ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Things weren't looking good again for the Los Angeles Angels when Tampa Bay opened the game with a home run. Soon, though, the Angels were flooding the basepaths with runners, and most of them scored.
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Don't be fooled by the Angels' 12-3 rout of the Rays, writes Mark Saxon. The homestretch is very much about 2011 and beyond, and Rays star Carl Crawford would look great in the outfield in Anaheim. Story
Mike Napoli hit a grand slam, Hideki Matsui doubled in three runs and Howie Kendrick had a career-high five hits to help them win 12-3 on Wednesday and prevent the Rays from sweeping a series in Anaheim for the first time."We need to put up some runs for our pitchers. It just takes pressure off guys. They've been pitching well and keeping us in games," said Napoli, who had a career-high six RBIs, giving him a career-best 60 RBIs."Every time I was up there was a runner in scoring position. As a hitter, that's fun. Just try to drive the ball to gaps, put a good swing on a hittable pitch. I had a good day."Tampa Bay began the day tied with the Yankees atop the AL East, but dropped to 78-49, second-best in the majors behind New York. The Yankees played at Toronto later."Once they got all those points, it takes the wind out of our sails," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "Getting down like we did makes it much more difficult on your offense. Plus, it was 123 degrees out there."Actually, the temperature was 91 degrees at the start, with fans seeking seats in the shade as the game dragged past the three-hour mark under a glaring sun."It was cookin' out there," Angels starter Dan Haren said. "On the mound, it was like a spotlight. It was really draining."The Angels stopped a three-game slide overall and a four-game skid against the Rays at home. They got outscored 14-6 in losing the first two games of the series and came into the finale 2-for-25 with runners in scoring position.John Jaso homered on the second pitch from Haren in the first inning, similar to Monday when B.J. Upton homered on the first pitch of the game in the Rays' 4-3 win.This time, though, the Angels' bats answered.Their offense put up four runs in the first, four in the third and three in the fourth. They loaded the bases in the first, third, fourth and fifth innings."It was a good offensive day and we need more of it," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "They need to come out and play with focus and intensity. It's a process. It's not going to be one game, one at-bat."Haren (2-4) allowed one run and three hits in six innings, struck out eight and walked four to end a two-game skid. The Angels had scored just 15 runs -- 2.5 per game -- in his first six starts since being traded by Arizona on July 25."The home run has killed me," he said. "That's the second time that's happened to me this year. I won that game, too. It made me focus a little bit."Jeff Niemann (10-4) gave up eight hits and a career-high 10 runs in 3 1/3 innings, struck out two and walked three as the Rays staggered to their worst loss of the season.Earlier Wednesday, the right-hander was reinstated from the 15-day DL, where he had been for the first time in his major league career with a strained right shoulder."I didn't do what I wanted to do with the ball, and they hit everything I left over the plate. The walks didn't help," he said. "Now we've got to go back to the drawing board and figure out what's going on. I've just got to work hard and see what we can do. But I was just really excited to get back out there."In the first, Matsui doubled in the right-field corner with the bases loaded, giving the Angels a 3-1 lead and extending his hitting streak to a season-best 10 games. Napoli followed with a RBI double.Niemann opened the third with consecutive singles to Alberto Callaspo and Torii Hunter before walking Matsui to load the bases.That set up Napoli's 21st homer -- and second career grand slam -- off a 2-2 pitch that landed in the left-field seats, making it 8-1.In the fourth, Niemann gave up a leadoff double to Kendrick before Callaspo flied out and Hunter walked.Niemann turned things over to Andy Sonnanstine, who promptly walked Matsui to load the bases. He then walked Napoli, forcing in the Angels' ninth run. Reggie Willits struck out before Jeff Mathis hit a ground-rule double in the right corner, scoring Hunter and Matsui and extending the lead to 11-1.Kendrick's RBI single in the sixth made it 12-1.The Rays got a two-run double from Jaso in the seventh.
The Rays ended their West Coast trip with a 4-3 record. ... Their entire traveling party wore custom-made Braysers (Rays blazers) out of town. The jackets are blue-and-white plaid with a sunburst on the lapel, Maddon's idea. ... The Angels are off Thursday before opening a three-game series against Baltimore. ... A male fan jumped out of the lower right-field seats and ran onto the field in the eighth inning. He scaled the wall in center before security could apprehend him.