ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP)—Some players would be satisfied with a 100-RBI season. Not Travis Hafner. He’s looking at 2008 as a “comeback” year.
“I just expect myself to be more consistent,” Hafner said. “It’s not so much really the numbers, but the quality of my at-bats and just the way that I feel like I’m playing. I thought I could have played better last year, so I just wanted to come out this year and have better at-bats.”
Hafner has driven in 100 or more runs in each of the previous four seasons, including career-high 117 in 2006. Last year he hit .267, his lowest average since 2003.
“Sometimes great hitters have an off-year and they just have trouble finding it and getting locked in. I think that was the case with Travis,” manager Eric Wedge said.
“He’s such a hard worker and he’s an intelligent player, but he just never was able to really lock in and hold onto it for an extended period of time,” Wedge added. “But to his credit, he grinded it out, never gave into the fight and still knocked in 100. I mean, you’ve got to be pretty good to have an off year and do that. I know he’s looking to do more this year.”
Speier, forced to close because of Francisco Rodriguez’s sore ankle, got the last out in the eighth and retired his first two batters in the ninth before walking Asdrubal Cabrera. Hafner drove the right-hander’s next pitch far over the right-field fence for his second homer, costing Speier his first save since 2004 with Toronto.
“It doesn’t matter to me—seventh, eighth or ninth inning. The game is on the line in all those innings anyway,” Speier said. “My mentality stays the same regardless of what inning I pitch in. I just made the wrong pitch to the wrong guy. It was middle-up. You’ve got to be a little careful with him.”
Wedge was thrilled to see his designated hitter come through in the clutch.
“It was good to see Travis step up like that late in the ballgame,” he said. “That’s what we need him to do. We look for all nine guys in the lineup to do their job, but we count on certain people a little bit more than others. It always takes some of the pressure off some of the other guys when the Hafners, the (Victor) Martinezes and the (Grady) Sizemores of the world are out there doing their thing.”
Hafner’s homer ended the Angels’ streak of victories in games in which they led after eight innings at 163. Until Tuesday, they hadn’t lost under those circumstances since April 19, 2006, at Minnesota. Los Angeles extended the streak Monday on Torii Hunter’s grand slam in the ninth after Rodriguez squandered a 3-2 lead.
Jake Westbrook (1-1) earned his first complete game since 2006, giving up six hits over eight innings, striking out four and walking none after losing a 2-1 decision to the Chicago White Sox in his season debut. The right-hander threw 64 of his 95 pitches for strikes and said his pitch count allowed him to stay in the game.
“That’s always the case when you’re able to go the distance,” Westbrook said. “If you can keep those down, more times than not you pitch well and get deep in the ballgame. It felt for a while there it was going to be one of those scenarios again where I pitch just good enough to lose. But Haf came up big with that home run.”
Westbrook held the Angels to just three singles through the first five innings, including bunt hits by Chone Figgins and Erick Aybar. But he fell behind 3-2 in the ninth on a two-run homer by Vladimir Guerrero, his first this season.
Angels starter Ervin Santana allowed two runs and six hits over six innings with five strikeouts and three walks.
Rodriguez had an MRI on his sore right ankle and is still awaiting the results. X-Rays were negative. … Angels 2B Howie Kendrick did not play because of a contusion on his right thumb, which he jammed during an at-bat on Tuesday. His X-Rays also were negative. … Westbrook, who did not commit an error last season in 25 starts, threw the ball past first base while attempting to pick off Figgins in the first inning. … Garret Anderson and Guerrero grounded into double plays against Westbrook, who has induced more double-play grounders since the start of the 2004 season than any pitcher in the majors (109). The Angels have hit into 11 DPs in the first five games of this homestand.