video thumbnail

OAK@LAA: Hunter drives in three against the A's

ANAHEIM -- To Torii Hunter, baseball in September with the playoffs on the line "is like taking 17 cups of coffee in 10 seconds."

The Angels outfielder said the adrenaline starts to flow like it hasn't at any point in the season, and he feeds off it.

Hunter certainly feasted at the plate on Saturday night, as his two-run homer and three RBIs propelled the Halos to a 4-2 victory over the A's at Angel Stadium.

The win moved the Angels to within 2 1/2 games of Boston in the American League Wild Card race. The Red Sox loss to the Blue Jays earlier in the day also helped the Rays, 6-2 winners over Toronto, pull within 1 1/2 games of the Wild Card lead.

"We still smell it," Hunter said. "We still have a chance to get in the playoffs through the Wild Card. You want to win a division, but that's not possible right now. You've got to find other ways, and that's getting in through the Wild Card."

Manager Mike Scioscia said he's aware just how difficult it will be for the Angels to rally for the American League's final playoff spot. But he's optimistic.

"We need some help," the skipper said. "We could go over a bunch of situations, but the bottom line is we need to win, and we need to get a little bit of help, and we'll see where we're gonna be on Wednesday."

The Angels finish their three-game set with Oakland on Sunday before hosting the AL West champion Rangers for three games to end the regular season. Because they're chasing two teams, the Halos likely need to win out to have a shot at earning at least a one-game playoff.

It might seem like a daunting task, but it's a chance Hunter said he can't afford to let slip through his fingers.

"I've been to the playoffs so many times and I've failed," the veteran outfielder said. "I just want to get there and win. That's all that matters to me, man -- getting that World Series. I'm tired of seeing guys jump up and down on that field, and I haven't done it once."

Hunter did his part on Saturday, as his two-run shot in the sixth capped a three-run rally that was ultimately the difference in the game. With the score tied at 1 and a runner on second, Bobby Abreu bounced a slow roller through the right side to give the Angels the lead. Two pitches later, Hunter crushed his second home run in as many nights into the seats to the right of the left-field bullpens.

That inning, the biggest blow to A's starter Guillermo Moscoso, who was brilliant through five, may have been when he got hit with a Howie Kendrick line drive. He promptly tossed Kendrick out at first, but Abreu and Hunter each followed with RBI hits. Moscoso was shaken on the play and needed a few warm-up pitches before continuing.

"He's a pretty tough guy, and he showed it tonight, really gave him an extra inning because of it," said A's manager Bob Melvin, who sent him back out for the seventh. "Really, the only bad pitch of the night was the one he gave up for the home run."

That homer was enough to help starter Jerome Williams improve to 4-0, as he worked 6 1/3 innings and allowed just one run on five hits.

In the top of the fifth, the A's broke through against Williams with three consecutive singles to start the frame. The right-hander did a nice job working out of trouble, though, retiring three straight with runners on first and second to hold Oakland at one run -- the only run he's surrendered in his last two starts.

"I felt like I was in trouble, but I can't really worry about that," Williams said. "You just bear down and execute pitches, and I did."

Scioscia praised Williams' efforts, noting that he's been the back-end help the Angels' rotation has needed all along.

"The four and five spots have been a little hit and miss, but I don't think that's foreign to most teams," Scioscia said. "I don't know outside of the Phillies who has the kind of rotation where you've got five guys that are really pitching at a high level. Jerome has given us a huge boost at a time we've needed it."

On Saturday, Williams picked up the Halos after consecutive heartbreaking losses the two previous nights -- defeats that very nearly sealed their postseason fate.

Now, Scioscia is looking for two things -- only one of which he can control.

"We want that help to come, and [we want] to be in position to take advantage of it," he said. Comments