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Salmon, Karros Strike Back

Baseball: Angel outfielder, Dodger first baseman rebound from poor seasons to become productive again.

June 17, 2002|BEN BOLCH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Tim Salmon's two-run home run Sunday made him the Angels' all-time leader in runs batted in. Eric Karros' two-run shot into the left-center-field seats led the Dodgers' comeback from a three-run deficit.

Not bad for a couple of guys considered by some to be sliding face-first into the twilight of their careers after atrocious seasons in 2001.

Salmon batted a career-low .227 with 17 homers. Karros hit a career-low .235 with 15 home runs after tearing a muscle in his back during spring training.

Both players excelled Sunday as Karros' Dodgers rallied to defeat Salmon's Angels, 5-4, at Dodger Stadium. And judging by their play so far this season, they may be returning to top form.

Salmon went two for four to raise his average to .285, which is especially impressive considering he was hitting .135 on April 19. His homer in the fourth inning, which put the Angels up, 2-0, allowed him to pass Brian Downing as the club's all-time RBI leader with 848.

"I don't really think about those things," said Salmon, 33, also the club's home run leader with 259. "It's great that I'm mentioned in the same sentence with Brian Downing. But I'm still playing. I'm in the middle of a career.

"You don't think about those things now. Down the road it will mean something."

Karros went three for four, finishing a triple short of the cycle, and is batting .312 with seven home runs and 35 RBIs. His homer in the sixth inning pulled the Dodgers to within a run, 4-3.

In addition to relocating his hitting stroke, Karros is playing defense better than he has in at least three seasons, Manager Jim Tracy said.

"He's just having a tremendous season," Tracy said. "I can't say enough good things about this guy. The consummate professional. Has done nothing but give us great at-bats in big situations, and the ball doesn't have to be hit out of the ballpark to be a great at-bat."

Karros, 34, said he "doesn't feel good or bad" about his big game Sunday--and doesn't care what critics thought about last season.

"I know what I went through last year physically, and what other people think, I really don't concern myself with," he said. "Physically, I'm healthy. That's the big difference."

Karros played hurt all season except for a three-week stretch on the disabled list. The former National League rookie of the year produced numbers well below those he had established during his first nine seasons, when he hit .270 and averaged 27 homers and 93 RBIs.

But he has made a nice recovery after extensive winter workouts with physical therapist Alex McKechnie.

Salmon didn't have a doctor's note to explain his horrid 2001 season, in which he drove in 49 runs, another career low. It was just an aberration, he hoped.

And that appears to be the case. He has 12 home runs and 42 RBIs this season--though he was quick to shrug off the team RBI record.

"That says more about the longevity I've had with the organization," said Salmon, who debuted with the Angels in 1992. "You'll have those statistics when you play long enough like myself, Brian Downing and Troy Glaus, if he stays with this team long enough."

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