Torii Hunter, right, celebrates his two-run home run with teammate Mike… (Mark J. Terrill / Associated…)
The Angels racked up 20 strikeouts in a 5-4 victory over the Seattle Mariners Tuesday night, tying a major-league record for strikeouts in a nine-inning game, but the pitchers weren't the only ones who left their fingerprints on the win.
Right fielder Torii Hunter continued to lead the Angels' September surge by hitting a first-inning single and scoring on a sacrifice fly to shallow right field and blasting a two-run home run in the fifth, as the Angels improved to 15-8 this month and remained within two games of Oakland for the second wild-card spot.
Hunter, in the final year of a five-year, $90-million contract but showing no signs of slowing at age 37, is batting .318 (27 for 85) with four homers and 21 runs batted in this month. He's hitting .306 with 16 homers and 86 RBIs on the season.
“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. He’s having a great season, and he’s leaving it all out on the field, that’s for sure.”
After Mike Trout reached on an error in the first inning, Hunter singled to right, moving Trout to third. Albert Pujols followed with an RBI single to right that advanced Hunter to third, and Hunter scored for a 2-0 lead with an aggressive decision to tag up on an Alberto Callaspo fly ball to shallow right field.
Hunter, a nine-time Gold Glove Award winner, said he wasn’t going to go until he saw how Seattle right fielder Eric Thames fielded the ball.
“The way he caught it, he wasn’t in a good position,” Hunter said. “I know, being an outfielder, that it wasn’t a good position to throw me out from. I thought it would be tough to make an accurate throw off-balance, and my instincts took over.”
Hunter followed Trout’s fifth-inning single with a towering two-run homer to left, not long after the out-of-town scoreboard in Angel Stadium showed that Oakland had defeated Texas, 3-2, in 10 innings.
Though the Angels gained a game on the Rangers and now trail them by six games in the American League West, they remain two games behind the A’s for the second wild-card spot with eight games to play. They’re 2 1/2 games behind Baltimore for the wild-card lead.
“Yeah, that sucked,” Hunter said when asked his reaction to the Oakland score. “Trust me, we’re scoreboard-watching. I don’t care what anybody says, I am. When you look up there and see that score, you think, we’ve got to win, no matter what.”
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