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Kotchman adds some punch

Kotchman adds some punch

ANAHEIM -- Casey Kotchman might be the Angels' first baseman of the future and he's been considered one of the best prospects in baseball for the last few years.

But with the Angels struggling at the plate in the American League Championship Series and on the verge of elimination, maybe the time is now for the soft-spoken 22-year-old.

Even though the Angels couldn't get much done offensively in Saturday night's 8-2 loss to the White Sox in Game 4 of the ALCS and left the ballpark in a three-games-to-one series hole, Kotchman did his part as the designated hitter.

In the second inning, he followed a Darin Erstad walk with an infield single, and when pitcher Freddy Garcia threw the ball past first baseman Paul Konerko, Kotchman took second base as Erstad moved to third. Erstad then scored the Angels' first run on a Bengie Molina single.

And in the fourth, two batters after Garret Anderson hit a bloop single to center, Kotchman doubled to the wall in the left-center-field gap, scoring Anderson for his first Major League postseason RBI.

The Angels didn't win the game, but Kotchman at least earned himself another start in Sunday evening's Game 5.

"Kotch swung the bat very well tonight," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Hopefully, he'll give us another life tomorrow."

The fact that Kotchman was in the lineup at all spoke to the Angels' confidence in him but also to the Angels' almost-non-existent performance in the offensive department through the first three games of the series.

After a 5-2 loss in Game 3, the Angels were batting .174 as a team in the ALCS and had scored seven runs in three games. Orlando Cabrera's two-run homer in the sixth inning of Game 3 snapped a 20-inning scoreless streak.

So before Game 4, Scioscia decided to change the lineup just a bit, putting the left-handed bat of Kotchman in and relegating usual DH, the right-handed-hitting Juan Rivera, to the bench.

"The guys that we need to hit -- to get this offense going -- are already in the lineup," Scioscia said before the game. "Casey is a guy that we think can work, but we need other guys in the lineup to do something."

As it turned out, Kotchman was one of the only players doing anything.

Vladimir Guerrero continued his baffling disappearing act, going 0-for-4. He is hitting .062 (1-for-16) with one RBI in the ALCS.

Leadoff man and catalyst Chone Figgins struck out twice, went 0-for-4, and is batting .071 (1-for-14) in the ALCS with three strikeouts.

Anderson had one flare of a hit but struck out twice, flied out and is batting .133 (2-for-15) in the ALCS.

And Molina, who tore up the ALDS with a .444 batting average, three home runs and five RBIs, is batting .154 (2-for-13) in the ALCS.

So that leaves Kotchman and his small-sample-size .500 (2-for-4) average to pace the Angels, something he wasn't exactly proud of after Saturday's game.

"This time of year, as well as any time of year, you're playing to win," Kotchman said. "When you don't do that, it doesn't matter what you did individually. Your goal has not been accomplished."

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

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