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Angels' Loss Raises Tempers

Erstad is heard in clubhouse yelling at teammates to not point fingers after team blows two chances to win during an 8-4, 10-inning loss to Toronto.

May 19, 2006|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

The tensions of a highly disappointing season and the frustration of one of the most excruciating and ugly losses of the year boiled over in the Angels' clubhouse Thursday night.

As reporters questioned Manager Mike Scioscia after an 8-4, 10-inning loss to the Toronto Blue Jays, a game in which the Angels had the potential winning run at third base with one out in the eighth inning and no outs in the ninth and failed to score, a heated argument between two or more players could be heard from the shower area.

As the dispute spilled into the clubhouse, Tim Mead, Angels vice president of communications, shut the door to Scioscia's office, but moments later, the screaming voice of Darin Erstad, on the disabled list but still very much the team's leader, could be heard loud and clear.

"This is going to stop right ... now!" Erstad yelled. "There's going to be no finger-pointing, I don't care who you are! It's over! If we go down, we're all going down together! We're going to pull for everybody! No talking behind anyone's back! Let's pull for each other! Let's go!"

Scioscia took it all in, declining to enter the clubhouse, and searched for some perspective to a season in which the underachieving Angels have lost 14 of their last 19 games.

"There's a level of frustration we have to sift through right now," he said.

"We're not playing to our expectations. Winning is the only goal, and as much as these guys try to turn the page, sometimes that page gets heavy."

Second baseman Adam Kennedy seemed to bear much of that burden.

He flied to shallow left with no outs and Chone Figgins at third in the ninth, and it appeared he was one of the players involved in the fracas when Erstad said, "A.K. knows he screwed up, and he feels like ... about it!"

For several minutes after the game, Kennedy stared into his locker, his head in his hands.

"I don't think it was anything serious," Kennedy said of the dispute, which appeared to include Chone Figgins.

"Everybody's pretty tight in this clubhouse. Everyone knows we're fighting for each other. Things happen."

Toronto first baseman Lyle Overbay sparked the winning rally with a leadoff double in the 10th. After Alex Rios struck out and Bengie Molina was walked intentionally, Aaron Hill hit a run-scoring double off Angel closer Francisco Rodriguez and Russ Adams followed with a two-run single.

Right fielder Vladimir Guerrero's error on Reed Johnson's single allowed the fourth run to score, but for the Angels, the 10th inning wasn't nearly as painful as the ninth and the eighth, when that go-ahead run was so close, and yet so far.

Figgins, who entered as a pinch-runner in the seventh, led off the ninth by beating out a check-swing roller to third and stole second. Tommy Murphy dropped a beautiful bunt to third, beating it out for a single.

Toronto Manager John Gibbons brought his infield and outfield in and summoned left-hander Scott Downs to pitch to Kennedy, who flied to shallow left, Figgins holding at third.

Gibbons pulled Downs in favor of right-hander Justin Frasor, who got Orlando Cabrera to pop to first. Guerrero was walked intentionally, and Tim Salmon took a called third strike, ending the inning.

With one out in the eighth and the score tied, 4-4, Juan Rivera doubled to left-center and took third when the ball rolled under the glove of Blue Jay center fielder Vernon Wells for an error.

Up stepped rookie catcher Mike Napoli, who singled in his first two at-bats and tied the score with his leadoff homer in the seventh, a solo shot to center off Toronto ace Roy Halladay.

The speedy Erick Aybar ran for Rivera at third, and the Blue Jays brought their infield in.

On a 1-and-1 pitch from reliever Justin Speier, Scioscia called for the suicide squeeze, but Napoli, who had all of three sacrifice bunts in six minor league seasons, popped up his bunt to Speier, who completed the easy double play to kill the rally.

Two Angel defensive lapses also helped the Blue Jays break a 3-3 tie in the seventh. Reed Johnson led off with a double off Angel reliever Brendan Donnelly. Frank Catalanotto struck out, and Wells followed with a dribbler toward first.

Donnelly and first baseman Robb Quinlan converged on the ball, but both thought the other would field it.

Wells reached the bag as the two Angels collided, Donnelly shoving Quinlan out of the way, as Johnson took third.

Troy Glaus followed with a high popup to shallow right-center. Kennedy gave way to Guerrero, who, after a long sprint from right field, dropped the ball. Guerrero threw to second to force Wells, but Johnson, who would have held on the play, scored to give Toronto a 4-3 lead.

"It was a tough loss, and a lot of guys in that room are frustrated," Scioscia said.

"They want to win, but we're not going to be in first place after one game or two games. We've got to get after it."

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