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Inside Baseball | Ross Newhan / ON BASEBALL

Anderson Retorts for Duty, on the Double

September 26, 2004|Ross Newhan

It was the difference of two games in one, and it was the difference of Garret Anderson delivering hits instead of absorbing them.

The Angels defeated the Oakland A's, 5-3, Saturday and just about any cliche is appropriate.

Let's just say it was a must win, considering that without it the Angels would have been four games behind the A's in the American League West with eight to play, and they would have been without a magic number other than 2005.

Now, they are back to within two going into today's demanding test against Mark Mulder, and they carry the modest hope that Saturday's eight-hit attack will translate to an awakening for their slumbering offense.

There is no guarantee, but there was even the uplifting hint of that memorable October 2002 as a red-clad crowd of 43,197 saw Darin Erstad shatter another mounting string of zeroes with a three-run homer for a 3-1 lead in the fifth inning and Anderson snap a 3-3 tie in the eighth with his second and decisive double.

As any monkey-toting fan knows, Erstad hit the solo homer that triggered the improbable three-run rally in the eighth inning of Game 6 of the World Series victory over the San Francisco Giants, and Anderson provided the difference in Game 7 with a three-run double in the third inning.

The Angels, of course, are now in a different time and place, especially the RBI machine that is Anderson.

The center fielder has been plagued by injuries, starting with the biceps tendinitis that limited his spring training preparations.

Then there was the arthritic condition in his upper back that evaded diagnosis and deprived him of 43 games in the first half, and now, for almost six weeks, he has battled tendinitis in his left knee that has seemed to affect his maneuverability in the outfield and the amount of weight he is able to put on his back leg at the plate.

The stoic Anderson has maintained that he wouldn't be playing if he weren't able to play, but a two-for-27 slide going into Saturday's game brought out the critics with their own interpretation of that ability to play.

One morning paper reported that Anderson "appears either injured or disinterested" and added that "his effort level in center field is sagging."

Times columnist J.A. Adande suggested that he "must be on some strange diet, or that left knee is bothering him more than we know, because he doesn't seem to be himself."

Asked for a physical update after Saturday's game, Anderson said he would stick with what he has said previously and definitely left the impression that he had been reading the papers.

"I have nothing to talk about," he said. "It seems like a few guys have formed their own opinions, and we'll leave it at that."

Who can blame him?

Considering the physical toll and the time he has missed since March, it shouldn't come as a surprise if he is not himself.

Still, he hung in against left-hander Ricardo Rincon with the game on the line and delivered the double that won it for the Angels and gave him 70 runs batted in.

Although 70 is far below Anderson's customary production, bench coach Joe Maddon suggested the total is another measure of his All-Star talent given that few other hitters would have reached it amid a similarly disjointed season.

"Hitting is all about timing and rhythm," Maddon said. "Physically, I think Garret is as strong as ever. We see it in batting practice.

"But in the game, he's still searching for that timing and rhythm probably more so than at any time since he was a kid, and he tends to expand the strike zone more than we've seen in the past. It's all about frustration and missing all that time.

"Don't forget, we hold Garret to a higher standard, and he holds himself to that standard.

"Hopefully, what he did today will help restore some of his confidence and he can ride it over the last week of the season. It would be a huge lift for us."

There were no predictions from Anderson, obviously in no mood to chat with his friends from the media.

"It's just great we won the game," he said. "That's all I've got to say, all that matters."

It is believed that Manager Mike Scioscia had plenty to say when the game ended.

Scioscia wouldn't discuss it, nor would any of his players, but it is believed that he conducted a clubhouse meeting to chew out Jose Guillen for a petulant and selfish display when he was lifted for pinch-runner Alfredo Amezaga, who would score the winning run on Anderson's double.

While the A's changed pitchers, Guillen left first base and walked slowly across the diamond, ultimately hurling his helmet at the end of the dugout occupied by Scioscia before walking to the other end, where he continued to throw a variety of objects against the dugout wall.

If the embarrassing performance was meant to show up Scioscia, the manager chalked it up to Guillen's emotional nature, but it was not the first time he has had to remind the left fielder that there is no "I" in team.

The incident, and the virtual certainty that Scioscia addressed it while reporters waited outside the locked clubhouse, created a strangely subdued atmosphere in the aftermath of the imperative and spirited victory.

Of course, the Angels have always adhered to Scioscia's one-at-a-time mantra, and still two games down to the A's is no time to change.

Any other interpretation is best left to the media, center fielder Anderson would likely suggest.

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