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Hunter's walk-off single keeps Angels on A's tail

The SportsXchange

If these are Torii Hunter's last days with the Los Angeles Angels, he is doing his best to make the team tear the uniform off his back.

His teammates did exactly that Wednesday night in an on-field celebration following his game-winning RBI single in the ninth inning. The Angels' 4-3, walk-off victory over the Seattle Mariners kept their playoff hopes alive, with Los Angeles just two games behind the Oakland A's for the second AL wild-card spot.

"It's out of my mind right now," Hunter said of the potential free agency that looms this offseason with his five-year, $90 million deal winding down. "I really want to be here, but that's an individual thing. I'm thinking about the team right now. Once the season is over -- whether that's in the next couple days or in November and I'm at Disneyland -- we'll see what happens."

Hunter has been reminded by the "Keep Torii" signs and T-shirts in the right field stands. And his play has reminded the Angels of how valuable he can be. He drove in two clutch runs Wednesday -- one to tie the game in the seventh and the winner in the ninth -- and he now has 23 RBI in 23 games this month with a .322 average in September.

No Angel has made more clutch plays than Hunter as the team fights for a playoff spot.

"Torii's one of the guys leading the way, no doubt about that," manager Mike Scioscia said. "There's definitely an awareness in that clubhouse of what we're up against. I think we're playing terrific baseball -- in many ways, the best baseball we've played all year -- and Torii's right in the middle of that."

Hunter has made it to the playoffs six times in his 16 big-league seasons but never to the World Series. He jokes about being able to "smell the playoffs" at this time of year, energizing him for the stretch run and another bid for a championship ring.

"It motivates me. I'm very energetic right now," Hunter said. "I've been around a long time, so maybe I want it a little more than most. But it's a lot of fun, the adrenaline you have for these games."
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