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No Doubts About It, Angels Needed This

Positive attitude has been lacking, but everything goes right in a 9-2 victory over the Dodgers.

July 02, 2006|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

It was a rare afternoon for the Angels, one of those days when everything, for a change, went right. Their starting pitcher didn't crack under pressure, their error-prone defense came up with several huge plays, and their much-maligned offense produced some big hits.

And the Dodgers?

Well, let's just say Grady Little, their cut-to-the-chase manager, provided a succinct summation of Saturday's proceedings in Angel Stadium.

"We're glad that one's over with," Little said. "That wasn't very pleasant to watch."

What left a sour taste in Little's mouth was a 9-2 Angels victory that featured Garret Anderson's 2,000th hit, a pair of Mike Napoli solo home runs, seven shutout innings from starter Kelvim Escobar, who won his first game since May 12, and three Dodgers errors that helped the Angels score five unearned runs.

Of course, this was the kind of game the Angels, who ended a three-game losing streak and pulled within six games of Oakland in the American League West, have been pining for, an all-around effort they hope will spark some kind of second-half surge.

"Any time you score nine runs you're going to look more crisp, but I liked the pace of the game, how we got after it and kept going," Manager Mike Scioscia said.

"I liked the way we made plays on defense and our game plan on offense. We played with the confidence we needed today."

As if the Angels didn't have enough concerns, with an offense that ranks last in the league in slugging percentage (.398), 13th in on-base percentage (.317) and 12th in hitting with runners in scoring position (.251), and a defense that leads the league with 65 errors, Scioscia has noticed another problem: self-doubt.

The manager held a brief meeting after Friday night's loss, imploring the Angels to come to the park every day with the feeling they're going to win, an attitude shortstop Orlando Cabrera said the team has been lacking.

"It's tough enough to win when you have that attitude," Scioscia said. "There are a lot of dynamics right now with some young guys trying to make a footprint in the big leagues and some guys struggling with injuries and poor performance. When you sift through all that, you have to come to the park expecting to win. You have to think about making plays, not making mistakes."

The Angels found some of that swagger Saturday, on the mound, in the field and at the plate.

Escobar worked out of a two-on, one-out jam in the third inning and a two-on, no-out jam in the fourth, and center fielder Juan Rivera, who had three hits and a run, had two outfield assists.

In the fourth, Rivera fired a one-hop throw to Napoli to nail Nomar Garciaparra, who tried to score on Andre Ethier's single. Rafael Furcal doubled to left-center with two out in the fifth, but a Rivera-to-Cabrera-to-Maicer Izturis relay cut down Furcal, who tried to stretch the hit into a triple.

Cabrera also thwarted a potential seventh-inning rally, making a sliding stop of Toby Hall's grounder up the middle with two on and flipping to second to start a double play.

Napoli's home run highlighted a two-run second, and Anderson's two-out, two-run double keyed a three-run third off Mark Hendrickson, the left-hander who was making his Dodgers debut after being acquired Tuesday from Tampa Bay.

Hendrickson's throwing error on Izturis' bunt, a ball that squirted out of Garciaparra's glove at first base at the last moment, extended the inning.

The Angels added two more runs in the sixth, and Napoli, the rookie catcher, hit his 10th homer in the seventh, helping Escobar, who has a 3.84 earned-run average, end a streak in which he went 0-7 with a no-decision in his previous eight starts.

"When you're up by five runs, you don't have to be too fine, you can just pound the strike zone," Escobar (6-9) said.

"It's been tough on me the last six or seven weeks, not getting good results, but there's still half a season left. I believe in myself, and I think I can still help this team make the playoffs."

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