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Torii Hunter keeps Angels in chase

The right fielder has three RBIs in 4-2 win over Oakland as Angels gain on wild-card leader Boston.

September 24, 2011|By Mike DiGiovanna
  • Torii Hunter hits a two-run home run during the sixth inning of the Angels' 4-2 victory over Oakland on Saturday night in Anaheim.
Torii Hunter hits a two-run home run during the sixth inning of the Angels'… (Mark J. Terrill / Associated…)

Torii Hunter glanced at the television in the Angels clubhouse Saturday afternoon and noticed the New York Yankees leading the Boston Red Sox by eight runs after three innings.

"The Sox are trying to give it to us, man," Hunter said, marveling at Boston's spectacular collapse and the American League wild-card window that has opened. "We'll take it."

No Angels player looks as if he wants it more than Hunter, the 35-year-old right fielder who has been to the playoffs six times but has never reached the World Series.

Hunter hit a run-scoring single in the first inning and capped a three-run sixth with a two-run home run to lead a 4-2 victory over the Oakland Athletics on Saturday night, moving the Angels within 21/2 games of Boston in the wild-card race with four to play.

While most players have surged and slumped throughout the season, Hunter has been a steady force since Aug. 1, batting .326 (59 for 181) with 10 home runs and 31 runs batted in.

"I really can't explain it -- my adrenaline takes over, and I want to make something happen," Hunter said of his recent spate of clutch hits. "I'm hungry to win. I've been to the playoffs so many times and failed, I just want to get there and win.

"That's all that matters, getting to the World Series. I'm tired of seeing guys jump up and down on that field. I haven't done it once. I just want that chance."

The Angels are still alive in the playoff hunt, but barely. The Red Sox continued their September free-fall (5-17) with a 9-1 loss Saturday.

They have five games left, including Sunday's doubleheader in which struggling right-hander John Lackey and knuckleballer Tim Wakefield are scheduled to start against the Yankees.

Tampa Bay beat Toronto, 6-2, and is 11/2 games behind the Red Sox with four to play.

"We're in this," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "We need help. We want that help to come, but we need to be in position to take advantage of it."

Journeyman right-hander Jerome Williams, who was pitching for an independent-league team in Pennsylvania a few months ago, helped them gain ground Saturday, giving up one run and five hits in 61/3 innings to improve to 4-0.

Williams gave up a run on consecutive singles by Scott Sizemore, Erik Sogard and Jamile Weeks in the fifth but minimized damage by getting Coco Crisp to fly out, Hideki Matsui to ground into a fielder's choice and cleanup batter Josh Willingham to fly out.

"He just makes pitches and trusts his stuff," Scioscia said. "It's a beautiful thing."

With the score tied, 1-1, in the sixth, Erick Aybar reached on a one-out bunt single, his 15th and the Angels' major league-leading 43rd bunt hit of the season, and took second on a groundout.

Bobby Abreu, the struggling 37-year-old part-time designated hitter, singled to right field to drive in Aybar for a 2-1 lead.

Hunter, whose first-inning run-scoring single came with two outs, lined his 23rd homer of the season over the wall in left to give the Angels a 4-1 lead and the pitching staff some much-needed breathing room.

Hisanori Takahashi got the last two outs of the seventh, Scott Downs threw a scoreless eighth -- the left-hander has not given up a run in 27 games (25 innings) at home this season -- and Jordan Walden notched his 32nd save despite giving up a run in the ninth.

Mark Trumbo left in the seventh inning because of right ankle discomfort, an injury that has bothered him off and on for about a month, but the first baseman said he will play out the season.

"We have four games left, and I'm going to give it everything I have," said Trumbo, who leads the team with 29 homers and 87 RBIs. "It's crunch time. I've got to go."

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