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Bats come up big for Angels in 14-11 win

July 24, 2008|Bill Shaikin | Times Staff Writer

What big bat?

The Angels' management talks a lot about liking this roster. The Angels might still be vulnerable in October without another big bat, but on Wednesday the players backed up the management by lighting up the scoreboard and record book.

Jeff Mathis hit a grand slam and drove in six runs, Casey Kotchman collected five hits and Mathis and Howie Kendrick had four apiece. For the first time in club history, three players had at least four hits in a nine-inning game.

And, after the Angels pounded the Cleveland Indians, 14-11, the voices in the clubhouse suggested this offense might be for real. The Angels aren't going to set a season high for runs every day, but the trading deadline is one week away and no one is demanding reinforcements.

"I think we've got plenty of offense in this room to do well in the regular season and the postseason," pitcher John Lackey said, "if we're fortunate enough to get there."

The Angels' lead in the American League West jumped to 10 games, their largest since they led the division by 10 1/2 games on Aug. 16, 1995. The club record is 11 games, also in 1995.

Other than 1995, the Angels previously have had a double-digit lead only once -- a 10-game lead on Sept. 26, 1986. The Angels won the AL West that year and lost a one-game playoff for the division title in 1995.

Manager Mike Scioscia wasn't about to point to Wednesday's scoreboard and declare that the offensive woes have passed, but the Angels have averaged six runs per game this month, not bad for a club that ranks among the bottom five in the AL.

"One day isn't going to cure everything," Scioscia said. "But, if you look at where we've been the last 15 or 20 games, you can see our offense coming to the surface."

So is there no longer a need to consider a trade?

"Not that you ever shy away from more offense, whether it's coming from triple A or in a trade," he said, "but offensively, we're certainly moving in the right direction."

Those were the kids at work on Wednesday. Kendrick tied a club record with three doubles and tied his career highs of four hits and three runs batted in. He's batting .341, including .436 with runners in scoring position.

Kotchman was five for five, with the five hits a career high. He's hitting .289, including .359 against left-handers.

Mathis hit his first grand slam, at any level, and set career highs with four hits and six RBIs.

The Angels' catchers are batting .217, but they lead the majors with 20 home runs and 63 RBIs. Mathis is batting .228 -- but .386 with runners in scoring position.

After getting hits in each of his first four at-bats, Mathis flied out in his final at-bat. As he jogged back toward the dugout, he received a standing ovation.

"That felt pretty good," he said. "That was cool."

Lackey (8-2) won despite giving up six runs in five innings. The Angels got him off the hook in the bottom of the fifth, when Mathis' slam punctuated a five-run inning that put them up, 10-6.

But, even with all that offense, the Angels needed to use closer Francisco Rodriguez, for the fourth time in five days. After the Indians scored five runs in the last three innings against Darren O'Day and Jose Arredondo, Rodriguez threw one pitch to get the final out, for his 42nd save.

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bill.shaikin@latimes.com

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