a season-high
five-inning stint against the Angels on May 15 at Detroit. ...
Guerrero leads the Angels with 31 homers, 103 RBI and a .318
average. Last year's AL MVP is trying to become the first player in
the franchise's 45-year history to lead the team in all three
Triple Crown categories and play in 100 or more games in
back-to-back seasons. ... Craig Monroe had the only other five-hit
game for the Tigers this season on Sept. 3 in Chicago against the