Torii Hunter couldn't help the Los Angeles Angels advance to the World Series. The veteran outfielder is doing his best to help the defending AL champs get back there.
Hunter returns to Anaheim for the first time since signing with the Detroit Tigers on Friday night when Los Angeles tries to avoid the franchise's worst 15-game start.
In his first two seasons after spending 1998-2007 with Minnesota, Hunter helped the Angels win back-to-back AL West titles and reach the AL championship series in 2009. Los Angeles, though, never played another postseason game during Hunter's tenure.
The nine-time Gold Glove winner hit a career-best .313 in 2012 with 16 homers and 92 RBIs, but the Angels (4-10) didn't re-sign the free agent in November. He wound up in Detroit, and the $26 million the Tigers will pay him over the next two seasons looks like a solid investment so far with Hunter hitting a team-best .413 with a homer and nine RBIs.
He'll likely get a chance to extend his hitting streak to 12 after getting a day off Thursday as Detroit (9-6) suffered its first loss in five games, 2-0 at Seattle.
"Like I said, he'll be missed, but you have other veteran guys around that definitely step up," Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick told the team's official website. "When things need to be done, they'll do it."
Josh Hamilton, Hunter's replacement in Anaheim, has not done that yet, hitting .200 with two homers, eight RBIs and 18 strikeouts after signing in December for five years and $125 million. Soon after that deal was announced, Hunter fired back at Angels owner Arte Moreno, who reportedly told him the team didn't have the money to re-sign him.
"I was told money was tight but I guess the Arte had money hidden under a Mattress. Business is business but don't lie,'' Hunter wrote on his Twitter account.
Hunter, though, quickly posted another tweet: "Great signing for the Angels. One of the best players in baseball.''
Hunter's new teammate Miguel Cabrera, who beat out Angels outfielder Mike Trout for the 2012 AL MVP, went 1 for 9 with four strikeouts as the Tigers were swept in their last visit to Anaheim from Sept. 7-9.
Trout hit two homers in that three-game set, one off Friday's scheduled starter Anibal Sanchez (2-0, 1.42 ERA). The right-hander has won his last two starts, striking out eight in seven innings each time. Sanchez is limiting opponents to a .152 batting average.
"I think what's underrated is his stuff," manager Jim Leyland told the Tigers' official website. "I think his stuff is a lot better than he gets credit for."
The Angels' rotation, which has an MLB-worst 6.07 ERA, can shoulder much of the blame for the team's worst start since opening 4-10 in its inaugural season 52 years ago. Friday's starter Tommy Hanson (1-1, 6.55) is the first to admit he needs to improve upon his last appearance, a 5-0 loss to Houston last Friday when he allowed hits to the first four batters.
"I've always been told that starting pitching sets the tone and I didn't set the tone," Hanson said after getting tagged for five runs in five innings.
Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder, 5 for 16 with a homer and a double versus Hanson, batted .419 with two homers as these teams split 10 games last season.
Angels first baseman Albert Pujols has three hits in 15 at-bats off Sanchez, while Hamilton is 4 for 4 with four singles against the right-hander.
Hunter is 2 for 3 off Hanson.