Angels do it with small ball

BOB ELLIOTT -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:57 AM ET

ANAHEIM -- We might have heard, oh maybe once or 1,001 times, how the Los Angeles Angels needed a bat at the trade deadline.

They sit fourth in the American League in runs scored with 646 behind only the New York Yankees (758), the Detroit Tigers (702) and the Boston Red Sox (652) going into last night's play.

"We can't handle a hitter going through a soft spell," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said before the opener of a four-game series against the Blue Jays.

The Angels have hit only 91 homers, better than only the Kansas City Royals (84).

Yet, still they score.

They hit and run.

They race first to third, more than 100 times at last count.

THE BUNT

They bunt the ball.

"Vladimir Guerrero and Garrett Anderson provide the pop and the rest of the lineup is mostly made up of quick guys," Jays third baseman Troy Glaus said.

"Everyone knows his job on that team and they have known it since the day they joined the organization, to the day they were called up.

"It was the same when I was here," said Glaus, the former Angel.

"Look at Chone Figgins. In 2002 he pinch-ran for Tim Salmon or for myself in the ninth if we needed a run.

"Now he's playing every day and hitting .335."

Some Jays compared the way the Angels play to the style of the Minnesota Twins, installed first by Tom Kelly and continued seamlessly by manager Ron Gardenhire.

Hit the ball where it is pitched. Be a hero with an opposite field single, not a homer.

"They remind me of the 1985 St. Louis Cardinals," Jays manager John Gibbons said in the California sun.

"They have speed at the top and bottom, some gap hitters in between.

"They don't run as well as the Cardinals with Vince Coleman, Willie McGee, Ozzie Smith and Tommy Herr. But they have more power."

Some scouts believe the approach taken by the division leaders o has the best chance of success on the October stage, where teams don't face fourth and fifth starters, where batting averages dip from the regular 162-game season.

"The Angels can manufacture runs, the Red Sox, the Tigers, the Indians can't play small ball the way Anaheim can," one veteran scout said. "They haven't added a bat and I still like their chances."

Scioscia, who caught for 13 years with the Los Angeles Dodgers, is asked if he's offended by the term "NL style."

We remember managers Tim Johnson and Jim Fregosi, who promised to play that style and wound up in trouble from the fans. Toronto, after all, is an AL city.

"Not at all, it doesn't bother me," Scioscia says, "but are you talking about an NL club that sits back and waits for a guy to hit the ball over the fence? Or are you talking about the Montreal Expos or the Cardinals of the 1980s?

"We play this way because we need to play it this way. The Red Sox and the Yankees, with their power, wouldn't play this way."

Angels first base coach Alfredo Griffin played four seasons in the NL with the Dodgers.

EXCITING BALL

"We didn't know Reggie Willits was going to step up to replace Juan Rivera (broken leg in winter ball), we didn't expect that," Griffin said.

Figgins has started 92 games at third and played nine at second and leads with 34 steals. Left fielder Willits has 25 steals.

The Angels play an exciting brand of ball and they have consistently delivered -- taking a 74-52 record into last night's game -- without the addition of the addition bat.

Orlando Cabrera (.310, 16 steals) is having an outstanding season, as is Figgins, followed by centre fielder Gary Matthews with 13 thefts.

They lead the AL in steals (115) and are daring on the base paths.

Go ahead, it seems, is their motto, throw us out if you can.


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