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Hunter also wasted a chance to increase the Angels' 11th-inning lead with an inning-ending, double-play grounder after Chone Figgins' go-ahead RBI.
Then there's Vladimir Guerrero, the Angels' formerly feared cleanup hitter, who struck out twice with the bases loaded in New York and stranded eight runners in Game 2. The slugger wears a blue Superman T-shirt while lounging in the Angels' clubhouse before most games, but it appears to be fading -- and so do his once-superhuman skills.
Despite his clutch hit to finish off Boston in the division series, Guerrero's statistics and timely hits have declined considerably in the final year of his contract with Los Angeles. Yet Scioscia defiantly keeps Guerrero in the cleanup spot ahead of Kendry Morales or Juan Rivera despite a soft 6-for-21 playoff performance that includes only two RBIs -- both on that go-ahead hit against the Red Sox.
"I have confidence in Vlad," Hunter said. "If it weren't for Vlad, we probably wouldn't be where we are. Just his name and his history alone helps us, making pitchers think about the game differently."
And though the fielding miscues were the Angels' most glaring shortcomings in the Bronx, their dismal hitting hurt them even more. The Angels batted .154 and had just 12 hits in the first two games' 22 innings, including just four extra-base hits -- all doubles -- for a measly .205 slugging percentage.
Los Angeles didn't rely on homers during its tremendously productive regular season, instead creating runs through multiple-hit rallies and heads-up baserunning, but a couple of shots could ease the burden of having to grind out runs to match New York's lineup of big boppers.
The Yankees' rotation isn't deep, but it's been dominant. Their three starting pitchers have a 1.62 ERA over the first five postseason games, and Game 3 starter Andy Pettitte allowed just one run while tying John Smoltz for the major league record with his 15th postseason victory in the division series clincher against Minnesota.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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