Bats arrive early; K-Rod delivers late
Hunter swats two in 28th road win; hurler's 35 saves a record
ARLINGTON -- The Texas Rangers courted Torii Hunter during the offseason for his services, and lost out to the Angels. Hunter gave the Rangers a reminder of what they were missing Monday night.Hunter helped ignite a sometimes-sporadic Los Angeles offense with two home runs as the Angels rolled to a 9-6 victory over the Rangers. The victory boosted the Angels to a 28-15 road record, the best in the Majors.
Hunter, who makes his home in Dallas, said it didn't hurt getting to sleep in his own bed Sunday night."That helped so much to get me more comfortable," Hunter said. "Baseball is like 75-80 percent mental, and it definitely helped me. I think I slept until like noon. And, I mean, I didn't open my eyes until then." But Hunter's eyes were wide open when he stepped to the plate at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Hunter hit the second of back-to-back home runs in the second inning and a solo shot in the seventh to extend the Angels' lead. Jeff Mathis kicked off the home run parade with his sixth of the season to lead off the second. Later in the frame, Vladimir Guerrero sent his 15th of the season, 436 feet out to left-center field, and was followed up by Hunter. Los Angeles led, 8-0, after the second inning, and the four homers on the night matched a season high for the Angels. Then came Hunter's blast, which sailed 442 feet and landed in the club level of Rangers Ballpark, which has only been done 15 times in the history of the stadium. It was just the third time an opponent had placed a home run there. "That was wind-aided," Hunter said. "I didn't feel anything. When you hit it well, you never feel anything, but I felt good rounding the bases. When you get a pitch like that, you just hope you don't waste it and foul it off." Hunter's home run facilitated the exit of Texas starter Luis Mendoza after only 1 1/3 innings, but it wasn't the last ball Hunter would belt on the night. His home run in the seventh -- his 12th of the season -- put the Angels up, 9-6, and gave him his second multi-home run night of the season. The only problem: Texas was playing in the same hitter-friendly ballpark, and the Rangers made it necessary for Francisco Rodriguez to close the door on the ballgame. Manager Mike Scioscia was ejected in the top of the fifth for arguing a pitch that appeared to hit Howie Kendrick's right forearm, and the skipper left the dugout with his club up 8-1. By the time Scioscia got settled in the clubhouse, starter Ervin Santana had nearly squandered the lead. Santana allowed five runs on two homers in the bottom of the fifth. At one point he was visited by an Angels trainer, but Santana said there was nothing wrong with him physically. He was simply frustrated. "He just asked what was wrong with me -- but I was just upset about making a bad pitch," Santana said. "I was trying to be too perfect. Even with an 8-1 lead, I try to be perfect." Santana entered Monday with an 8.10 ERA at Rangers Ballpark, and it didn't go down much by the end of his outing. He proved he was in fact healthy by pitching scoreless sixth and seventh innings, but the six earned runs in seven innings only dropped his ERA in Rangers Ballpark to 8.05. He said he does feel a difference when he pitches at Texas. "Always," Santana said. "It's hard. The ball carries. You really have to focus on what you're doing." But Santana's struggles paved the way for Rodriguez to set the Major League record for saves before the All-Star Break, with his 35th of the season. Rodriguez admitted that after the first couple innings he didn't expect to make an appearance, but as the Rangers inched back into the game, he began to get into closer mode. Rodriguez finds it humbling that he's on the brink of 40 saves a week before the Midsummer Classic. "It means a lot. I couldn't have done that without my teammates," Rodriguez said. "It's been great. When you think of 40 saves, you think of the whole season. If somebody had told me I'd be close to 40 saves before the break, I'd have laughed in their face. But the important thing is that I finish strong the second half of the season."
Shawn Shroyer is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.