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Peter Bourjos' offense, defense leads Angels to 6-5 win over Twins

Angels center fielder Peter Bourjos sparks rallies in the eighth and ninth innings and sparkles on defense, making two highlight-reel catches, as the Angels defeat the Minnesota Twins, 6-5.

May 27, 2011|By Kevin Baxter
  • Angels center fielder Peter Bourjos slides safely into third base with a triple as Minnesota's Danny Valencia fiels the throw in the ninth inning Friday night.
Angels center fielder Peter Bourjos slides safely into third base with… (Jim Mone / Associated Press )

Reporting from Minneapolis

Peter Bourjos could rest Friday night, which is a lot more unusual than it sounds.

Because for the last four weeks, the Angels center fielder has been struggling mightily at the plate. And that's kept him awake at night.

"You always want to bring something to the table. And I've been losing sleep over how I've been hitting," he said. "It's been killing me. And every night I've got to try to do something special."

Which brings us to Friday, when Bourjos did a lot of special things, making a pair of breathtaking plays in the field and starting the game-tying and game-winning rallies at the plate, sparking the Angels to a 6-5 win over the Minnesota Twins.

All this comes at the end of what has been a terrible May for Bourjos, who entered Friday hitting .159 for the month. Then there was the recent acquisition of slugger Russell Branyan, whose signing figures to take some playing time away from Bourjos, increasing the pressure on a player who has less than a full season of big league experience.

"That's not even in my mind," Bourjos said. "If that happens, it happens. I can't control that."

Maybe. But Bourjos' performance against the Twins certainly stuck in the mind of Manager Mike Scioscia.

Bourjos "knows his playing time is going to be contingent on how he plays," Scioscia said. "So there's nothing much he has to change. Just go out there and play baseball at the level that he can."

On Friday, that was a level few others can match.

In the field, he reached into the Angels' bullpen in left-center field to take a home run away from Jim Thome leading off the sixth. Then two innings later, he ran down Denard Span's drive into the gap with the go-ahead run on second.

"They were terrific plays. They were special plays," Scioscia said. "He highlighted his special tools."

He was even more special at the plate, beating out a ground ball to first leading off the eighth. Two batters later, Erick Aybar — one of five Angels with at least two hits — drove a three-run home run into left field that helped erase a 5-0 deficit and wipe out a brilliant performance by Minnesota starter Scott Baker, who blanked the Angels on six hits through seven innings.

Then Bourjos led off the ninth with a triple to left-center and scored the winning run two pitches later on Maicer Izturis' line single to right.

It gave Bourjos his first two-hit game in nearly three weeks, but even more significant was the fact that both hits came on two-strike pitches.

Bourjos, hitting just .113 with two strikes, has been working with hitting coach Mickey Hatcher on shortening his swing with two strikes. "And I was able to take it into the game," he said. "It felt good."

How long it keeps feeling good will probably go a long way toward how long Bourjos keeps hitting. And that in turn will probably determine how much he plays — and how well he sleeps.

"I'll relax tonight," he said Friday. "Where I'm not grinding mentally, thinking about it. The last couple of weeks have been tough. That's how the game goes."

kevin.baxter@latimes.com

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