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It's a case of young glove for the Angels

Wood, Sean Rodriguez make big plays in 5-4 win over Tigers. The other Rodriguez gets 54th save.

September 03, 2008|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

DETROIT -- Start one untested rookie middle infielder in a playoff series, and you're taking your chances. Start two, and many would say you're doomed.

This could be the challenge facing the Angels if the strained left hamstrings of shortstop Erick Aybar and second baseman Howie Kendrick don't heal by October, or if the players suffer setbacks trying to prepare for the postseason.

Brandon Wood and Sean Rodriguez are nowhere near the offensive threats Kendrick and Aybar are, so about all the Angels can hope from the pair is proficient defense.

If Tuesday night's 5-4 win over the Detroit Tigers in Comerica Park is any indication, Wood and Rodriguez won't scare off easily.

Wood made a spectacular diving stop to start a double play, and Rodriguez made a superb catch after a long run in foul territory to help the Angels reduce their magic number for clinching the American League West title to seven.

"I know the playoffs are a little more intense, but any games you play now are going to benefit you," said Wood, the Angels' current shortstop. "It would be exciting to play in October."

Does Rodriguez, who replaced Kendrick at second, feel as if he's prepared for such a test?

"Oh yeah," he said. "That's something you wait for since you're a little kid."

Several other Angels also did some playoff prep work Tuesday night, manufacturing the winning run in the ninth without a hit off Tigers closer Fernando Rodney.

A 29-inning scoreless streak by the Angels' bullpen, dating to Aug. 22, was snapped with two out in the eighth when Miguel Cabrera hit a solo home run, his 31st homer of the season, off Scot Shields to tie the score, 4-4.

The streak, which spanned 10 games, fell a third of an inning short of the franchise record, set in 1978.

But Chone Figgins led off the ninth with a walk and stole second, his third stolen base of the game and 30th of the season.

Garret Anderson grounded to second, advancing Figgins to third, and Mark Teixeira hit a 96-mph, 0-and-2 fastball for a sacrifice fly to center and a 5-4 lead.

"That's the way you play the game -- I love it," said Torii Hunter, who had two doubles, a single and drove in three runs. "That's very important, very big."

So was a quality start for Joe Saunders, who didn't get the win but rebounded from a rocky two-start stretch, giving up three runs and eight hits in 6 1/3 innings. The left-hander gave up 12 runs and 17 hits in 6 2/3 innings of his last two games.

Francisco Rodriguez got Placido Polanco to ground out with two on to end the ninth for his 54th save of the season and 200th of his career.

The 26-year-old is the youngest in major league history to reach 200 saves and he is three shy of Bobby Thigpen's season record.

The web gems by Wood and Rodriguez came in the second, Wood's coming after he bobbled Marcus Thames' inning-opening grounder for an error.

Edgar Renteria followed with a hard grounder to the hole. Wood dived to his right and, adjusting for a bad hop while in the air, thrust his glove upward to make what seemed to be an impossible backhand grab.

Wood scrambled to one knee and fired to Rodriguez to start a double play. After Brandon Inge singled, Rodriguez raced about 110 feet into foul territory and made a sliding catch of Ryan Raburn's popup just in front of the tarp.

"He mishandled one ball but came back and made a highlight-reel play," Manager Mike Scioscia said of Wood, who has combined with Rodriguez to play only 82 major league games. "That's important for a young player to learn. You've got to turn the page on a play you don't make and get to the next one."

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mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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