Hunter homers in Angels’ 4-2 win over A’s
ANAHEIM – Torii Hunter, a nine-time Gold Glove center fielder with a reputation for robbing players of home runs, now plays right field while protege Peter Bourjos does his best imitation of the four-time All-Star.
Bourjos robbed Landon Powell of a two-run homer just two innings after Hunter opened the game’s scoring with a home run, and Dan Haren pitched the Los Angeles Angels to a 4-2 victory over the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday night.
“I’ve just been trying to go out there and play good defense,” Bourjos said. “I haven’t been doing too well offensively, so you’ve got to bring something to the table every day. And right now it’s my defense. I just hope I do it for a long time, because that means I’ve had a long career.”
Powell sent Haren’s 3-2 pitch to center field and Bourjos timed his leap perfectly at the fence before pulling it back. On Aug. 23 at Angel Stadium, Bourjos did the same thing to Tampa Bay’s B.J. Upton – four innings after robbing Sean Rodriguez of a homer and having the ball bounce off his glove and back in play for a double.
“I think this one was a little more difficult than Upton’s. That one was hit a lot higher, so that gave me some time to get back there,” Bourjos said.
“When Powell hit the ball, I wasn’t too sure how well he hit it. And then when I realized it, I was able to get back to the wall and make the play. Usually, I expect a ball hit by a left-hander to tail away from me. But it stayed true, so that kind of surprised me. Torii said: ‘It gave me goose bumps,’ so that’s a pretty good compliment.”
Bourjos lost a home run to a replay reversal after third base umpire CB Bucknor incorrectly ruled that his towering drive toward the left field pole on a 2-2 pitch from Dallas Braden was fair. Instead of a three-run homer, Bourjos returned to the plate and flied out before Howie Kendrick’s sacrifice fly gave the Angels a 4-2 lead.
“When I got to first base, I saw it and I’m like: ‘Wow, that’s really foul.’ I stood there for a second because I didn’t see CB make any gesture, and then he did, so I had to keep running,” Bourjos said. “But they ended up getting the call right. For an umpire, that’s a tough call. That’s why they have the replay.”
Haren (4-4) allowed two runs and six hits over six innings, struck out five and walked one. The right-hander threw 96 pitches and was lifted after the Angels took a 3-2 lead on Mike Napoli’s RBI single and Hideki Matsui’s run-scoring groundout in the sixth.
Haren, who has a 2.86 ERA in 13 starts since joining the Angels in a trade from Arizona on July 25, is one-third of an inning shy of his career-high total of 229 1-3 in 2009, and is scheduled to get the ball for the season finale on Sunday at Texas – for now, at least.
“Me and (manager Mike) Scioscia have talked about it a little bit, and I’m sure I’ll talk to him again tomorrow. So we’ll see what he says,” Haren said. “I’d like to finish this year out strong, but I’d rather he make the decision. In the grand scheme of things, it probably won’t matter. I just wish I was pitching in October, but that’s not the case.”
Kevin Jepsen and Jordan Walden each worked a scoreless inning of one-hit relief and Fernando Rodney got his 14th save in 20 chances after giving up a two-out single to Cliff Pennington and a walk to Rajai Davis.
Braden (10-14) gave up four runs – three earned – and 10 hits over seven innings and struck out three without walking a batter. The left-hander is 1-6 with a 5.36 in his previous seven starts against the Angels, including a 4-0 loss on May 14 in which he threw a complete game and lost to the pitcher the Angels traded away to get Haren – Joe Saunders.
“It could have been better,” Braden said. “I started to labor. The effort at this point I think is mental. At this point it’s just about talking yourself into it. The only bright spot is that there were no walks. No free passes. Make them earn their keep. They earned it.”
If Braden doesn’t get the win in Oakland’s season finale at Seattle on Sunday, he will make some dubious history. None of the other 16 pitchers who have thrown a perfect game since 1900 have finished with fewer than 11 victories in the season they did it – including Roy Halladay, who is 21-10 this season after getting his perfecto on May 29. Kenny Rogers finished the 1994 campaign 11-8 after no-hitting the Angels, and Don Larsen was 11-5 in 1956 before pitching the only no-hitter in a World Series.
Hunter drove Braden’s first pitch of the second inning into the lower seats in the left field corner for his 22nd home run, matching his total from last season. Kevin Kouzmanoff also hit a first-pitch homer into the same area to tie the score 1-all, just three batters after Bourjos robbed Powell.
“Every time he makes a play like that, I get chills, because I see myself doing that,” Hunter said. “He was going back full speed and was able to plant his feet before the wall and jump up and catch it. That reminded me of me. Defensively, he can play with anybody.”
NOTES: Angels LF Bobby Abreu played in his 150th game of the season, the 13th consecutive year he has reached that figure. … Hunter is batting a team-high .285 with five games remaining. The last time the Angels finished a season without one of their regulars batting .300 or better was 2001. … Angels relievers have given up 32 home runs, the fewest by any bullpen in the AL and three more than San Francisco’s pen. It is their lowest total since giving up 28 in 1990. … Kouzmanoff’s homer was Oakland’s 100th. The only season the A’s failed to reach triple digits since moving from Kansas City to Oakland was 1968, their first season in the Bay Area.