Haren impresses, beats Rangers in return

BY foxsports • July 22, 2012

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Dan Haren had one close call Sunday night. It was a line drive off the bat of Michael Young — a laser shot in the fourth inning that came so close to Haren's head he could hear it.

"I don't know how it missed me," he said later. "I saw it come off the bat. I don't know how close it was, but I could hear it go by me."

Haren ducked just enough to avoid getting dinged. It was a crisis averted in a day of rousing success.

In his first start off the disabled list, Haren gave the Angels what they sorely needed — a solid performance from a starter other than Jered Weaver or CJ Wilson. Their troubled rotation isn't in the clear yet, but it looks better now than it did Saturday after Ervin Santana was rocked in less than two innings by the Texas Rangers.

Haren pitched six innings and gave up three hits and two runs in the Angels' 7-4 victory over the Rangers, winning for the first time since June 28. Even better, the Angels took two of three from Texas, closed to within five games of first place in the American League West and kept a half-game lead over the surging Oakland A's, who swept the Yankees.

"We know that they're playing well," Haren said of the A's, "but I think we're more worried about ourselves than what the A's or the Orioles are doing. We're trying to beat the Rangers, which is not an easy task."

Having Haren back is a positive sign for a team that's been floundering lately. He admitted to feeling the effects of going 19 days between starts, but he also knows that his stuff is going to get better as long as his back holds up.

His fastball isn't where it needs to be, but he said his offspeed stuff is like "night and day" now that he's apparently healthy. He walked two batters and hit another in the first two innings, but other than a two-run homer by Nelson Cruz in the fourth, he avoided major missteps.

"His stuff was crisp," manager Mike Scioscia said, "but his command is what was really impressive."

Not all is entirely well, however. Shortstop Erick Aybar sat out the game after fouling a ball off the big toe on his right foot Saturday. He's likely out for a few days, which is why the Angels called up infielder Jean Segura from Double-A Arkansas and sent pitcher David Carpenter to Triple-A Salt Lake.

The Angels offered Haren ample support. Catcher Bobby Wilson, hitting .197 at the start of the day, hit his first home run since last August and was 3-for-4 with two runs. Albert Pujols smacked his 18th homer, and Mike Trout had two hits and scored a run in his 14th consecutive game, setting a franchise and AL rookie record.

Trout was also visited unexpectedly in the eighth inning by a fan who came out of the stands and stood face to face with the rookie in left field.

"He told me it was his 18th birthday and he wanted an autograph," Trout recalled.

"It was weird. It was the first time it happened to me. I just said, 'Not right now.' "

But yes, Trout was worried.

"A little bit," he said. "I didn't know what was happening. The bullpen yelled and I looked up and he was right there. He had his hand in his pocket. That's what worried me the most."

The fan was removed, the game carried on and the Angels held when reliever Ernesto Frieri struck out Josh Hamilton with two runners on base in the ninth.

A big game, a big win.

"Today was huge for us," Haren said. "We're trying to take the series from them and keep pace with a lot of other teams that are playing well. I came into the game thinking it was the biggest game of the year — I do that every start really, but especially today."

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