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ANGELS FYI

Angels shake off early slump

After going 17-9 in June, the Angels led the Texas Rangers by one game in the American League West entering Friday's game.

July 04, 2009|Bill Brink and Jim Peltz

After three months of heartache, injuries and early missteps, the Angels have rallied enough to reach first place as the season's halfway mark approaches.

But the club has yet to reach its potential, said Manager Mike Scioscia.

The Angels were 5 1/2 games out of first place twice this season and entered June still 4 1/2 games behind the Texas Rangers.

But after going 17-9 in June, the team is now tied with the Rangers for first place in the American League West.

"I would say the last month and a half, we've been playing good," said right fielder Bobby Abreu. "We started slow, we started with a lot of difficult stuff," he said, which included Nick Adenhart's death in a car crash April 9.

"But I think in that month and a half we've put everything together," Abreu said.

The Angels hit a collective .280 in June and rattled off separate winning streaks of seven and six games.

Trying to quickly correct mistakes and maintaining an attack mentality helped engineer the comeback, Abreu said.

"We never give up, this team's never given up," he said. "We always attack, we always try to start a rally no matter what."

But Scioscia said the team still has work to do. "We have a lot of upside still in our ballclub, and that's what we have to chase to be that type of club that we can be," he said.

Closer Brian Fuentes said each player was taking responsibility for boosting the team's performance.

"It's individuals who make up this team and it's individuals who try to cut out those little mistakes," he said. "That translates into team wins."

Matthews milestone

When Gary Matthews Jr. collects his next hit, he will have 1,000 in his big league career, a milestone that he said will immediately bring to mind his father.

"I really have a long way to go to catch my dad," Matthews said, referring to Gary Matthews Sr., who finished his 16-year career in the majors with 2,011 hits.

"I do feel a sense of pride about my own accomplishment," said the younger Matthews, 34, a switch-hitter who started his major league career a decade ago with the San Diego Padres, then played for several other teams, including Baltimore, before joining the Angels in 2007.

Matthews' march toward 1,000 hits has been slow lately. He was five for 40 last month, or .125, and is still hitting only .229.

Regardless, "I feel fortunate, I really do" to reach 1,000 hits, he said. "I have a lot of pride because I stuck around long enough to do it.

"You have to stay relatively healthy for a long duration," he said. "Last year was really the first year that I had a significant injury," a damaged tendon in his left knee that required surgery.

"Hopefully, there are some more milestones down the road, like a championship," Matthews said.

Palmer's status

Despite a 7-1 record this year mainly as a starter, Matt Palmer probably will fill the long reliever's role with the return of Ervin Santana to the starting rotation, Scioscia said.

"I don't know if we're going to rule out that he's not going to get back in the rotation at some point, but that's where we are right now," Scioscia said of Palmer.

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william.brink@latimes.com

james.peltz@latimes.com

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