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Angels Classic Rewind | Dateline: May 15th, 2002

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By Joe Haakenson, AngelsWin.com Contributor - 

MAY 15, 2002


DETROIT -- The streaking Angels won again Wednesday, routing the hapless Detroit Tigers, 10-1, before 12,314 at Comerica Park.

Yes, the Tigers are a bad team, owners of the worst record in baseball. Tigers right fielder Robert Fick said if he was a paying fan, he'd probably ''throw up.''

But the Angels aren't about to feel sorry for anybody. That was them early in the season, when they lost 14 of their first 20 games. Since then, they've won 16 of 18, the best 18-game stretch in franchise history, including the last seven in a row.

At 22-16, the Angels are six games over .500 for the first time since Aug. 28 last season.

Angels starter Aaron Sele gave up one run and six hits in seven innings, the first time he's completed seven innings this season. The offense continued its surge as all nine starters had at least one hit and eight of nine scored at least one run.

Sele has won his past four starts, improving to 4-2. But he hasn't pitched all that well, especially for someone who signed a three-year, $24 million deal with the club during the winter.

He has struggled with his mechanics all year, but Wednesday found a way to work through it.

''(Pitching coach) Buddy (Black) and I talked about working with a little more tempo and rhythm,'' Sele said. ''Pitching is athletic and I was too mechanical with it.''

So Sele worked more quickly, kept the ball down and got outs. And probably there was no bigger play in the game than in the first inning when he got Dmitri Young to hit into a double play.

The Angels had taken a 1-0 lead in the top of the first on Garret Anderson's RBI single, but the bottom of the first would be a telltale sign of things to come. Sele had given up at least two runs in each of his previous three starts, and it was a pattern the Angels were hoping he'd break.

But with one out in the first, Fick singled and went to third on Bobby Higginson's single. Young followed with a grounder to David Eckstein at shortstop, who flipped to second baseman Jose Nieves.

Nieves made a difficult pivot at the bag and threw to first to get Sele out of the inning.

''When you come back to the dugout and guys are high-fiving you and laughing, you know they're thinking about it,'' Sele said of his first-inning woes. ''I think that was the most consistent I've been this year. I was able to repeat quality pitches. I got guys to hit the ball on the ground and let the guys work behind me. They did an excellent job.''

The Tigers were never in it after that. In the second inning, Nieves had a two-out, RBI single and Eckstein followed with a two-run homer, his third of the year for a 4-0 Angels lead.

Eckstein had homers on April 27 and 28, both grand slams, but insists his recent power is a fluke.

''Those balls aren't clearing the fence by much,'' Eckstein said. ''And they're right down the line. It's not like I'm going to center field.''

The Angels added three more runs in the sixth, one in the eight on Brad Fullmer's homer and two more in the ninth. Eckstein, Darin Erstad, Troy Glaus and Anderson each had two hits.

But as good as the offense has been, the pitching has been equally as good. And Wednesday, Sele joined the party.

''One encouraging thing about Aaron is you say, OK, he's been struggling, but he's 4-2,'' Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. ''That shows you when he gets support, he can shut teams down.''


DETROIT -- Shortstop David Eckstein is the only Angels player to start every game this season at the same position and in the same spot in the batting order (leadoff).

It's the kind of consistency the Angels have come to expect from Eckstein, who is hitting .279, has an on-base percentage of .360 and is tied for the A.L. lead in getting hit by pitches (eight).

But manager Mike Scioscia is not planning to play Eckstein every game this season. The Angels will play games in 16 consecutive days starting May 28, and there's a good chance Eckstein will get a day off during that stretch.

''When we really start to get into the grind, we'll look at it,'' Scioscia said of giving Eckstein a day off. ''But he's holding up real well.''

Eckstein, who played in 153 games last season, says he feels fine.

''I feel comfortable at the plate right now,'' he said. ''I'm making good contact. There's nothing I want to change right now. Pitchers are doing the same thing with me -- trying to throw inside.''

Blue Jays pitchers tried to throw Eckstein inside a couple weeks ago and Eckstein pulled those pitches for grand slams in consecutive games. He got another inside pitch from the Tigers' Mark Redman on Wednesday, and pulled that one for his third homer of the year.

''This game is a game of adjustments,'' Eckstein said. ''Even between at-bats with the same pitcher. You have to be able to adjust, that's what keeps you in the game.''

Defensively, Eckstein has played well, making only three errors all season.

The only other Angel to start every game this season is Garret Anderson. Anderson played in 161 games last year, missing one game to tend to a family matter.


It's rare when a manager's argument results in the umpire changing a call, but Scioscia pulled it off in Wednesday's game.
Bengie Molina was on first base in the second inning when Tigers pitcher Mark Redman threw a wild pitch that bounced off catcher Michael Rivera's shin and toward the Tigers dugout. Rivera retrieved the ball as he slid, landing one step down in the Tigers dugout, then flipped the ball back onto the field as Molina went to third.

Homeplate umpire Laz Diaz ruled that Molina had to go back to second, bringing Scioscia out of the dugout. Scioscia's argument resulted in three separate umpires conferences, ending finally with the umps allowing Molina to take third.

''The ball carried into the dugout with the catcher's impetus,'' Scioscia said. ''That's two bases. I think the umpires did a good job. They talked it over, came to an understanding and made the call.''

Molina eventually scored on Jose Nieves' two-out single.


Right-handed reliever Donne Wall came out of Tuesday's bullpen session fine on Wednesday and will join Triple-A Salt Lake on Friday in Memphis, Tenn., to begin a rehab assignment. Wall has been on the disabled list since April 29 with tightness in his right arm. ... With Wednesday's win, the Angels are now 15-2 in May. The franchise's best May ever came in 1989, when it went 18-7. The franchise's best month ever came in June of 1998, when it went 22-6. ... With his one inning of work in Wednesday's game, reliever Dennis Cook has pitched 1,000 innings in his major league career.


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