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Angels' Torii Hunter hits three homers in win

Center fielder is the first Angels player to accomplish the feat since 2003.

June 14, 2009|MIKE DiGIOVANNA

All Torii Hunter wanted Saturday night was one more shot, a chance to become only the 16th player in major league history to hit four home runs in a game.

That dream died in the on-deck circle, from where Hunter watched in near agony as Bobby Abreu struck out to end the eighth inning, but as far as consolation prizes go, this one wasn't bad.

Hunter settled for the first three-homer game of his career and the first three-homer game by an Angel in six years, the center fielder's power surge fueling a 9-1 interleague victory over the San Diego Padres in Angel Stadium that helped move the Angels to within 3 1/2 games of first-place Texas in the American League West.

"I was cheering for Bobby, I was screaming at him, and he was looking at me and saying, 'I'm trying!' " said Hunter, who hit solo home runs in the third, fifth and seventh innings.

"I thought maybe I'd get one more at-bat, but at the same time, I loved this day. . . . I felt like Kobe [Bryant] when he's in the zone and hitting everything. Today, for one day, I know how he feels."

Hunter's three-pointer highlighted a 14-hit attack that included home runs by Kendry Morales and Jeff Mathis and a relentless approach that resulted in the Angels' scoring in seven of the eight innings they batted.

The five homers were their most in a game since they hit seven against the Montreal Expos in Puerto Rico on June 4, 2003.

It was the Angels' first three-homer game since Garret Anderson accomplished the feat that day in San Juan and the first three-homer game in Angel Stadium since Troy Glaus did it against Texas on Sept. 15, 2002.

"There's only one word when Torii swings the bat like that," said Joe Saunders, who gave up one run and eight hits and struck out five in 8 1/3 innings to improve to 7-4. "Wow."

Hunter lined out to right field in the first inning, which included Juan Rivera's two-run single. Morales' second-inning homer made it 3-0, and Hunter took over from there.

In the third inning, facing starter Josh Geer, Hunter drove his 14th homer of the season into the left-field seats.

In the fifth, he hit a towering shot against Geer to left-center field for his 15th homer of the season and 12th multi-homer game of his career, the ball barely clearing the glove of the leaping Tony Gwynn Jr.

"When he jumped, my heart dropped because I thought he caught it," said Hunter, who is known for his leaping catches at the wall. "But like I told someone in the dugout, only me can rob me."

In the seventh, against Joe Thatcher, Hunter lined his team-leading 16th homer off the fake rock formation in center field, increasing his average to .321 and his team-leading run batted in total to 49.

"I don't know if you can pinpoint one guy and say he's carrying you, but what he's done so far this season has been remarkable," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "If he doesn't produce like he has been, we'd really be scrambling to get to the level we need to be.

"He's done everything from playing defense to running the bases, to what he's done in the batter's box and in the clubhouse. It's an understatement to say he's an important part of this club. This guy is special, and we're glad to have him."

As good a night as Hunter had at the plate, the eight-time Gold Glove Award winner could imagine an even better night in the field.

"Robbing home runs still feels better than hitting them," Hunter said. "If I robbed three homers in one game, I would throw a party for all the media and the fans with no admission charge."





When: 12:30 p.m.

Where: Angel Stadium.

On the air: Channel 13; Radio: 830, 1330.

Pitchers: Jered Weaver vs. Chris Young.

Update: If Weaver continues to pitch as he has for the first two months of the season, he will be a near lock to make his first All-Star team. He has quality starts, in which he has gone six innings or more and given up three earned runs or fewer, in nine of 12 games and has given up only five runs and 20 hits in 26 innings of his last four starts, three wins and a no-decision. Young is 7-1 with a 2.50 earned-run average in 11 interleague starts but has not faced the Angels since Sept. 22, 2005, when he pitched for the Texas Rangers.

-- Mike DiGiovanna

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