Vlad's heroics a long time coming
Slugger's search for postseason glory ends in Game 3
BOSTON -- Torii Hunter saw the ball fall in center field for a single as he pulled into second base.He looked at home plate and saw two runs had scored. Then he looked at first base and saw Vladimir Guerrero, the Angels designated hitter who had just delivered that single.
"When he was standing on first base, I was so happy for him," Hunter said. "He had a big smile on his face. He rarely gets excited but he had that big smile and you knew it was one of the biggest hits of his career."It was a long time coming, but Guerrero finally delivered. That two-run single came with two outs in the top of the ninth inning and gave the Angels a 7-6 victory over the Red Sox in Game 3 of the American League Division Series. The Angels trailed, 6-4, going into the inning before rallying and completing a three-game sweep to advance to the AL Championship Series. "Yes, it's one of the biggest hits," Guerrero said. "I'm not going to say it's the biggest hit, but what it does bring to mind is that we lost a teammate earlier." Guerrero said he was dedicating his game-winning hit to pitcher Nick Adenhart, who was killed in a car accident on April 9. "When it comes down to honoring Nick Adenhart and what happened in April in Anaheim, in that respect, yes, probably the biggest hit," Guerrero said. "Because I'm dedicating that to a former teammate, a guy who passed away." The two RBIs were the first for Guerrero in the postseason since Game 1 of the 2005 ALCS against the White Sox. He had gone 13 games and 52 at-bats in the postseason without an RBI until his two-run single off Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon on Sunday. "I felt great for Vlad," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Hopefully a momentum-builder for him ... that's the biggest hit he's had." Guerrero had a grand slam against the Red Sox back in Game 3 of the 2004 ALDS, but was 2-for-16 in runners in scoring position until the two-run single against the Red Sox on Sunday. "I understand the importance of the situation," Guerrero said. "To be able to come through is big."
|Maicer Izturis||Popout to catcher (one out)|
|Gary Matthews Jr.||Flyout to center (two out)|
|Erick Aybar||1B on 0-2 fastball|
|Bobby Abreu||2B to left, Aybar scores|
|Torii Hunter||Intentional walk loads bases|
|Vlad Guerrero||1B to center , Figgins, Abreu score|
|Kendry Morales||Flyout left (three out)|
Bobby Abreu, batting with two on and two out, set up the situation with a run-scoring double off Papelbon. That cut the Red Sox's lead to 6-5 and brought Hunter to the plate. Manager Terry Francona decided to walk Hunter intentionally to get to Guerrero."I was ready, man. I was ready," Hunter said. "No ... it was the right move because it sets up the force at any base." Hunter, coming into the series, was also 3-for-5 off Papelbon. Guerrero was 1-for-10. "Pap throws strikes, and he had had a lot of success against Guerrero," Francona said. Papelbon came right at Guerrero, throwing a 95-mph fastball in the strike zone. Guerrero, a notorious free-swinger, was ready. "When they walked Torii, my main focus was to go get a good pitch to hit, and thank God it came through," Guerrero said. "And the main thing is that we were able to have that great comeback and win that ballgame. But mainly I was not looking for any particular pitch. I was just looking for a strike to hit, and he threw me a strike and I was able to hit it up the middle." It was a seminal moment for Guerrero. The Angels won the World Series in 2002, but Guerrero wasn't around. The Angels signed him as a free agent in '04, and he was the Most Valuable Player that season.
But they have had little success with him in postseason, losing four of five playoff series with Guerrero in the lineup. Three of those series came in the first round against the Red Sox. On Sunday afternoon, Guerrero was finally able to walk around the visiting clubhouse and spray champagne on his teammates."It certainly is a different feeling and one that we as a team wanted to experience knowing that three years that I was here we got taken out by the Red Sox," Guerrero said. "The difference was the emotion of the team overall from the beginning of the season carrying all the way through the series. It seems like a more emotional team, a little more gutsy, more put together. "I am actually very happy to see it happen on this side with all due respect to the Boston Red Sox."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.