09/25/08 2:25 AM ET
Teixeira powers Angels to win
Slugger caps four-hit night with go-ahead blast in eighth
By Lyle Spencer / MLB.com
If his head is spinning, he clearly has managed to keep his bearings. Through it all -- two trades, living in three time zones, playing with close to 100 teammates -- he has remained in The Zone, crushing baseballs and making all the right moves at first base.
If he has his way and final say, Teixeira will finish this season, this odyssey, in another new place: Baseball's Promised Land.
Teixeira's fourth hit, a homer into the right-field seats in the eighth inning, lifted the Angels to a 6-5 decision over the Mariners on Wednesday night at Safeco Field, bringing the AL West champions within two victories of the franchise's first 100-win season.
"This team has everything it needs," Teixeira said. "Top to bottom, we're a solid team. I'm here to drive in some runs, get on base, make some plays. This has been one of the top organizations in baseball the last six or seven years. To see it first hand now, it's great to be part of."
Teixeira's 13th homer with the Angels and No. 33 of the season handed a win to reliever Darren Oliver (7-1), who blanked the Mariners for two perfect innings in relief of Jon Garland. Scot Shields worked through a bases-loaded mess in the eighth, and Francisco Rodriguez finished with a flourish, pushing his single-season saves record to 62.
Teixeira said he's too immersed in the final days of the regular season to get caught up in the prospect of his first postseason. The Angels have some business left to handle: claiming the league's best record to insure the home edge throughout the postseason.
Leading the Rays by two games, the Angels can clinch it by taking three of their final four games. They return home for three weekend dates with the Rangers after Thursday night's finale against the Mariners.
"I am very focused on finishing the last four games and getting home-field advantage," Teixeira said. "This game is tough enough to play that day. You can't be thinking about next week."
From the Angels' point of view, watching Teixeira up close and personal on a daily basis has been a revelation. They knew he was good, but this guy is better than good.
"Mark has been important to us," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "As the season moves on in the playoffs, hopefully he'll have a chance to show his talent. He's had a great second half and an impact on those around him in the lineup."
Including his work in Atlanta before the July 29 trade sending Casey Kotchman to the Braves, Teixeira is batting .309 with 120 runs batted in to go with his 33 homers. If his numbers weren't split into leagues, he'd be fourth in the AL in RBIs and third in the National League, and he'd be tied for fourth in homers in the AL and tied for ninth in the NL.
In the afterglow of his game-winner, Teixeira admitted that, for once, he went to the plate thinking long ball -- and got what he was after against right-hander Mark Lowe.
"Very few times I go up there trying to hit a home run," Teixeira said. "Tie ballgame, eighth inning, the Mariners have a great bullpen ... with two outs, I'm looking to drive the ball. I got a pitch middle in and put a good swing on it."
As deadly as he is, Teixeira isn't the hottest Angels hitter. Catcher Mike Napoli had a double and two singles and is hitting .591 on the road trip with three homers and six RBIs.
Vladimir Guerrero (.302), Torii Hunter, Erick Aybar and Sean Rodriguez joined the hit parade with two apiece, Rodriguez driving in a pair of runs with a sixth-inning double against Mariners ace Felix Hernandez.
Garland departed after five innings having yielded five earned runs on 11 hits and a walk. The Angels accumulated 13 hits in six innings against Hernandez.
The Angels took a 2-1 lead in the second on Hunter's double, Aybar's RBI single, Napoli's single and a passed ball scoring Aybar. The Mariners, who'd scored in the first on Jose Lopez's RBI double, drew even in the second on four singles before Anderson shot down Miguel Cairo trying to score from second on Yuniesky Betancourt's single.
"That one felt good," Anderson said, grinning. So did a bullet he unleashed to second on his familiar pivot down the left-field line in the ninth, keeping Jeremy Reed anchored at first.
"That's a big play by Garret, keeping the guy out of scoring position," Scioscia said. "He makes that play as well as anybody."
A three-run fifth featuring doubles by Betancourt and Reed and Bryan LaHair's RBI single had the Mariners leading by three runs. But the Angels came roaring back. Aybar doubled, Napoli walked and Sean Rodriguez doubled them home. Rodriguez scored from third after Chone Figgins' single when Anderson grounded sharply into a double play.
Scioscia appealed a foul call on Guerrero's drive into the left-field corner. After a delay of two minutes, 28 seconds, umpires determined that it was the correct call. Guerrero was brought back to the plate, and he singled. It was the first time the Angels have used the new TV appeal process.
"From my angle, I thought it tipped ... where the line comes up on top of the fence and went back and hit the foul pole or something weird back there and came back on the field," Scioscia said.
The umpires got together at Scioscia's suggestion and watched the replay, determining that the call was correct.
"Give them credit," Scioscia said. "They have the final say."
Later on, it would be Teixeira with the final word.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.