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Maicer Izturis guesses right for winning hit

He gets a breaking ball from Rangers' Darren Oliver for the second day in a row and singles in Jeff Mathis.

May 14, 2011|By Kevin Baxter
  • Maicer Izturis drives in the winning run with a single off Texas' Darren Oliver in the top of the ninth inning of Saturday's 3-2 Angels' victory at Rangers Ballpark.
Maicer Izturis drives in the winning run with a single off Texas' Darren… (Tim Heitman / US Presswire )

Reporting from Arlington, Texas — If you ask Maicer Izturis, not all at-bats are created equal.

Take his at-bat against the Rangers' Darren Oliver on Friday. Oliver got Izturis on a breaking ball — something the Angels infielder filed away for a situation such as the ninth inning Saturday, when he came to the plate with two out and the winning run on second.

On Friday, Oliver's first pitch was a breaking ball. So guess what Izturis was looking for Saturday?

"He went with the same stuff. A slider," Izturis said.

And Izturis lined it into left field for his second game-winning hit of the season, raising his average to .331.

"Early in the game, you try to see more pitches, try to [get] on base," he said. "Late in the game, like that situation, you try to win."

The Angels have struggled hitting with runners in scoring position — they were two for 13 Saturday. But Manager Mike Scioscia said he was confident with the switch-hitting Izturis at the plate.

"He's going to put the ball in play. He's a contact hitter. He's disciplined," Scioscia said. "He's always hit well with runners in scoring position. It's just a trait that he has."

Catching on

When Jeff Mathis got to the clubhouse just after noon Saturday, the first thing he did was check the lineup card — which is the first thing he does every time he gets to the ballpark.

"Hopefully," he said "you'll see your name in there."

Mathis and rookie Hank Conger have split time behind the plate this season, with each starting 19 times.

But Mathis has been Scioscia's preferred catcher against left-handers and with the Angels facing lefty starters in four of the next five games, he figures to get most of those starts.

"Ultimately, I'd like to be in there more," Mathis said. "Hitting's rhythm. Being in there and seeing pitches, work the count, that sort of thing. Yeah, I wish I was getting more at-bats on a consistent basis. But there's not much you can do about it."

Mathis has struggled at the plate again this season, especially in comparison with the switch-hitting Conger. By going two for four Saturday, Mathis lifted his average above .200 for the first time in three weeks; Conger is hitting 79 points higher.

But Conger never caught more than 87 games in a season in the minors and Mathis has started as many as 90 games only once in six big league seasons, so dividing the playing time early in the season could keep both players fresh.

"That does play a big role," said Mathis, who split time with Mike Napoli in the past. "You've still got your legs under you."

Added Conger: "I think it's been going pretty good. I feel healthy. The way it's kind of setting up right now is going well for the team."

Short hops

Erick Aybar's seventh-inning single extended his career-best hitting streak to 12 games. … Alberto Callaspo's third-inning fielding miscue ended an 80-inning errorless streak for the Angels dating to May 4 in Boston.

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