10/03/2004 10:23 PM ET
Angels' month-by-month recap
Fast start, big finish send Anaheim to postseason
By Doug Miller / MLB.com
|Troy Glaus overcame shoulder surgery to give the Angels a power threat down the stretch. (Ed Betz/AP)
Things started great, with the new-look lineup firing on all cylinders and Bartolo Colon throwing the ball better than almost any starter in the league. But Garret Anderson's upper back pain became a mystery the Angels couldn't seem to solve and Troy Glaus aggravated the right shoulder that he had injured the previous season. The Angels got beaten up in Texas, losing three out of four early in the season, but they swept the A's in Oakland and finished the month by winning six of eight.
The Angels started the month with a season-high-tying nine-game winning streak, but they did it with mirrors to some extent. Anderson was in the early stages of his 42 games out of the lineup and Glaus had been relegated to designated hitter duties because he could no longer throw the ball from third base.
Then Darin Erstad suffered a bad hamstring strain and Tim Salmon went on the disabled list with a cranky left knee. Still, the Angels stayed afloat in New York and Baltimore as Chone Figgins emerged as a more-than-viable option to replace Glaus at third. In late May, the Angels got the surprising news that Glaus would opt for rotator and labrum surgery that would cost him months. He said he did it so he could be available at DH when the team would need him in September.
Injuries finally caught up to -- and exploded on -- the Angels in June. Troy Percival, new acquisition Raul Mondesi, Aaron Sele, Bengie Molina and Shane Halter all saw time on the DL in June, and the Angels' record suffered. Sweltering trips to National League cities Pittsburgh and Houston followed. The Angels had started the month with promise, including a two-game home sweep of American League contender Boston that featured a two-homer, nine-RBI game by Vladimir Guerrero, but the month ended with disappointment when the team lost five of its last seven games, including two losses in a three-game sweep in Oakland.
As the team got healthier, so did its record. The Angels reversed an early 1-5 road swing through Toronto and Chicago by returning to the same cities and going 5-1 right before the All-Star break. When they returned to action after the break, they stumbled a bit, losing five of seven at home against Boston and Cleveland and losing starter Jarrod Washburn to a sternum injury. But they closed out the month with momentum, taking seven of their last 10 games against division opponents Texas and Seattle.
Things started out ominously with two straight losses in Minnesota featuring three total runs, despite the Angels having double-digit hit totals in each game. They won the third game of that series, however, and then swept four games in Kansas City. After a non-descript homestand in which the Angels went 5-4 against Baltimore, Detroit and Tampa Bay, the Halos started cruising. They took two out of three in Tampa, pulled off a rare three-game sweep of the Yankees in New York, and won nine in a row toward the end of the month.
With their sights set on the division title or the Wild Card, the Angels needed to come up big in their only series of the year in Fenway Park, and they laid an egg, getting swept in three games and watching their Wild Card hopes slip away quickly. But an unbelievable defensive play by Bengie Molina and Francisco Rodriguez saved a game in Cleveland, and the Angels were on their way. They slogged through their home schedule, going 3-3 against Toronto and Chicago, then played .500 ball most of the way for the next two weeks against divison opponents.
But with nine games to play and a three-game deficit, the Angels caught fire. They shrugged off the suspension of outfielder Jose Guillen to win seven of their eight most important games -- home games against Oakland and road games in Texas and Oakland -- to close out the division on the second-to-last day of the year. Down the stretch, Vladimir Guerrero took over, hitting six home runs and driving in 11 runs in those games to solidify his candidacy for the American League MVP.
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.