Hunter robs Blalock of HR, Angels win 4-3
Hunter stole a home run from the Rangers for the second straight game, and the Los Angeles Angels rallied twice Saturday night for a 4-3 victory that reduced their magic number to nine for clinching their fourth AL West title in five years.
Hamilton, who leads the majors with 116 RBIs, was lifted for a pinch hitter in the fifth because of pain related to the root canal procedure he had to fix an abscessed tooth on Wednesday.
“Over the last couple of days there’s been off-and-on pain, and tonight it just wouldn’t go away,” the Rangers’ All-Star center fielder said. “In the second or third inning, it came on. My head was hurting so bad, I could barely hold my eyes open. I guess they didn’t actually do the whole thing. They didn’t drill all the way down. They just cleaned out the biggest part of it.”
Hamilton said he was taking antibiotics and has an appointment for Monday to get it fixed.
“I’m going to try and get some sleep tonight, if it’ll let me, and I’ll assess the situation tomorrow when I get to the ballpark,” he said.
The Angels were leading 4-3 with two outs in the Texas seventh when Hunter chased Hank Blalock’s bid for a two-run homer back to the fence and pulled it back at the last instant while hitting the back of his head on the wall. The seven-time Gold Glove winner robbed Marlon Byrd of a two-run homer in the seventh inning on Friday night to help preserve a 3-1 win.
“I think I may have been done it back-to-back a couple of times, but that’s exciting, man,” Hunter said. “How does that happen? The ball goes 5-10 inches over the wall two days in a row. That’s pretty impressive. I’m just happy to be able to use that glove. That’s what (owner) Arte (Moreno) got me over here for.”
Washington manager Ron Washington was incredulous after getting burned again by Hunter.
“When Torii first took off, I thought maybe it was gone the way he was running. And then it looked like it just stopped and fell into his glove,” Washington said with a sigh. “We’ve got to hit the ball where he can’t get to it.”
Scot Shields pitched a hitless eighth and Francisco Rodriguez got three outs for his 53rd save in 58 chances, tying Mariano Rivera’s 2004 total for the second-most saves in a season. K-Rod is now within four of the major league record set by Bobby Thigpen in 1990 with the Chicago White Sox.
Weaver was charged with three runs and five hits in five-plus innings. The right-hander was yanked in the sixth after giving up a single by Milton Bradley and a double to right-center by Blalock. Arredondo came in and yielded Gerald Laird’s second RBI single of the game before the Rangers took a 3-2 lead moments later on a blown call by first base umpire Bill Hohn.
Chris Davis hit a grounder to first baseman Mark Teixeira, who went to second for the force on Laird and got out of the way as Arredondo took the relay from shortstop Brandon Wood. Hohn called Davis safe on a headfirst slide as Blalock scored, but TV replays clearly showed Davis’ hand got to the bag a split-second late.
Manager Mike Scioscia lost the ensuing argument. But the Angels grabbed a 4-3 lead in the bottom half on a run-scoring groundout by Hunter and a sacrifice fly from Juan Rivera against Scott Feldman (5-6).
Byrd shifted from left field to center after Hamilton left and nearly threw out the tying run at the plate in the fifth after charging in to field Mike Napoli’s sharp single. But Hunter took the inside route against Laird and avoided the tag twice—once after failing to touch the plate the first time.
Washington protested vehemently to umpire and crew chief Dale Scott, to no avail.
“It was more than a tough call,” Washington said. “Dale Scott can’t miss those kind of plays. He just can’t miss them. He explained it to me that (Hunter) got his fingers on the plate before Gerald tagged him the first time. I can’t repeat how I responded to that, but that’s what made me walk away. He was nowhere near that damn plate.”
Napoli, who had made it all the way to third on the play because Laird failed to ask Scott to call time, scored on Wood’s suicide squeeze to give the Angels a 2-1 lead.
Feldman (5-6) gave up four runs and eight hits over six innings after going 4-0 in his previous six road starts. One of the no-decisions was on Aug. 12 at Boston, when the right-hander gave up six runs in 2 2-3 innings before the Rangers got him off the hook and eventually lost 19-17.
The Rangers placed RHP Vicente Padilla on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to Aug. 23, because of a left hamstring strain. RHP Kameron Loe was recalled from Triple-A Oklahoma to fill the roster spot, a week after he was optioned to the minors. … Vladimir Guerrero is 3-for-15 in his last four games against the Rangers, dropping his career average against them from .407 to .398. … Texas turned two double plays, bringing its major league-leading total to 176—three shy of the club record set last year. … RHP Kevin Millwood will start Sunday’s series finale, trying to become the first Rangers pitcher to throw three straight complete-game victories since Kenny Rogers in May 1994. … Brandon Boggs, who pinch-hit for Hamilton and played left field, struck out all three times up.