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ANGELS 8, BALTIMORE 5

Vladimir Guerrero provides plenty of power for Angels

The slugger hits two home runs and drives in five runs in Angels' victory over Orioles.

August 18, 2009|MIKE DiGIOVANNA | ON THE ANGELS

BALTIMORE — Yeah, Vladimir Guerrero is a drain on the Angels' offense, all right.

All the aging slugger who was supposed to clog up the cleanup spot did Monday night was hit two home runs and drive in five runs in the Angels' 8-5 victory over the Baltimore Orioles in Camden Yards.

In 12 games since he was activated from the disabled list Aug. 4, Guerrero is batting .370 (17 for 46) with six home runs and 10 runs batted in.

He made the Orioles pay dearly for intentionally walking Bobby Abreu with two out in the seventh inning Monday, sending a 416-foot laser over the left-center field wall for a three-run home run that put the game out of reach.

And to think, a large number of fans cringed at the thought of Guerrero returning from two leg injuries, thinking his hacking mentality and tendency to hit into double plays would slow baseball's most potent offense.

"Hey, Vladdy has done nothing but lift us up," center fielder Torii Hunter said. "He looks like his old self. He's getting through the ball, hitting for power."

Hunter has noticed something else about Guerrero, something that often comes with the uncertainty of being an injury-prone 34-year-old in the last year of a contract.

"He's hungry," Hunter said.

No hungrier than usual, said Guerrero, who sat out 56 games because of a torn chest muscle and a hamstring strain and had only four home runs and 21 RBIs in his first 46 games.

"It's not because of the contract, I can tell you that," Guerrero said through an interpreter. "I've left my heart on the field. I'm hungry all the time."

Including those rare times the batter in front of him is intentionally walked.

Guerrero's two-run home run to left-center field against starter David Hernandez (4-5) capped a three-run sixth inning that gave the Angels a 5-2 lead.

With a runner on second in the seventh, right-hander Cla Meredith walked the left-handed-hitting Abreu to face Guerrero, whose three-run shot made it 8-3 and gave Guerrero 38 multi-homer games.

"My mind didn't really change because they walked Bobby," Guerrero said. "I just wanted to make good contact. I wasn't looking for a home run."

Has he seen many batters intentionally walked in front of him?

"I've seen it more this year," Guerrero said. "I can't blame them, because I haven't been right."

Guerrero's outburst helped make a winner of Ervin Santana (6-6), who gave up three runs and seven hits in six solid but not spectacular innings, striking out five and walking one.

Kendry Morales also hit a two-run home run in the second inning, his 26th, and Maicer Izturis hit a solo shot in the sixth inning, the sixth time this season -- and third time in the last 11 games -- the Angels have hit four home runs.

The Angels, who won three of four games from the Orioles to improve to 22-8 since the All-Star break and maintain their 4 1/2 -game lead over Texas in the American League West, have hit 90 home runs in their last 57 games after hitting 44 in their first 58 games.

"We were underachieving the first couple months, but the potential was there," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "We have some guys who can drive the ball. They're getting comfortable in the box, and when they're getting pitches to hit, they're not missing them."

Which raises the question, as silly as it sounds for those who have followed the power-starved Angels for the last five years:

Have they become too reliant on the home run?

"That," Scioscia said, "is the first time that question has been posed in 10 years."

--

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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