BOSTON -- The Angels feel that they have two of the Majors' premier clubhouse leaders in Torii Hunter and Bobby Abreu. The two put their heads together and decided it was time, following back-to-back losses, for an attitude adjustment heading into Thursday night's series finale with the Red Sox at Fenway Park.
They called for a team meeting, and when the 20-minute session was over, Hunter was dead serious when he said, "You're going to see a different team tonight."
Abreu and Hunter, "big brother" figures to many of the younger players, felt the need to take an emphatic stand, stressing the need to "take these games one at a time and battle -- never give up," Abreu said. "Everyone understands we can do it. We just have to go out and make it happen.
"This team is a family. We win together and lose together. We discussed some things, what's going on. It was good. I think we accomplished some things. Now we've got to go out and win games. We need to keep it close, keep it a race."
The Angels, American League West champions three years running and five of the past six, trail the Rangers by eight games with 41 left on the schedule.
"A lot of different things can come out of a players-only meeting," manager Mike Scioscia said. "One thing is for guys to understand there's a lot of baseball left and how important it is to bring our game on the field. We have some powerful voices in our clubhouse -- Torii, Bobby, guys who have played on winning teams. I'm sure that's a message that was delivered."
Halos' clutch bats have been hushed
BOSTON -- If one quality best embodied the 2009 Angels as they recorded 97 wins and five more in the postseason, it was their remarkable ability to deliver in clutch situations. Their .297 batting average with runners in scoring position was the game's best, by a whopping 13 points.
Through 121 games a season later, they're hitting .258 in those game-changing situations, 16th in the Majors. The numbers over the past week have been particularly dreadful: 5-for-36, .138.
Torii Hunter has played 1,610 Major League games and is about as smart as anyone in the sport, but he has no insights into this diminished production, no answers.
"I have no idea," Hunter said, shaking his head. "Maybe we're trying to do too much. We know we're behind [American League West-leading Texas], we're trying to catch up and we know we're not hitting with runners in scoring position.
"We know what's at stake, and maybe we tense up, try to do it ourselves. I know I've been a victim of that. Instead of taking a walk, you want to be the guy who comes through and you try to do a little too much. That's when you get in trouble."
Whatever the cause, the effect has been apparent. With a chance to make up precious ground on the Rangers during Texas' 2-7 spin, the Angels have gone 4-5. They needed a win on Thursday night at Fenway Park to avoid a sweep of 10 games in the season series by the Red Sox.
Lackey finds himself in select company
BOSTON -- With his victory on Wednesday night, courtesy of a late rally by his offense, former Angel John Lackey joined Clay Buchholz as the only Red Sox pitchers since Roger Clemens did so in 1995 to beat the Halos three times in a season.
"It's nice, for sure," Lackey said. "At this point in the season, obviously, every win is really critical for us, especially with the other teams [in the American League East] playing well. But personally, yeah, it's a little different. It's nice."
With three of his 11 wins in his first season in Boston coming against his former club, Lackey has a 3.38 ERA in 21 1/3 innings against the Angels and a 4.62 overall season ERA. Against everybody but his former club, the big Texan is 8-7 with a 4.81 ERA.
Mike Napoli, Lackey's old batterymate and buddy, crushed a line drive over the Green Monster for his 20th homer of the season, matching his totals from 2008 and 2009.
"We had a little exchange, nothing very serious," Napoli said, grinning. "He threw me a cutter, slider, something like that, and I got it."
Heading to Minnesota for their first look at Target Field, the Angels need to sweep the three-game weekend series to avoid losing a season series to the Twins for the first time since 2002, when Minnesota prevailed, 5-4. The Twins took three of four to open the season at Angel Stadium after the Angels had won the opener. The Angels haven't lost four in a row to Minnesota since 1996, when they dropped eight in a row. ... Bobby Abreu (.374), Howard Kendrick (.372), Mike Napoli (.342), Hideki Matsui (.333) and Alberto Callaspo (.329) all have feasted on Twins pitching in their careers. ... Minor League spotlight: Tyler Kehrer, a compensation-round pick in 2009 out of Eastern Illinois University, threw six shutout innings, striking out eight while allowing three hits and three walks, in a 1-0 decision by Class A Cedar Rapids over Kane County. With two hits, outfielder Randal Grichuk, a first-round pick in '09 along with Mike Trout, had his fifth multihit game in the past 10. Trout, at high Class A Rancho Cucamonga, also had his fifth multihit game in the past 10 in a 12-4 loss to High Desert. Catcher Drew Beuerlein, a switch-hitter taken in the 32nd round of the 2010 Draft, has shown some early pop for Cedar Rapids with two homers and a .368 average in his first five games.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.