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Angels Classic Rewind | Dateline: June 26th, 2002


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By Joe Haakenson, AngelsWin.com Contributor - 

JUNE 26, 2002
GAME 76 - ANGELS AT RANGERS

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Only a few days ago, Bengie Molina proclaimed ``I am not a home run hitter,'' explaining why had hit none all season.

He came close last weekend in Milwaukee, when Brewers center fielder Jeffrey Hammonds pulled one back into the park to rob him. But Wednesday night, Molina got one, and it was worth the wait for the Angels catcher.

Molina's two-out, three-run homer to right field in the eighth inning off Texas Rangers reliever John Rocker tied the game at 6 and Garret Anderson's two-out, RBI double in the ninth gave the Angels a 7-6 win in front of 29,726 at The Ballpark in Arlington, snapping the Rangers' eight-game winning streak.

With the win, the Angels moved back into second place in the American League West, a half-game ahead of Oakland and 3 1/2 games behind first-place Seattle.

Molina's first home run since the final game of the season last year might have surprised Rocker as much as anybody.

``Who sits on a first-pitch breaking ball from a guy that throws 95 (mph)?'' Rocker asked. ``Maybe one of these days I'll get a break.''

Molina was looking for a break after ending the inning in each of his previous three at-bats, stranding five baserunners, including four in scoring position.

``I'm just glad Jeffrey Hammonds wasn't playing right field for the Rangers, that's all,'' Molina said. ``It couldn't have come in a better situation than that. I was so frustrated.''

The Angels trailed 6-2 when Rocker entered the game to start the eighth. Darin Erstad and Tim Salmon singled and Anderson walked to load the bases. Troy Glaus, who was not in the starting lineup, pinch hit for Brad Fullmer but struck out.

Scott Spiezio hit a sacrifice fly to right field, scoring Erstad but making the second out of the inning. That's when Molina came up and helped end the Angels' frustrations.

``I jumped up and put both hands in the air and said, `My gosh, I look like a cheerleader,’'' Erstad said.

Upon returning to the dugout, Molina said: ``I saw big smiles, and mine was the first one. I was happier than Joe Carter when he hit his.''

Carter's gave the Toronto Blue Jays a World Series title in 1993, while Molina's homer only tied the game.

``After tying the game, there wasn't too much joking around,'' Anderson said. ``We still had work to do.''

That came in the ninth against Hideki Irabu. Adam Kennedy got the rally started with a one out single, and with two outs, Salmon singled to move Kennedy to second. Anderson was up next but quickly fell behind in the count, 0-2.

On the next pitch Anderson fought off a fastball in on his hands and hit a soft line drive to left field for a double to score Kennedy and give the Angels their first lead of the game. After the game Anderson was asked if his 0-2 swing was a defensive swing.

``That's definitely not the way I hit,'' he said. ``My approach is (the pitcher) needs to be worried about me before I worry about them.''

Given a ninth-inning lead, Troy Percival got the final three outs, but not without a little tension. He retired the first two hitters before walking Alex Rodriguez, who already had hit his league-leading 23rd homer of the season in the game.

Next up was Juan Gonzalez, but Percival got him on a foul popup to first.

``I obviously wasn't sharp,'' said Percival, who got his 18th save in 20 chances this year. ``I was having a tough time getting the ball down.''

Ramon Ortiz started for the Angels and similarly struggled with his command. But he was able to give the Angels 6 2/3 innings, coming out of the game after he surrendered a two-run homer by Ivan Rodriguez that made it 5-2.

Ben Weber (4-2) pitched a 1-2-3 eight to earn the win.

``They've been kicking our butts all over the place the last couple days,'' Erstad said of the Rangers. ``Those guys are as hot as you can get. (Molina's homer) was huge.''

NOTEBOOK

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Catcher Todd Greene was in tears the day in spring training of 2000 when the Angels released him. But Greene, struggling to get over a shoulder injury at the time, worked his way back to the big leagues, first with the Blue Jays, then the Yankees and now the Rangers.

Greene is happy in Texas for now, but said he feels he has unfinished business with the Angels and would like to play for them again.

``I'd love to play for the Angels again some day,'' said Greene, drafted by the Angels in 1993. ``The put a lot of stock in me and I was hurt. Hopefully one day I'll be able to return the favor for the organization.''

He didn't do the Angels any favors on Tuesday, hitting a home run into the second deck at The Ballpark in Arlington. It was only the ninth homer hit to the second deck in the ballpark's history, previously accomplished by Juan Gonzalez (four times), Alex Rodriguez (three times) and Mark McGwire.

Greene said he hoped something could have been worked out with the Angels this season, contacting them about a possible job when third-string catcher Shawn Wooten got hurt in spring training.

``His name came up,'' manager Mike Scioscia said. ``He can catch at a much better level now because he's healthy and he can throw. But with the configuration of our roster, there really wasn't a fit.''

Instead, Greene signed a minor-league deal with the Dodgers and played well at Triple-A Las Vegas. Part of his agreement included a clause that said if he wasn't on the major league roster by May 15, he could be granted his release. The Dodgers didn't have room for him, Greene got his release and signed with Texas, where he's hitting .233 with three homers and nine RBIs in 22 games.

Next season, though, a return to the Angels isn't out of the question. Greene is signed with Texas through this season and Angel backup catcher Jorge Fabregas' contract is up after this season. However, the Angels would have to figure out what to do with Jose Molina, who has played well both offensively and defensively this season at Triple-A Salt Lake.

Greene said he holds no hard feelings towards the Angels for releasing him, that it gave him an opportunity to realize the highlight of his career -- playing in the World Series last season with the Yankees. He got into two games and had a double in two at-bats.

Greene got another unique opportunity: He caught President George Bush's ceremonial first pitch before Game 3 of the World Series at Yankee Stadium.

``(Yankees starting catcher) Jorge Posada wanted to do it, but Rocket (pitcher Roger Clemens) kept him too long in the bullpen warming up,'' Greene said. ``I didn't have time to think about it, they just told me to get out there. My wife missed it, but she found out about it when we started getting all these phone calls.''

*

Both third baseman Troy Glaus and shortstop David Eckstein were not in the starting lineup for Wednesday's game. Scioscia told both not to take batting practice, preferring that both take the opportunity to rest.

``Troy's such a big part of the club, I think it's important to get him a break and let him recharge,'' Scioscia said. ``We've had a challenging schedule that last couple of weeks.''

Jose Nieves started in Eckstein's place at shortstop and Scott Spiezio started in Glaus' place at third base.

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