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Torii Hunter keeps bashing for Angels

Veteran outfielder is batting .341 since the All-Star break, third-best mark in the American League over that span. 'My adrenaline flows as we get closer to the postseason,' he says.

September 26, 2012|By Mike DiGiovanna

Torii Hunter and Mike Trout seem to be inflicting considerable pain on each other with their violent smashing of right forearms to celebrate home runs or runs, a Bash Brothers-like maneuver the Angels outfielders have been using since August.

"Don't worry, it doesn't hurt," Hunter said. "It's the forearm muscles, so it's not bone on bone. It pumps both of us up. That's why we do it."

The way Hunter, 37, is hitting, the only thing that could slow him is a bruised forearm from too many celebrations with the youthfully exuberant Trout, 21.

Hunter's .341 average (88 for 258) since the All-Star break through Tuesday ranks third in the American League. Over the last two seasons, he has hit .332 in August and September.

With his two-run home run in the Angels' 5-4 win over the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday night, Hunter improved his average this September to .318 (27 for 85) with four home runs and 21 runs batted in. His season average was .306 with 16 home runs and 86 RBIs.

"My adrenaline flows as we get closer to the postseason," said Hunter, who has never played in a World Series and is in the final year of a five-year, $90-million contract. "I want that ring so bad, I want to get to the playoffs so bad, that I give it that extra push. I take it to another level every year.

"Some guys might be on a salary drive, some might be working for free agency. My goal is to get that ring. I've been a better second-half hitter my whole career."

Hunter has delivered numerous clutch hits this month to fuel the Angels' push for a playoff spot. He has played Gold Glove-caliber defense and has been aggressive but smart on the bases.

Tuesday night, after noticing Seattle's Eric Thames was a little off balance after catching Alberto Callaspo's fly to shallow right field in the first inning, Hunter tagged and scored on a play few would have even tried to score on.

"He's having a great year, no doubt about it," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "He's come up big down the stretch, and we need our whole lineup to follow."

Wild (card) finish?

A potential three- or four-way tie between teams jockeying for playoff berths could create some scheduling nightmares next week. If two teams tie for the final spot, they would play one game Oct. 4 to determine who advances to the next day's one-game wild-card playoff.

Home-field advantage for that game would be determined by head-to-head competition, with record within the division serving as the next tiebreaker. The Angels would have to travel to Oakland, New York or Tampa Bay for such a game, but they would play host to Baltimore or Chicago.

The Angels split their season series with Detroit and are tied with Texas with three more games against the Rangers. All three teams finish with intra-division games, so home field for a one-game playoff can't be determined yet.

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