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Angels vs. Chicago | ANGEL REPORT

Hatcher Says Guerrero Close to Ending Slump

October 14, 2005|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

Mickey Hatcher, the Angels' hitting coach, had a feeling Vladimir Guerrero might bust out of his postseason funk Wednesday when the Angel slugger drove a ball to the wall in left-center field in his final Game 1 at-bat Tuesday.

"He just missed that one -- I've got him in the weight room right now," Hatcher joked before Game 2. "After the New York series, we looked at some tapes, found some things, and made some little adjustments. I'm starting to see that look in his eyes. He's gone through phases where all it takes is one swing, and he takes off."

Air Vlad remained grounded Wednesday, though. Guerrero grounded out twice, hit into a double play and popped to second in the Angels' 2-1 loss to the White Sox.

A .317 hitter with 32 home runs and 108 runs batted in during the regular season, Guerrero is hitless in eight ALCS at-bats -- and has seen only 17 pitches -- and is batting .231 (six for 26) with one RBI in seven postseason games.

The Angels' biggest concern entering the playoffs was that opponents would pitch around Guerrero, refusing to let him beat them, but while opponents have certainly pitched him tough, they have not given Guerrero the Barry Bonds treatment.

In fact, in the eighth inning Wednesday night, with a runner on third and a 1-1 tie, it appeared White Sox left-hander Mark Buehrle was pitching around Orlando Cabrera, who had doubled and singled in his two previous at-bats, to face Guerrero.

Buehrle threw several pitches well off the plate, and the count was 3-and-1 when Cabrera ripped a fly ball to the wall in left for the final out.

Guerrero has had plenty of pitches to hit, but he appears to have slipped into the same habits that hurt him in July, when his average dropped from .350 to .305 in a three-week span: swinging at too many first pitches -- he did that twice Wednesday night -- and expanding his strike zone too far.

As a result, Guerrero, who has been plagued by a sore left shoulder at times this season and was icing the shoulder after Game 1, has not been driving the ball with his normal consistency.

"If we're going to reach our goal, the whole lineup has to do it," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "We know how important Vlad is to the club. We know what he can do. We don't bank on him [carrying the offense], but certainly, he has to contribute."


Garret Anderson has had a productive postseason, with three home runs and eight RBIs, Bengie Molina is batting .360 with three homers and five RBIs in seven playoff games, and the Angels have gotten solid contributions from Cabrera (.276, four RBIs) and Darin Erstad (.296, three RBIs).

But the offense hasn't seemed whole without leadoff batter Chone Figgins creating havoc on the base paths. Figgins had a big hit in Game 4 of the division series, a double that drove in the first run in the Angels' 3-2 loss to the Yankees, and he had a triple and RBI single in the Angels' 11-7 Game 3 victory over the Yankees.

But other than that, Figgins, who led the major leagues with 62 stolen bases, has been quiet -- he enters Game 3 tonight with a .143 postseason average (four for 28), one stolen base and nine strikeouts.

"He's taking too many pitches early in the count," Hatcher said. "He's been getting a lot of strike ones and strike twos on borderline fastballs, and he's just missed some pitches. When Figgy gets more aggressive, he usually turns it around. I think he's going to have a phase during this series where he's going to be the man."

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