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ANGELS BACK NEAR NORMAL


ANGELS BACK NEAR NORMAL
BALTIMORE

The return to normalcy will takes months, not days, but the Angels can already see the mood shifting in a once-solemn clubhouse.

Players are joking and smiling and playing raunchy rap tunes on the clubhouse stereo. As a byproduct, Torii Hunter said, the Angels are winning again.

"A couple days ago we felt like normalcy in the clubhouse was coming," Hunter said. "We're seeing it now."

The Angels concluded a two-game series Wednesday against the Orioles at Camden Yards with a 3-2 win, and afterward boarded the train to New York riding a current of confidence that's been missing since the tragic death of Nick Adenhart.

The team held a private memorial for Adenhart at Angel Stadium on Thursday. Members of the organization told lighthearted stories about their former teammate. The Angels lost their next two games against the Mariners, but they've responded by winning three straight, their longest streak of the season.

Shane Loux turned in his most impressive performance of the year, allowing one run in six-plus innings for his first big league win since Sept. 24, 2003, when he was a Tiger.

"I'm trying not to wait six years for the next one," Loux quipped.

After loading the bases in the first inning with nobody out, Loux allowed a sacrifice fly to Aubrey Huff and retired Luke Scott and Ty Wigginton on fly balls to end the inning. He labored in the second inning, too, by falling behind hitters and missing with his sinkerball.

But after walking Brian Roberts in the second inning - and speaking with Manager Mike Scioscia and pitching coach Mike Butcher about his over-reliance on the sinker - Loux retired 11 straight Orioles.

"It (the sinker) was working, almost too much," Loux said. "I couldn't get it to stay in the zone. I should have recognized it a little sooner. I always think it's going to be the greatest pitch the next pitch I throw. It took someone else to kind of tell me that maybe we should go about this a different way."

Tied at 1 in the seventh inning, Hunter and Kendry Morales hit back-to-back home runs off Orioles starter Koji Uehara. Hunter's blast, his eighth of the year, went 405 feet to left field.

Then came the real knockout blow.

The next batter, Gary Matthews Jr., hit a line drive back up the middle that hit Uehara in the chest. The pitcher doubled over as the Orioles training staff came out to check on him. Uehara was removed from the game, and X-rays revealed a bruised sternum.

Justin Speier pitched a scoreless inning of relief for the fifth time in his past six outings. Jose Arredondo allowed one run in the eighth inning, but closer Brian Fuentes pitched a perfect ninth for his fifth of the season.

Now the Yankees - and Mark Teixeira - await.

Reach Michael Becker

at mbecker@PE.com


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: May 1, 2009

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