Torii Hunter, Halos Put Hurt On Orioles In a Game They Should Have Lost

Johnathan KronckeCorrespondent IAugust 17, 2009

ARLINGTON, TX - JULY 1:  Torii Hunter #48 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim hits a two-run double against the Texas Rangers in the seventh inning at Rangers Ballpark July 1, 2009 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

It's hard to imagine a blowout win that was less deserved.

After failing time and again to put Sunday's game away, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim slaughtered the Baltimore Orioles like a hunter with a grudge.

Ironically enough, it was a Hunter who finally sealed the Orioles' fate.

Making his triumphant return to the lineup, All-Star center fielder Torii Hunter, the team's MVP during the first half the season, smacked an RBI single up the middle in the top of the 13th inning to give the Halos the lead.

Little did he know it would be the first of nine runs to cross the plate, tying a Major League record for most runs scored in a single extra inning.

The Angels went on to win 17-8 on Sunday, a seemingly uplifting victory that might have inspired hope for most fans.

But take a closer look.

L.A. of A. twice had four-run leads that rookie starter Sean O'Sullivan proved unable to hold, giving up six runs in four innings of work.

They then took a two-run lead late in the game, only to have new eighth-inning savior Kevin Jepsen give up a run before closer Brian Fuentes come on in the ninth to blow his fifth save of the year.

Jepsen had been nothing short of dominant recently, giving up just five runs in his last 21 innings, so his gaff in the eighth inning is forgivable.

Fuentes, on the other hand, has watched his ERA climb steadily from its season low of 2.78 on July 23 to a shaky 4.24.

Once again, poor pitching is the issue at hand. And with the Angels entering a stretch of 50 games in 52 days, strength on the mound will be more critical than ever. They've already ditched one dead arm that was dragging them down. 

The only thing Justin Speier did well was give up home runs.

Fortunately, Jose Arredondo and Jason Bulger threw two sparkling innings each in extras and shepherded the bats through to their nine-run explosion in the 13th.

As the days get shorter and the games get more important, guys like Fuentes, Arredondo, Jepsen, and O'Sullivan must turn in strong performances if the Angels want to have a prayer at getting to the first round of the playoffs and beyond.

It didn't seem to matter on Sunday, but the Angels' offense won't always score 17 runs to overshadow any mound missteps.

In fact, it very nearly didn't in that game either.

The Angels loaded the bases with just one out in both the 11th and 12th innings, and both times they hit into inning-ending double plays.

In the 11th, Hunter, who would eventually drive in the game-winning run, popped a weak line drive to second baseman Brian Roberts, who then doubled off Kendry Morales at first.

Maicer Izturis grounded into a 3-2-3 double play in the next inning, killing another potential rally.

Still, it's hard to complain too much about a team that scores 17 runs on 23 hits and ties a league scoring record in the process. I tip my be-haloed cap to the Angels.

Rare is the game when a team loads the bases in three consecutive innings. Not to mention, baseball is played with a certain sense of karma that envelops the field and the players.

When a team squanders chances the way the Angels did on Sunday, you can almost bet they'll lose in the very next inning.

But the Angels have proven to be a resilient ball club this season, rebounding from the tragic death of rookie pitcher Nick Adenhart to lead the AL West, and compete with the Yankees for most come-from-behind victories in the Majors.

The Angels are also among the league leaders in batting average, average with runners in scoring position, and runs scored.

Of course, it also helps when the team you're playing owns the second worst ERA in the league.

With their victory on Sunday, the Halos won two of three in Baltimore, setting an important precedent for the next three weeks.

In four of the next six series, the Angels will face teams with losing records, and at least one that is well on its way (*cough* Seattle *cough*).

It's important that they continue to beat up on the weaker sisters of the league and keep pace with the Texas Rangers, who just can't seem to lose when the Angels really need them to.

But, as long as the bats stay hot and the arms improve, we'll be well on our way to a third consecutive division title. 


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