05/03/11 7:28 PM ET
Scioscia defends Hunter's dash to third base
By / MLB.com
Occasionally, Hunter, calling upon his football instincts, gets overly aggressive. But Monday night was not one of those occasions when, after a leadoff double in the sixth inning, he tried to advance to third base on Alberto Callaspo's grounder to first and was thrown out by the Red Sox's Adrian Gonzalez with the Angels down by a run.
"It's a great read," Scioscia said when asked if Hunter did the right thing. "We're going to go again on that. [Gonzalez] is pressing, taking a chance by playing way tight there. It's high-risk, high-reward. If it's six inches to either side, it might be by him. Down the line, it's a double."
In addition to Gonzalez's strong arm and quick delivery, there was a dig at third and tag by Kevin Youkilis to finish the play that helped create a scoreless inning.
"Youkilis made a great play on a tough short-hop," Scioscia said. "Torii's going to move over on that play. The first baseman has to make a great play there."
In this case, the third baseman also needed to make an exceptional play.
Weaver, Haren emulating Lackey, Escobar
BOSTON -- Jeff Mathis was summoned from Triple-A Salt Lake at midseason in 2007, unexpectedly assuming full-time duties behind the plate when Mike Napoli was injured. The Angels had two of the Majors' dominant starting pitchers in John Lackey and Kelvim Escobar. They would finish 19-9 and 18-7, respectively, with Mathis handling almost all of their second-half starts.
Four years later, it is happening all over again for Mathis and the Angels. Jered Weaver and Dan Haren are assuming those roles as co-aces, delivering high-quality work at the top of the rotation on a consistent basis.
"I couldn't argue with that," Mathis said of the comparison while getting ready to catch Haren on the heels of Weaver, who on Monday night lost his first decision after six straight wins. "I'd say Weav and Dan are very similar to what we had then with John and Kelvim. These are guys who would be No. 1s on just about any other team. We're definitely fortunate to have them."
Haren jumped over Weaver on Monday night into the American League lead in ERA. Weaver climbed from 0.99 to 1.39 while yielding three earned runs in six innings. Haren checked in at 1.23 as he went to work against Boston ace John Lester on Tuesday.
Together, Weaver and Haren are 10-2, and on Tuesday, Weaver was named the AL's Pitcher of the Month for April.
"There are some similarities in catching those two guys," Mathis said. "Both are very competitive guys with a lot of variety. They're not afraid to throw any pitch in just about any count, and that keeps hitters guessing. They strike out a lot of guys, but they're efficient in doing it. They don't waste a lot of pitches. Everything they throw has a purpose."
Haren and Weaver both command four-seam fastballs in the low 90s and complement the heat with a deep bag of deliveries. One Haren owns that Weaver doesn't -- the split-fingered fastball -- can be more challenging for a catcher to handle than anything Weaver offers.
"You never know what the split is going to do," Mathis said. "It can dive, hit the dirt, stay straight. With Jered, you know where everything's going. Both guys have great control. They're just different pitchers. That's what you want."
Bourjos aims for better contact
BOSTON -- Peter Bourjos doesn't need to be told that he'd be better off putting the ball in play more often to take full advantage of his blazing speed. He took a .297 batting average into Tuesday night's game against the Red Sox despite striking out 32 times in 101 at-bats.
"I'm working on my two-strike approach, trying to find the balance," Bourjos said.
It comes and goes, as with most young players. When Bourjos' is locked in, he's driving the ball to alleys and racking up doubles (five) and triples (four).
"That's one part of his game he's paying attention to, trying to get a good two-strike approach and put more balls in play," manager Mike Scioscia said. "Offensively, Peter's not a finished product. He's doing a good job. Hitting ninth, he's going to be a real positive. If you're looking at a first- or second-place hitter with 250 [Major League] at-bats, that's a lot to ask. I think his strikeouts will be reduced as he learns the league and his swing better."
Experience also will be immensely beneficial in stealing bases. Bourjos is 3-for-7 in steal attempts, but the time is coming when Scioscia believes he'll put up "some eye-popping stolen-base numbers once he gets comfortable."
Bourjos is tied for first in the Majors with nine infield hits, and he leads in bunt hits (five) and triples (four).
Top third of Angels' lineup still flourishing
BOSTON -- The Angels' offense has had its early ups and downs, but one grouping that has produced with consistency is Maicer Izturis, Bobby Abreu and Howard Kendrick at the top of the order.
In Monday night's 9-5 loss to the Red Sox, the trio combined for seven hits (three by Izturis) and a walk, driving in three runs and scoring twice. Izturis is batting .333, Abreu .277 and Kendrick .307. Manager Mike Scioscia has flip-flopped Abreu and Kendrick in recent games, moving Abreu up to second because of his ability to get on base and dropping Kendrick to third to take better advantage of his .539 slugging mark.
"The silver lining is the number of opportunities we're getting," Scioscia said in reference to the on-base numbers attached to Izturis (.381), Abreu (.416) and Kendrick (.385). "That's different from last year. We have been setting the table for the middle of the order. Our anticipation is we'll start to cash in more with scoring position [opportunities].
"We need to get guys going better overall -- Vernon [Wells], Torii [Hunter]. We need to take what pitchers are giving us more. We're striking out a lot. We're not getting the one or two hits that can swing a game your way in those situations.
"In '09 we set records with [run-producing numbers] with mostly the same guys. Last year, we were terrible. Each guy in the middle has different issues. Some guys are getting too big with their swing, and some guys are getting tentative."
The Angels were 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position in the series opener, reducing their season batting average in those situations to .232.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.