Hunter saves day again with glove

Hunter saves day again with glove

ANAHEIM -- If Major League Baseball kept stats on game-saving catches, Torii Hunter would have to be atop the leaderboard.

Just four days after stealing a homer and perhaps a game from the Royals, Hunter was back on the run, doing it again. This time the victim was Dustin Pedroia, whose deep drive to center looked certain to cash in Jacoby Ellsbury during the 10th inning at Angel Stadium with the go-ahead run.

Rocketing over from right-center, Hunter made it in the nick of time, reaching with his backhand to stab the ball a few steps from the warning track and quickly positioning himself for a throw that kept Ellsbury at second. The Boston burner became one of 17 Red Sox stranded by an Angels staff that produced a total of 14 strikeouts in a 5-4 triumph.

"Torii's unbelievable," Angels catcher Jeff Mathis said. "He does everything. He's so much fun to watch and be around, the way he goes about his business -- the way he works, the way he plays the game.

"He's into every pitch. We feed off that. Not only is he driving in runs, making web gems, running and stealing bases -- you just can't explain how great a teammate he is. He's always in the dugout lifting guys up."

This game-saving play coming on the heels of Sunday's masterpiece, where he scaled the wall in left-center after a full-tilt sprint from right-center.

"I don't want any balls to drop out there," the eight-time Gold Glove winner said. "It's a special moment. It's up there. But I can't start ranking plays. It sounds kind of cocky when you rate your plays.

"I had a long way to go. That was a lot of running there. I gave it all I've got. I got dizzy after I caught that ball."

It might have been the throw that did that. Hunter always is aware of baserunners and the need to unload the ball as quickly as possible, to "show it to the third-base coach," as he puts it.

"I think [Ellsbury] did the right thing, going halfway," Hunter said. "I was able to get rid of it pretty quick after running so fast. It's hard to stop on a dime after you've run that far, but you want the third-base coach to see the ball out of your hand."

Angels manager Mike Scioscia alluded to Hunter's study of his own pitchers as well as his positioning and aggression defensively.

"He runs clean routes and knows the hitters," Scioscia said. "He's getting more acclimated as time goes on to our pitchers, reading the charts. He's just playing great baseball."

The Red Sox, like every American League club and most in the National League, have caught Hunter's act before.

"It looked like he just put the glove up at the last instant," Boston manager Terry Francona said. "That's why he's Torii Hunter.

"We've seen him do it against us, we've seen him do it against other teams. That reputation is well deserved."

Pedroia might have been frustrated, but he wasn't surprised.

"That was a great play," the Boston second baseman said. "That's why he's got a truckload of Gold Gloves.

"He saved the game for them and kept them going. That's why he's the best."

Before his spectacular play, Hunter had carried the Angels' offense with an RBI triple to the left-center gap in the first inning against Brad Penny and a two-run double into the left-field corner in the third.

In the 11th, facing Ramon Ramirez and his 0.45 ERA, Hunter lined a single to center with two outs on a 3-0 pitch, stole second and third but was stranded when Mike Napoli grounded out.

"When I was younger, I used to do that," he said of his basestealing exploits. "I came to the stadium early today and got some running in. I felt good."

Hitting .320, Hunter leads the Angels in homers (nine), RBIs (27) and total bases (76), slugging .623 with a .384 on-base percentage.

"He seems to be in the middle of everything for us," Scioscia said. "The way he's playing defense, running the bases, hitting in the clutch ... he's a good player playing to his potential.

"When he's playing to his potential, he's one of the best players in the game."

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.