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Angels feeling a big momentum swing

They come into key series against the Rangers on a six-game winning streak, which began with Mark Trumbo's home run last week.

August 25, 2011|By Mike DiGiovanna
  • Angels first baseman Mark Trumbo gets a high-five from third base coach Dino Ebel after hitting a game-winning two-run home run against the Texas Rangers last week at Angel Stadium.
Angels first baseman Mark Trumbo gets a high-five from third base coach… (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)

One moment, the Angels are on the verge of irrelevancy, their season destined for a play-out-the-string September. The next, they're streaming out of their dugout in celebration, their season brimming with meaning and hope.

It seems statistically impossible for one swing of the bat to be the defining moment of a 162-game season filled with more than 10,000 swings. But if the Angels make the playoffs, they will point to Mark Trumbo's walk-off two-run home run against the Texas Rangers on Aug. 18 as that pivotal swat.

The Angels lost the first three games of a key four-game series against the Rangers last week in Anaheim to fall seven games back in the American League West.

They were on the verge of falling eight games back with 37 to play after Mike Napoli hit a seventh-inning homer to give Texas a 1-0 lead it carried into the ninth inning of the series finale.

With closer Neftali Feliz down because he pitched the two previous nights, the Rangers turned to Mike Adams, who had a major league-low 1.12 relief earned-run average at the time.

Torii Hunter lined Adams' second pitch to right-center field for a single. Trumbo, the rookie first baseman, sent a 1-and-1 hanging slider screaming into the left-field seats for his 23rd homer and a dramatic 2-1 victory.

The Angels then won their next five games over the Baltimore Orioles and Chicago White Sox, two on walk-off hits, one in extra innings. Meantime, the Rangers lost five of their next seven and their lead over the Angels is two games entering a three-game series against their division rivals, which begins Friday night in Arlington, Texas.

"I don't know if we would have done this if Trumbo hadn't hit that ball out," said Angels right-hander Dan Haren, who will oppose Texas left-hander Derek Holland on Friday night.

"Those first three games against Texas sucked the life out of us. With one swing of the bat, we felt like we had some life back."

During the five-game losing streak that preceded the six-game win streak, the Angels batted .179 (five for 28) with runners in scoring position and were outscored 35-16. In their win streak, they have outscored opponents 39-17, hit 10 homers and 17 doubles, reached double figures in hits in five times, and batted .380 (21 for 54) with runners in scoring position.

"That's the biggest momentum swing I've ever seen," center fielder Peter Bourjos said of Trumbo's homer. "The feeling we had in the clubhouse was completely different. We had a lot more energy."

Still, despite the triple-digit temperatures expected this weekend, the Rangers probably aren't feeling much heat. They're a veteran team that reached the World Series for the first time last October, ending the Angels' three-year reign as division champions in the process.

"We'll come out [Friday] ready to play. It's a new game, a new opportunity," said Rangers third baseman Michael Young,. "Every game is big. It's doesn't matter who we're playing.

"We've been down this road before. This isn't uncharted waters for us. We know what it's like to go into a pennant race. We know what it's like to win a pennant race. We can draw from experience."

The Angels' Hunter agreed.

"Whenever you get to the playoffs, the World Series, it gives you a different attitude of winning, and that's what the Rangers have," he said. "Most of their guys had never been to the playoffs before last year, and once you get there, it's addicting."

Haren doubts the Rangers are even thinking about the Angels, "which is fine," he said, but at the very least, the Rangers can feel the Angels' presence.

"Now it's a race," Haren said. "Hopefully, we can play with the intensity we've played with in the last six games and gain some more ground this weekend."

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

Times staff writer Kevin Baxter contributed to this report from Arlington, Texas.

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