Anaheim at Atlanta

L.A. Angels
W: B. Donnelly (3-1) L: J. Smoltz (4-5)
S: F. Rodriguez (11)
HR: ANA - None   ATL - A. LaRoche (7)

Erstad's big play propels Angels past skidding Braves

CBS wire reports

ATLANTA -- Darin Erstad excels at contact sports -- including baseball.

A punter at Nebraska and a high school hockey star in North Dakota, the 6-foot-2, 215-pound Erstad barreled over catcher Johnny Estrada to score on Garret Anderson's go-ahead double Monday night, leading the Los Angeles Angels to a 4-2 victory over the Atlanta Braves in the first meeting between the teams.

Erstad planted his left shoulder into Estrada's facemask in a violent home-plate collision in the eighth inning, giving Los Angeles the lead and sending Estrada to the hospital.

"There is no intent to injure at all there," Erstad said. "I just hope he's OK."

Atlanta's John Smoltz retired his first 14 batters and carried a 2-1 lead into the eighth, but the Angels put runners at the corners with one out.

Anderson's drive to right drove in Chone Figgins from third and Erstad, who scored from first base by knocking the ball from Estrada's grasp.

Estrada caught second baseman Marcus Giles' relay throw at the plate, but Erstad, who helped Nebraska win the 1994 national championship, delivered a shoulder-first blow, knocking the ball loose while also knocking off Estrada's helmet.

While a groggy Estrada reached for the ball, Erstad reached back to tag the plate for a 3-2 Angels lead.

Estrada clutched his head before receiving attention from Braves trainer Jeff Porter. He and assistant trainer Jim Lovell helped Estrada off the field.

Estrada was conscious but was taken to Piedmont Hospital to be examined for a possible concussion and neck injury.

Los Angeles manager Mike Scioscia defended the play, saying, "It's baseball."

"Erstad had to make a decision to either slide or to try to get through the block," Scioscia said. "It's a clean play. Our thoughts are with Johnny. We hope he's all right."

Some Braves players objected to Erstad hitting Estrada's head instead of his body, or possibly sliding for the plate.

"It depends on what you guys call clean," first baseman Julio Franco said. "I played against Erstad, and his mentality is not my mentality. He plays the game like a football player.

"The only thing I see is, I don't mind the hit, I mind the location of the hit. He could have hit lower, that's fine with me. Hitting a guy like that, in his face, could cause major damage to his health."

Erstad had an open cut on his left shoulder that was still bleeding after the game.

Braves manager Bobby Cox said Estrada "could get up off the ground, which is a real good sign. So maybe nothing's wrong with his neck and his head. It snapped his head pretty good. He got hit high. It was going to be a close play."

As a groggy Estrada was attended to by Braves trainers, some Braves players yelled and pointed across the field at Erstad.

"You can analyze it all day long," Erstad said. "There are different ways to do it. I made a decision. I hope he's OK."

With Smoltz (4-5) still in the game after Anderson's double, Dallas McPherson followed with a single to drive in Anderson, pushing the lead to 4-2.

Brendan Donnelly (3-1) earned the win in relief of starter John Lackey.

Francisco Rodriguez got three outs for his 11th save in 12 chances, striking out Rafael Furcal with two on to end it.

Smoltz allowed four runs and 13 hits in 8 1/3 innings, striking out five.

The Braves, who placed third baseman Chipper Jones on the 15-day disabled list Monday with a sore foot, can't afford to lose Estrada, the team's cleanup hitter. Jones will have more tests Tuesday to determine the severity of his injury, which has plagued him since late April.

Jones aggravated the injury Sunday in Pittsburgh, and the team also placed starting pitcher Mike Hampton on the disabled list last week.

The increasingly young Atlanta roster now includes eight rookies, including three who started in the first meeting between the Braves and Angels: outfielders Ryan Langerhans and Kelly Johnson, and third baseman Wilson Betemit, who started for Jones.

Another young Braves starter, 25-year-old first baseman Adam LaRoche, hit a two-run homer off Lackey in the fourth for a 2-0 lead.

Lackey pitched six innings, giving up seven hits and two runs.

A balk helped set up the Angels' first run in the sixth. With two outs, Steve Finley doubled and advanced to third when second-base umpire Brian Runge called the balk on Smoltz, who argued the call.

Anderson drove in Finley with a single off the glove of a diving Furcal behind second base.


  • Angels catcher Bengie Molina was thrown out attempting to steal second after a leadoff single in the seventh.
  • Furcal stole his NL-leading 21st base in the third.
Copyright 2017 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
The Angels' Darin Erstad knocks over Braves catcher Johnny Estrada to score the go-ahead run.  (AP)
The Angels' Darin Erstad knocks over Braves catcher Johnny Estrada to score the go-ahead run. (AP)

Players of the Game

G. Anderson
AB 4
R 1
H 2
HR 0

J. Smoltz
IP 8.1
H 13
ER 4
BB 0
K 5

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Los Angeles Angels
Chone Figgins, RF5110002 .270
    Francisco Rodriguez, P0000000 .000
Darin Erstad, 1B4110010 .282
Steve Finley, CF4110012 .226
Garret Anderson, LF4123000 .313
Dallas McPherson, 3B4011001 .243
Bengie Molina, C4020011 .326
Adam Kennedy, 2B4020010 .320
Orlando Cabrera, SS4020001 .244
John Lackey, P2000013 .000
   a- Casey Kotchman, PH1000001 .000
    Brendan Donnelly, P0000000 .000
    Scot Shields, P0000000 .000
   b- Jeff DaVanon, PH-RF1010000 .226
a-hit into fielder's choice for Lackey in the 7th
b-singled for Shields in the 9th
2B - Steve Finley (12, Smoltz), Garret Anderson (12, Smoltz)
RBI - Garret Anderson 3 (47), Dallas McPherson (13)
2-OUT RBI - Garret Anderson (24)
CS - Bengie Molina (2, 2nd base by Smoltz/Estrada)
Team LOB - 6
DP - Kennedy-Cabrera-Erstad
PB - Bengie Molina (5)
Los Angeles Angels
John Lackey 6722161 3.93
Brendan Donnelly (W,3-1) 1000000 3.76
Scot Shields (H,11) 1000020 2.83
Francisco Rodriguez (S,11) 1100110 2.50
HBP - A. Jones (by John Lackey)
Pitches-Strikes - John Lackey 92-65, Brendan Donnelly 12-8, Scot Shields 14-10, Francisco Rodriguez 24-15
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - John Lackey 5-5, Brendan Donnelly 2-1, Scot Shields 2-0, Francisco Rodriguez 2-0
Batters Faced - John Lackey 25, Brendan Donnelly 3, Scot Shields 4, Francisco Rodriguez 5
Atlanta Braves
Rafael Furcal, SS5020012 .225
Marcus Giles, 2B3000121 .275
Kelly Johnson, LF4000003 .043
Johnny Estrada, C3120000 .282
    Brayan Pena, C1000011 .231
Adam LaRoche, 1B4112002 .242
Andruw Jones, CF3010010 .250
Ryan Langerhans, RF4000023 .224
Wilson Betemit, 3B4020010 .345
John Smoltz, P3000010 .083
    John Foster, P0000000 .000
   a- Julio Franco, PH0000100 .220
    Pete Orr, PR0000000 .290
a-walked for Foster in the 9th
2B - Wilson Betemit 2 (6, Lackey, Rodriguez)
HR - Adam LaRoche (7, Lackey)
RBI - Adam LaRoche 2 (34)
SB - Rafael Furcal (21, 2nd base off Lackey/Molina)
PK - Wilson Betemit (1, Lackey)
Team LOB - 8
DP - Giles-Furcal-LaRoche, Furcal
Atlanta Braves
John Smoltz (L,4-5) 8.11344050 3.24
John Foster 0.2000000 0.00
Pitches-Strikes - John Smoltz 114-87, John Foster 5-2
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - John Smoltz 12-6
Batters Faced - John Smoltz 36, John Foster 1
Game Information
Attendance - 23104
Game Time - 2:40
Temperature - 70
Umpires - Home - Charlie Reliford, First Base - Lance Barksdale, Second Base - Chris Guccione, Third Base - Greg Gibson