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07/23/08 8:51 PM ET
Mathis headlines offensive onslaught
Catcher drills first career grand slam, collects six RBIs
By Rhett Bollinger / MLB.com
ANAHEIM -- Jeff Mathis seemingly did it all by himself Tuesday, when he had a part in all three of the Angels' runs -- including the game-winning home run on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Mathis again hit what proved be a game-winning homer -- but this time he had a little help from Howie Kendrick, Casey Kotchman and the rest of the Angels offense. The Angels catcher set career highs with four hits and six RBIs, including his first career grand slam, in the Angels' 14-11 win over the Indians at Angel Stadium. Mathis wasn't the only Angels player to have a career day offensively, as Kendrick tied a career best with four hits, including three doubles -- which also tied a club record. Kotchman set a career high with five hits, the most by an Angels player this season. It was the first time in club history that three players had at least four hits in a nine-inning game. "Those guys all had great days," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Kotch, the last 40 or 50 at-bats, has hit the ball hard, but hadn't had much to show for it -- so it was nice to see him have some hits fall in. And Howie keeps it going." Scioscia, though, wasn't as proud of his pitching staff, which allowed 11 runs and 14 hits, saying it took a little luster off Mathis' offensive performance. "What Jeff feels is giving up 11 runs when he catches," Scioscia said. "That's not what he's been doing. He's being doing a great job back there. The last couple of games he's hit the ball well, giving us some big hits, and has kept it going." Mathis kept it going by hitting the first grand slam of his professional career -- something he hadn't even done in the Minor Leagues. In fact, Mathis couldn't remember a time he hit a grand slam. "Maybe Wiffle ball," Mathis said with a laugh. "Left-handed." Mathis' grand slam brought the crowd of to its feet, and was part of a five-run fifth inning that put the Angels up for good after coming back to tie the game two different times. Los Angeles scored the first run of the inning on a bases-loaded walk by Gary Matthews Jr. before Mathis hit a first-pitch fastball from reliever Tom Mastny over the left-field fence. "I think he was trying to throw a two-seamer in and he left it over the plate," Mathis said. "I was just trying to put it in play somewhere in the outfield." Mathis' grand slam picked up starter John Lackey, who struggled uncharacteristically. Lackey allowed six runs on eight hits in five innings while striking out five and walking two, but still earned the win. "Today I just didn't get ahead well," said Lackey, who has a 7.30 ERA over previous four starts. "I couldn't locate my fastball." Indians left-hander Aaron Laffey couldn't get anything going either, and was knocked around by the Angels -- allowing 12 hits and eight runs in just four-plus innings. "It didn't look like a good day for anybody to pitch today," Scioscia said. It was quite an offensive show for Kendrick and Kotchman, who combined to go 9-for-10 with four runs and four RBIs. Kendrick had his third straight multihit game, and is batting .418 with 17 RBIs over his past 18 games. "This guy's got a chance to be a special player and special hitter," Scioscia said. "It's great to have him emerge and swing the bat the way he is." Kotchman, who hit four singles and a double, tried to downplay his career-best hit total. "I found a couple holes," Kotchman said. "Nothing more than that really." With the offensive output, the Angels improved their team batting average in July to a season-best .290 while averaging 5.9 runs per game. "I think if you look at where we've been the last 15 or 20 games, you can see our offense is starting to come to the surface and emerge," Scioscia said. "And we need that to keep going." Francisco Rodriguez earned his 42nd save of the season on just one pitch as he relieved Jose Arredondo with two outs in the ninth and got Ben Francisco to ground out on a first-pitch fastball. With the win the Angels extended their lead in the American League West to a season-high 10 games over the A's.
Rhett Bollinger is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.