Hunter steals from Texas, gives to Halos
Center fielder again robs a homer as magic number dips to 9
ANAHEIM -- When Torii Hunter robbed Texas' Marlon Byrd of a potential two-run home run on Friday, the center fielder waved his cap to the crowd to acknowledge his amazing play.But when Hunter robbed the Rangers' Hank Blalock of a potential go-ahead home run with two outs in the seventh inning on Saturday, he simply jogged back into the dugout like it was just a routine play. No matter how he celebrated his fantastic catch this time, Hunter helped the Angels in the field and at the plate in their 4-3 win over the Rangers to extend their lead in the American League West to 18 games while reducing their magic number to clinch the divsion to nine. "It's exciting," said Hunter, who also went 2-for-4 with a run scored and an RBI. "How does that happen? How does the ball go five or 10 inches over the wall in back-to-back days. I'm just happy to use that glove. I can't believe I did that two days in a row. It's pretty wild." Hunter flashed that glove when Blalock appeared to have given the Rangers the lead with a deep blast off reliever Jose Arredondo, but Hunter timed the jump perfectly and took away Blalock's would-be homer. In the process, Hunter hit the back of his head, a night after going face first into the wall. And that's why Hunter said he couldn't celebrate the catch this time. "I felt woozy," he said. "I was just trying to run straight. I didn't want to let you guys see that I was woozy. I was trying to concentrate on running back to the dugout." And while Hunter happily jogged back to the dugout, Blalock hung his head in disbelief. "Torii is a great player," Blalock said. "He comes up with big-time plays in big-time situations. We've just got to hit it a little harder when he's out there. He almost makes it routine." Hunter helped Arredondo, who pitched two scoreless innings to win his seventh game of the season in the Angels' third consecutive come-from-behind win over the Rangers. This time the Angels took the lead for good in the sixth inning off Rangers starter Scott Feldman, who allowed four runs on eight hits over six innings to get pegged with the loss. The duo of Mark Teixeira and Vladimir Guerrero was at it again as Teixeira singled and Guerrero doubled to open the inning. Teixeira scored on a ground ball to the right side by Hunter and Guerrero scored on a sacrifice fly by Juan Rivera. It came after the Rangers scored two runs in the top of the sixth while forcing Jered Weaver to exit after just five-plus innings. In all, Weaver allowed three runs on five hits while striking out six and walking two but left after throwing 108 pitches. "It don't know if it was command as much as guys just did a good job of getting back in counts," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Weav had good stuff but just wasn't able to put away hitters like he needs to." It was the Angels' fifth inning that was the most controversial. Hunter led off with a single and advanced to second on a throwing error by Feldman on a pickoff play before scoring on a single by Mike Napoli. Hunter, though, appeared to miss the plate but was ruled safe by home-plate umpire Dale Scott even before Hunter dove back for a second attempt at the plate. Catcher Gerald Laird and Rangers manager Ron Washington argued the call but to no avail. "He said I was safe," Hunter said with a wry smile. "I was safe. I was safe both times." Napoli advanced to third base while Laird argued the call and later scored on Brandon Wood's surprise suicide-squeeze play where everyone was safe. "That was heads up," Hunter said. "While they were sitting there arguing, he advanced to third with less than two outs and we needed that." But Laird, who maintained that Hunter never touched home plate, saw the play a little different than Hunter did. "I'll take the blame for that," Laird said of allowing Napoli to reach third. "I was so shocked on the call, my mind was elsewhere." The run proved to be crucial as the Angels bullpen was effective as always as Arredondo, Scot Shields and Francisco Rodriguez combined to allow just two hits over four scoreless innings. Rodriguez struck out Blalock with a runner on first to end the game while picking up his 53rd save of the season, four shy of Bobby Thigpen's single-season record set with the 1990 White Sox. With the win the Angels' 18-game lead over the Rangers in the AL West set a club record, but Weaver said it's important for the Angels to finish strong with one month left in the season. "We expected it to be a little closer than this, but you can't count your chickens before they hatch," Weaver said. "You have to go about the game the same way. It's nice to have that leeway, but we want to have momentum going into the playoffs, unlike last year."
Rhett Bollinger is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.