By Pete Zarustica/Garden Grove Journal/With wire service reports
Back in 1967, the American League was caught up in what sports writers and historians called The Great Race. For much of the season, five teams – eventually four – battled for the AL pennant, the decision coming on the final play of the final game of the season.
Four teams fighting for a title in a 10-team league was pretty interesting back then, but in today’s baseball we have something almost as interesting and that’s an entire four-team division battling for a championship.
After Tuesday’s games, the difference between the top and the bottom of the American League West is a mere 2.5 games, with the Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Angels, Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics all with a shot to emerge as champs of major league baseball’s smallest and most competitive division.
On Tuesday the Angels lost 7-3 as a throwing error by starting pitcher Joel Pinero led to a five-run third inning for the Kansas City Royals.
The loss dropped them into third place in the AL West.
After losing to the Minnesota Twins 4-3 last Thursday, the Halos bounced back into the thick of things in the ALW, winning three of four. On Friday they edged the Twins 6-5, then dropped a 1-0 heartbreaker. A 6-5 win Sunday gave them a split in the series.
Monday’s contest was a real slugfest, with the Angels prevailing 10-8. Not only did the win keep the Angels in second place (a game back of Texas), it shone a bright light on Torii Hunter.
Hunter hit two home runs and in doing so, collected his 1,000th career RBI.
“I had no idea,” said Hunter. “They said, ‘You got 1,000.’ I said, ‘Damn, I’m old.’ But it’s an honor. It shows I stayed healthy and I did what I had to do.”
The Angels trailed 6-1 after two innings, but rallied with two runs in the third, one in the seventh, two in the eighth and three in the ninth. Hunter’s two-run shot came in that final inning. Bobby Abreu was on base with his fourth hit when Hunter launched his game-winner.
In addition to his record, Hunter made some new fans. The three kids who caught Hunter’s milestone home run got to meet him and exchange the record ball for other souvenirs.
“They were triplets, about, 7, 8, or 9, something like that,” said Hunter, who also hit a solo home run in the seventh. “I took pictures with them, gave them hugs and said ‘Thank you. It’s a special thing for me.’ I don’t know if my autograph will mean anything, but that ball meant a lot to me and I appreciate them coming down and giving it to me.”
The Angels finished the series with the Royals Wednesday night (results too late for our deadline), then have today (Thursday) off.
The Halos will be home in Anaheim to take on the New York Yankees Friday through Sunday, then host the Tampa Bay Rays Monday through Wednesday.