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Angels' Torii Hunter preys on the Athletics

He doubles in the go-ahead run and throws out a runner at the plate in a 4-1 victory over the Athletics. Jeff Mathis also gets a big hit.

May 23, 2011|By Mike DiGiovanna

Torii Hunter took exception to a recent blog headline that jokingly suggested he was not in the May 8 lineup against Cleveland because he was ducking Indians ace Fausto Carmona.

"I'm not afraid of nobody!" Hunter told reporters, somewhat angrily, the next day. "I'm a beast, man!"

That he was Monday night.

Hunter gunned down the potential go-ahead run with a strong throw to the plate in the seventh inning and knocked in the go-ahead run with a double in the eighth to lead the Angels to a 4-1 victory over the Oakland Athletics at Angel Stadium.

Catcher Jeff Mathis, who entered with a .188 average and five runs batted in, added a clutch, two-out, two-run single to cap a three-run eighth and teamed with Hunter on the game's decisive defensive play.

"Throwing the runner out was the bigger thrill," said Hunter, a nine-time Gold Glove Award winner who moved from center field to right last August. "Defense is everything to me. I've gotten better as a hitter, but defense got me here. I never want to slack off on defense."

Angels starter Jered Weaver retired the first two batters of the seventh before giving up singles to Andy LaRoche and Cliff Pennington with the score tied, 1-1.

Coco Crisp followed with a sharp single to right that Hunter charged and fielded cleanly, but Hunter's laser of a throw was low, taking the first hop in the grass near the first-base cutout.

The ball bounced two more times, including a short hop that Mathis, who was blocking the plate, fielded while falling back toward the third-base dugout.

But Mathis was able to secure the ball and get a tag to LaRoche's right hip, and umpire Kerwin Danley called LaRoche out to end the inning.

"It took a few hops, but it was a good, strong throw, on line," Weaver said. "Matty played a short hop, and Torii had to catch the ball on a short hop, so it was a great play all around."

Erick Aybar opened the bottom of the eighth with a walk off A's reliever Brian Fuentes and was forced out at second on Bobby Abreu's grounder to third.

Michael Wuertz replaced Fuentes, and Hunter greeted the right-hander with a run-scoring double to the gap in right-center for a 2-1 Angels lead.

Alberto Callaspo was intentionally walked, and Mark Trumbo grounded into a fielder's choice. Trumbo took second on defensive indifference, and Mathis lined a two-run single to left for a 4-1 lead and his first RBIs since April 22.

Hunter, who went one for 24 on the Angels' 1-6 road trip through Texas, Oakland and Seattle, also doubled to right-center in the sixth, and he is seven for 15 with six RBIs in the last four games.

"He went through a dry spell, but sometimes those dry spells lead to productive periods," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "And it's a great sign for him when he's hitting to right-center."

The Angels scored in the first when Maicer Izturis walked, took second on Aybar's sacrifice bunt and came home on Abreu's single to center.

But that was all the offense they could muster off appropriately named left-hander Josh Outman, who blanked the Angels on four hits from the second through seventh innings.

The A's scored in the third when Crisp hit a one-out double to right, Daric Barton and Ryan Sweeney walked and Hideki Matsui hit a sacrifice fly to center field.

But that was all Oakland, which has lost six straight, managed against Weaver, who allowed six hits in seven innings, struck out five and walked three.

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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