Yunel playing central role in Angels' offense

Yunel playing central role in Angels' offense

OAKLAND -- The Angels erupted for a five-run sixth inning in Saturday's 7-1 win over the A's, and their leadoff hitter, Yunel Escobar, played a role in sparking them throughout the game. He followed it up with another strong performance in Sunday's 2-0 win, capping a strong series at the Coliseum. 

Escobar is hitting .335 over his last 42 games and went 3-for-5 with a double and an RBI on Saturday. He brought an aggressive flair on the bases, tagging from first to second on a fly ball in the third inning and stretching a line drive into a double in the fifth, both times exposing Coco Crisp's arm in center. He went 1-for-3 with a walk Sunday and scored the game's first run on an Albert Pujols RBI.

It's become a commonplace performance from manager Mike Scioscia's leadoff hitter.

"He's been a terrific table-setter for us," Scioscia said. "If you look at Mike Trout's RBI opportunities, they've increased twofold from where he was last year. The big reason is if you look at how often Yunel and Kole [Calhoun] are getting on base, it's feeding the middle of our lineup. … That's what sparks us."

Angels' five-run 6th inning

The Angels are 25-21 when Escobar records a hit and 3-15 when he does not. He was in the middle of Saturday's sixth-inning rally with an RBI single of his own. His .313 batting average leads the team and his OBP (.364) just edges Calhoun for second on the team behind Trout's whopping .407.

He's doing all this, as Scioscia pointed out, as a relative newcomer to a new position, having just moved to third base last year for the Nationals after playing primarily as a shortstop in his career.

Escobar starts a double play

"He's still a young third baseman, growing into that position," Scioscia said. "It sounds kind of funny because he's a veteran, but he was thrown into third base at the end of Spring Training last year. So he went through last year absorbing the position. He's doing things more comfortably since coming over here. From the offensive side, he's pretty much doing the same thing he did last year."

He made a strong play Sunday, robbing Stephen Vogt of a ground-ball single. The Angels shifted, leaving Escobar isolated on the left side of the infield, but he snared Vogt's grounder on a backhand and threw him out as his momentum carried him toward third base.

Escobar's had a few gaffes -- failing to run out a ground ball and appearing to forget the outs in a series two weeks ago against New York -- but he continues to be one of the best offensive third basemen in the American League through 69 games.

Mark Chiarelli is a reporter for based in Oakland. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.