Tim Salmon is a proud man. He considers himself a ballplayer, not merely a hitter. He is not offended that the Angels wish to use him more often at designated hitter these days, but he takes exception to those who infer that his defense has deteriorated to the point he is a liability in right field.
To the spirited sellout crowd of 43,726 at Edison Field on Saturday, including one who waved a "BEAT L.A." sign possibly swiped from San Francisco, Salmon was the guy who hit the game-winning home run in the sixth inning of the Angels' 3-1 victory over the Dodgers. Salmon was just as happy, perhaps more so, with the defensive play he made that preserved a tie in the top of the inning.
Salmon and Shawn Wooten homered off Dodger starter Kazuhisa Ishii, powering the Angels (39-39) to back-to-back victories for the first time in 17 days. They shoot for their first series sweep in eight weeks today, against a Dodger team that has scored one run in its past 20 innings and is only two games ahead of the third-place Arizona Diamondbacks in the National League West.
"It's pathetic," Dodger center fielder Dave Roberts said. "We're in late June and this keeps happening.
"We get a great outing from Kevin Brown the other night, and all we do is waste it. We get a great outing from Ishii tonight, and we waste it. We just can't keep wasting all these great outings, but that's what we're doing."
Kevin Appier beat the Dodgers for the second time in a week, with Scot Shields, Brendan Donnelly and Troy Percival retiring the final nine hitters in order. Percival has not given up a hit in nine appearances since returning from the disabled list three weeks ago.
In a game that featured several spectacular defensive plays, the most significant one was made by the guy who won't be needing his glove quite so much these days.
The Angels told Salmon on Friday that he would play a lot less in right field and would be their primary designated hitter against right-handers. Against Ishii, a left-hander, Salmon started in right field, and the alignment paid off.
In the sixth inning, with the score tied, 1-1, and Paul Lo Duca on first base, Shawn Green doubled into the right-field corner. The ball can carom unpredictably off the wall, forcing many rookies and opponents to play cautiously. Green did that Friday, and Garret Anderson ran a double into a triple.
"That corner wraps around severely," Angel bench coach Joe Maddon said. "It's trickier than people understand. It looks simple, but it's not."
Salmon, with his decade of experience there, charged Green's ball aggressively and read the carom perfectly, forcing Dodger third-base coach Glenn Hoffman to hold Lo Duca at third.
"If I let it go, with Shawn running, that's a triple," Salmon said.
The Dodgers would have led, 2-1, with a runner on third and one out. That's not to say they would have scored another run, not with what passes for the Dodger offense these days, but the team with baseball's best earned-run average would have had a lead.
"I don't know their exact ERA -- minus-1 or something," Appier said.
Salmon had preserved the tie, but Appier still had a mess on his hands, with runners on second and third and one out. Angel Manager Mike Scioscia ordered Mike Kinkade intentionally walked, setting up a potential double play.
"Scioscia made it a little more tense when he loaded the bases," Appier said. "I had no room for error."
Adrian Beltre grounded to first base, but Scott Spiezio's throw home was wide of the plate. Bengie Molina, the Angels' Gold Glove catcher, extended his body toward first base, snared the ball, dropped it, recovered with his bare hand, then pushed his body backward so he could kick his right leg across the plate.
"And that's not really a scooping glove," Spiezio said.
Molina tagged the plate before Lo Duca, and the Angels got their force play.
"I thought he was going to be right on top of me," Molina said. "I never expected it to be an out."
Ron Coomer then grounded into an inning-ending force play. Salmon led off the bottom of the inning with a home run, Wooten homered later in the inning, and the Angels were nine innings from a sweep.
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*--* The salaries of right fielder Shawn Green and the other position players starting for the Dodgers on Saturday: RF Shawn Green $15,666,667 3B Adrian Beltre $3,700,000 1B Paul Lo Duca $2,636,667 2B Alex Cora $1,150,000 DH Ron Coomer $650,000 CF Dave Roberts $400,000 SS Cesar Izturis $335,000 LF Mike Kinkade $320,000 C David Ross $300,000 Others combined $9,491,667