Anderson quietly leads offfense
Veteran outfielder batting .376 with six homers since July 1
ANAHEIM -- The talk has often centered on the need for a big bat when discussing the Angels, but there always has been one in the rack.
Garret Anderson has gone about his business quietly for 15 seasons, and he stands as the most prolific Angels hitter in most of the significant offensive franchise categories.
Looking for the leader in RBIs? Anderson is your man. Runs scored? Anderson eclipsed former leader Tim Salmon in June and climbed past the 1,000-run plateau a couple of weeks ago in Boston.
Hits, including those for extra bases, doubles and games played? Yes, sure, all his.
The major category Anderson has yet to claim is home runs. Salmon finished his Angels career with 299, of which Anderson is 30 shy.
That record could fall as early as next season, but that's if the club picks up his $14 million 2009 option or renegotiates to keep its longest-tenured player under the Halo.
But that is an issue for another day.
What Anderson showed in Saturday's 11-4 victory over the Yankees was the simple reason he's the holder of so many franchise records.
He is the big bat.
"Garret, for his whole career, has been steady," manager Mike Scioscia said. "Last year, he finished strong, and this year, he looks like he is on the same page. Hopefully, that second-half trend will continue."
Anderson went 2-for-5 with a homer, two runs scored and a pair of RBIs on a hot and muggy afternoon and helped turn a tight game into a laugher for the hometown crowd that is witnessing a robust lineup in full bloom.
The Angels had been held in check by Dan Giese, a deliberate-throwing right-hander who was making his third big league start and first in the city of his birth. Giese allowed just three hits and a run, courtesy of Mark Teixeira's second homer in an Angels uniform, exiting after six clutch innings for a team desperate in need of a quality start.
Anderson set the tone for the game's ultimate conclusion, though, when he greeted the 1-0 offering from Yankees reliever Jose Veras in the bottom of the seventh and drilled it to right for his 12th home of the year.
That blast trimmed the Yankees' advantage to 3-2, which Mike Napoli erased three batters later with his 13 home run of the year. The Angels hit four solo homers on the day and exerted their will in the eighth by scoring eight times to run away.
Anderson wouldn't take credit for kick-starting the rally or for even playing a key role, despite the fact his run-scoring single in the eighth proved to be the winning hit.
"You just take the runs when you get them," said Anderson, who increased his hitting streak to 15 games. "It is a theory of whether or not it is contagious. I don't believe it, because the pitcher can make some great pitches and get out of an inning. I've seen it. It was good to score some runs and keep applying the pressure."
The Angels secured their 27th comeback victory of the season and their 16th series victory in their past 19 against American League opponents without a loss.
But the franchise's all-time best hitter and arguably its best player since putting on the uniform in 1994 has quietly done his part.
Vladimir Guerrero attracts the most attention from the opposition and the addition of Teixeira has generated the headlines. Torii Hunter is the best two-way player on the Angels, but the solid presence of Anderson in the lineup is what holds the pieces together.
Like John Lackey, who tossed a gutty three-run no-decision Saturday, Anderson is a key piece from the 2002 World Series team and, lately, the Angels' big-inning rallies have begun to resemble that championship club.
Anderson has been taking some significant cuts.
Since July 1, the left fielder and part-time designated hitter has posted a .376 batting average with six homers, 30 RBIs and a .368 average with runners in scoring position.
And he's getting hot at the right time, turning a subpar first half around with a strong showing after the break, numbers that dovetail with his career trend.
"I've never been one to get out of the gates blazing. I build and I like that," Anderson said. "I build through the season and get better and better, and I get tougher to deal with on a day-to-day basis."
Anderson, too, is part of an ideal situation because he's not the only part.
Guerrero, Teixeira and Hunter are joined by Howie Kendrick and table-setters such as Chone Figgins, Maicer Izturis and Erick Aybar. Napoli, who returned from the disabled list Saturday, is part of a catching tandem with Jeff Mathis that can boast a total of 22 homers.
The pitching has long been the hallmark of the Angels, but the offense is more than shouldering its share of the burden as the season stretches into the final weeks.
"We've been raking lately," Lackey said. "It is a fun vibe."
Anderson will be the first to lay credit with the entire team, but he's quietly leading the way.
Mike Scarr is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.