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More Power to Anderson

His second two-run homer of the game is the difference as Angels get great bullpen work and hand Dodgers their sixth loss in a row, 7-5.

June 27, 2004|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

Tie score, eighth inning, runner on second base, no outs ... those who took Situational Hitting 101 know the drill: Get the runner to third any way you can, with a bunt, a ground ball to the right side or a deep fly.

Unless you're Garret Anderson, the Angel center fielder who seems to have an advanced degree in this subject.

Not only did Anderson get the runner over Saturday, he got him over and in by lining a Guillermo Mota pitch over the wall in right-center field for a two-run home run -- his second of the game -- to lift the Angels to a 7-5 interleague victory over the Dodgers before 52,715 in Dodger Stadium.

Anderson completed a comeback from a 5-2 deficit by ripping a two-run home run off Wilson Alvarez in the sixth inning to tie the score, 5-5. Vladimir Guerrero also crushed a first-pitch fastball from starter Odalis Perez deep into the left-field pavilion for a two-run homer in the first inning.

Dodger third baseman Adrian Beltre hit a three-run home run -- his 17th of the season -- off Angel starter Aaron Sele in the first, and the Dodgers added single runs in the second and third, but Angel relievers Kevin Gregg, Brendan Donnelly and Francisco Rodriguez combined to retire 15 of 16 batters over the final five innings.

"I sense the team becoming one," said Donnelly, who has regained his All-Star form after only four appearances this season. "All the guys have been back for a little time and are healthy. It's becoming like it was in 2002, when we all had the same goal in mind and you could see us pushing forward in the right direction."

The Dodgers, meanwhile, have lost their way. They entered this past week on an emotional high, having won two of three against the New York Yankees to build a 1 1/2-game lead in the National League West.

Then they went to San Francisco, where they were swept in a four-game series, and returned home to face their Southern California rivals, losing the first two of a three-game set. And not only did the Dodgers suffer their sixth consecutive loss Saturday, they may have lost their best starting pitcher for a while.

Perez, who is 4-3 with a 2.96 earned run average, was pulled after five innings because of irritation of the rotator cuff in his left shoulder. He said he felt "something burning" in his arm while striking out Darin Erstad to end the fourth, and he worsened in the fifth.

"I don't think I will miss a start," Perez said. "I'll try to play catch [today] and see how it feels."

If Perez does make his next start, against the Angels on Friday night, he'll want to adjust his approach to Guerrero, whose Triple Crown pursuit is thriving -- he ranks among the top three in the AL with a .354 average, 19 homers and 68 runs batted in.

Guerrero is a free swinger, a guy who is as tough to walk as he is to get out, and he loves the first pitch. But Perez challenged him early Saturday and was beaten badly, Guerrero's homer traveling an estimated 435 feet.

"If I was a pitcher, I would never be that stupid," Angel left fielder Jose Guillen said. "I would never pitch to Vladdy. The guy is amazing. If Barry Bonds wants to come play in the American League, he would have to hit in front of Vladdy, because that's the only way they would pitch to him."

Guerrero has some good lineup protection too. Hitting behind him is Anderson, who is batting .349 with four homers and 11 RBIs in 16 games after returning from a 42-game absence caused by an arthritic condition in his upper back.

"He's one of the few athletes I've seen who can get locked in after a short amount of time," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "He has terrific hand-eye coordination and instincts at the plate, and left-handers don't bother him. He's huge for us."

Anderson followed a walk to Guerrero in the sixth by hammering Alvarez's 2-and-2 pitch over the wall in right, the ball nicking off the glove of a leaping Juan Encarnacion as it left the park. It was his third career homer in 33 at-bats against the left-handed Alvarez.

Mota, the dominant setup man who entered with a 1.74 ERA in 34 games, replaced Alvarez to start the eighth and gave up a leadoff single to Guerrero, who then stole second.

Up stepped Anderson, in a repeat of a June 15 situation in Pittsburgh, when he came up with Guerrero on second, no outs, and the Angels trailing, 1-0, in the sixth inning.

Anderson, trying to advance Guerrero, hit a two-run home run off Pirate left-hander Oliver Perez to spark the Angels' 4-2 victory. Saturday, Anderson did the same to Mota.

"At that point, I was more concerned about getting him over to third," Anderson said. "I wanted to make sure we had a runner on third with one out, make life tough on the pitcher. It's a situational thing, but I got a good pitch to do something with."

And then some.

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