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08/25/08 12:06 AM ET
Angels rally in eighth to pull out win
Guerrero, Matthews hit decisive run-scoring triples for Halos
By Rhett Bollinger / MLB.com
ANAHEIM -- Mark Teixeira and Vladimir Guerrero were at it again on Sunday against the Twins, combining for five hits and two RBIs, but the biggest hit of the game came from an unexpected source.
Gary Matthews Jr., who didn't even start the game and replaced Garret Anderson in the second inning because of a left knee injury, was called upon despite the fact he hadn't batted against right-handed pitching since Aug. 3 against the Yankees in New York.
But Matthews didn't disappoint, as the switch-hitter drove in what proved to be the winning run on a triple in the eighth inning to help lead the Angels to a come-from-behind 5-3 win over the Twins.
Matthews entered having just three at-bats in the Angels' previous 11 games but proved to be the hero Sunday by getting the winning hit while going 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored.
"Mentally, it's just good to get in the game," Matthews said. "No matter how bad you feel physically or mentally, it still feels good to get between the lines. It's your sanctuary as a player."
But Matthews, who has been hampered by a small tear in the patellar tendon in his left knee, faced a tough spot in the eighth inning. He came up with Guerrero on third base and one out against Twins reliever Jesse Crain.
Matthews, though, laced a 2-2 fastball down the right-field line to score Guerrero while legging out a triple, much to the delight of the 40,011 fans at Angel Stadium. He later scored on Juan Rivera's sacrifice fly to give the Angels a two-run cushion.
"The one place I've always felt comfortable is playing late in games in tight situations," Matthews said. "It has a way of sharpening your focus, for me anyways. It seems like I've always been able to come up with the big hit."
But this season has admittedly been a struggle for the outfielder. Even with his performance Sunday, he's still batting .225 with seven homers and 37 RBIs while seeing his role diminish because of the emergence of Rivera. Matthews, though, is taking his role in stride.
"This team has played so well, the last thing I want to do is take away what we're trying to accomplish on the field," Matthews said. "You let your personal feelings and your situation take a backseat because we're having such a tremendous year as a team."
And even though he has had a tough season by his standards, he still has a believer in Teixeira, who played with Matthews for three years with the Rangers from 2004-06.
"I know it's been a little tough for him," Teixeira said. "But Gary has a lot of talent and there's plenty of season left. We're expecting big things from him and I know he'll get back to playing great baseball."
Teixeira already has been playing great baseball and again sparked the Angels with a solo home run late in the game off Twins right-hander Kevin Slowey. The homer on a 2-2 curveball gave the Angels life in the sixth inning after falling behind, 3-0.
"That wasn't that bad of a pitch either," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "But he just stayed on it, and I think it's indicative of Tex's power and the type of hitter he is."
The Angels added another run in the seventh before Teixeira was back to his heroics in the eighth, when he opened the inning with a double. He then scored the tying run on a rare triple by Guerrero that bounced off the center-field wall.
"I've been running a lot lately," Teixeira said with a laugh. "Whenever Vladdy is up and I'm on, I'm in scoring position because I have a chance to score. He's gonna hit it in the gap or for a home run. I love hitting in front of him."
The Twins were powered by Justin Morneau, who hit a solo homer and drove in all three runs against Angels right-hander Ervin Santana. But Santana pitched well despite his problems against Morneau, as he threw seven strong innings, allowing three runs on nine hits while striking out 10 to tie a season high.
Francisco Rodriguez earned his Major League-leading 50th save by pitching a scoreless ninth. The right-hander is on pace for 63 saves, which would break the all-time saves record of 57 set by Bobby Thigpen of the White Sox in 1990. Rodriguez admitted after the game that he is eyeing the record but knows it's not all in his hands.
"It's something I can't control," Rodriguez said. "I don't want to sound selfish, but I would love to get that record. This is the best opportunity for me. I'd love to go for it."