Erick Aybar's record-setting day sparks Angels to 11-2 rout
If the Angels fall short of the playoffs this season you won't be able to pin that on Erick Aybar, who has been hottest when the games count most. Aybar is batting a team-high .434 in September, a streak he continued Sunday with four extra-base hits -- including the first two-homer game of his career -- in a 11-2 rout of the Baltimore Orioles.
Aybar also scored five times, tying the franchise record, set a career best with 12 total bases and matched career highs for runs batted in (four) and hits (four) in helping the Angels win for the third time in six games on their final road trip of the season. That moved them within four games of Texas in the American League West pending the result of the Rangers' game in Seattle. The Angels have 10 games remaining to make up the difference.
Aybar got the Angels started in his first at-bat, walking on four pitches and coming around to score two batters later on a Bobby Abreu double. That was the Angels' first lead of the three-game series but it didn't even last an inning with former Angel Vladimir Guerrero tripling in a run in the bottom of the first to tie the score.
Aybar put the Angels ahead to stay in the third, hitting a full-count pitch over the wall in right. He homered again in a fourth-run fourth, then doubled and scored in the sixth and eighth innings. The two homers give Aybar a career-high 10 on the season, matching his total from the last two seasons combined.
And the September hot spell has boosted Aybar's season average 18 points to .281, the highest its been since Aug. 2.
Vernon Wells also homered Sunday and drove in two runs while Howie Kendrick had three hits and three RBIs as part of a 15-hit attack, the most hits the Angels have gotten in a game since July 28. The beneficiary of all that support was right-hander Jered Weaver (18-7) who, pitching on three days' rest, went six innings, giving up a pair of runs -- including Guerrero's 449th career homer, which tied him with Jeff Bagwell for 35th on the all-time list.
But the game also included some fireworks that involved neither Aybar nor Guerrero.
After Baltimore slugger Mark Reynolds said he thought Angel pitcher Ervin Santana intentionally hit him in the head with a pitch Saturday -- a charge both Santana and Angel Manager Mike Scioscia denied -- Sunday's Oriole starter, Alfredo Simon, sought to even the score. In the first inning Simon threw high and tight to the Angels' Torii Hunter, then hit the next batter, Mark Trumbo, with his first pitch.
Plate umpire Laz Diaz responded by emphatically warning both benches. Yet when Baltimore reliever Brad Bergesen hit the Angels' Jeff Mathis in the batting helmet in the sixth, he was not ejected. The right-hander didn't last much longer, though, exiting two batters later after giving up two runs on consecutve doubles.
-- Kevin Baxter in Baltimore
Photo: Angels shortstop Erick Aybar is congratulated by teammates and coaches after hitting a home run against the Orioles in the third inning Sunday at Baltimore. Credit: Steve Ruark / Getty Images