Bengie Molina is combining the best aspects of his game from the last few years into what could become his finest season.
The Angel catcher is on pace to surpass almost all of the career-high offensive statistics he compiled in 2000 while maintaining the defensive prowess that allowed him last season to become the first American League backstop in 11 years to wrest the Gold Glove award away from Ivan Rodriguez.
There is another reason Molina is having what Angel Manager Mike Scioscia has called an All-Star-caliber season -- his ability to handle a pitching staff that has a 3.90 earned-run average when he is behind the plate.
"You're going to grade Bengie on how many runs a game he's giving up when he catches," Scioscia said. "That reflects on what kind of game he calls, and that's what is really going to help us win. He's doing a terrific job in that respect."
Molina, who was given a rare day off Saturday when the Angels played the New York Mets at Edison Field, is hitting .286 with five home runs and 35 runs batted in. In 2000, he hit .281 with 14 homers and 71 RBIs.
"He's just making good contact," said Molina's brother, Jose. "The ball is finding holes and he's healthy."
Bengie Molina, who has never played in more than 130 games in a season because of injuries, is also playing stellar defense. He has made only one error and has thrown out eight of the last 16 attempted base stealers.
He is throwing out 32% of attempted base stealers this season, down from his major-league best 42.7% last season but impressive nonetheless.
Molina said he's not into the art of comparative statistics.
"It's not like two years ago I did this, and I'm going to try to do it again," he said. "I don't even think about what happened two or three years ago. I try to go day by day for what I got that day. I try to help the club every day I can."
New York first base coach Gary Pettis had to leave the game after being hit in the head by an errant throw during the first inning. He was not seriously injured.