NEW YORK — When Torii Hunter crushed a three-run homer in Game 1 of the division series against the Red Sox, he let out a primal scream as he left the batter's box, sprinted around the bases with a scowl, high-fived teammates with enough force to break a few wrists and slam-dunked his helmet so hard in the dugout that it bounced over Chone Figgins' head.
"Torii plays with a lot of excitement," second baseman Howie Kendrick said Thursday in Yankee Stadium, on the eve of the Angels' American League Championship Series opener.
"He's like a football player. He's fiery, and he gets guys going. It seems like he comes through in big situations, and we feed off of that. Not all of us are the same as Torii, but that's how he does it."
Hunter, the 34-year-old center fielder who is the heart and soul of this Angels team, knows no other way.
"I'm a guy with a lot of adrenaline," Hunter said. "When I played football, I used to call myself the Sand Man, because I put a lot of receivers to sleep. I've been like that my whole career."
But adrenaline in baseball, especially in the postseason, "can be counterproductive," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "You have to control it, work through it and play baseball."
Hunter has, which is why he's a .306 hitter in 28 career playoff games, with four home runs and 16 runs batted in.
"You can't do some parts of this game with a football player's mentality, but the grind of the season, the grind of the playoffs, it's definitely something that can pull you through," Scioscia said. "Mental toughness is important. Torii has a way to temper things when he gets into the batter's box, so he can let his swing happen.
"There wasn't anyone who played this game with more of a football player's mentality than Kirk Gibson, but when he got into the batter's box, he had a hitter's mentality that let him slow things down and put the swings on pitches he needed to."
The Angels are known for their aggressive base-running, but Scioscia didn't necessarily think that the expected rain and cold temperatures in New York would negatively affect his team more than the Yankees.
"In the past, we've been much more dependent on what we've created on the bases than I think we did this year," Scioscia said. "We had a really good season running the bases, but I don't think our offense was as dependent on what we did on the base paths this year as it had been in previous years.
"Our batter's box offense was much better. Our situational hitting was much better. We didn't drive the ball as well as the Yankees did, but we certainly scored on par with them. So if it slows down our running game, I think we have some things that we can still do."