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Notes: Big A credited for power dropoff

Notes: Big A credited for power dropoff

OAKLAND -- Orlando Cabrera is always tempted to laugh, ruefully, when critics pound the Angels for their inability to pound baseballs over fences. The cries for a big bat miss a bigger point, the shortstop believes.

Cabrera says there are explanations rarely mentioned or explored for the absence of home run flurries in Mike Scioscia's troupe, which stunningly went deep six times in the past two games in Seattle on the heels of a stretch yielding six homers in 24 games.

Angel Stadium of Anaheim, Cabrera submits, quickly conditions its residents to abandon the notion of lifting the ball in favor of line-drive strokes more conducive to driving balls into and through gaps, not over fences.

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"The [conditions] in our ballpark make it hard to hit home runs," said Cabrera, who played for Montreal and Boston before coming to the Angels in 2005. "We all know that. When I got here, Garret Anderson was telling me how hard it was. I told him I didn't believe it, that there's not a stadium where you can't hit home runs.

"It didn't take me long to know what he was talking about. The ball doesn't go in our park. I'm just trying to hit the gaps now, get hits. My whole focus is on helping my team win, whatever we need."

Numbers back him up. The Angels hit a higher ratio of doubles (223) to homers (74) than any team in the Majors, and Cabrera's ratio (26:7) is even higher. He's in the midst of one of his best seasons, right up there with his 2001 Gold Glove campaign in Montreal, when he drove in 96 runs with 14 homers, and his 2003 season with the Expos, when he hit a career-high 17 homers and batted .297.

With homers in two of the past five games, Cabrera's bat is singing again after a quiet (.200) July. Cabrera is hitting .310, on a pace to collect 200 hits and score 104 runs, and he's playing Gold Glove defense. He's hitting .330 on the road with a .460 slugging mark, compared with .288 at home and a .379 slugging percentage.

Cabrera's theory that their ballpark and its thick marine layer at night cause Angels hitters to shed a power mindset might explain why Guerrero hadn't homered since June 23, covering 125 at-bats, before going deep Thursday night in Oakland in back-to-back innings against Chad Gaudin.

Guerrero has continued to pump out hits, hiking his average to .326, but before unloading his 15th and 16th homers at McAfee Coliseum, Guerrero's power over the past five weeks had been limited to the Home Run Derby in San Francisco during All-Star festivities.

Budde ball: Ryan Budde, the Angels' new backup catcher behind Jeff Mathis with Mike Napoli on the disabled list, shakes his head in wonder as he ponders where he is and the winding path he traveled to get here.

A six-year Minor Leaguer exposed to the Rule 5 Draft over the winter, Budde was claimed by the Phillies, meaning they had to keep him on their Major League roster or offer him back to the Angels.

In the midst of a good spring, seemingly destined to catch for the Phils, he tore an oblique in mid-March, rendering him inactive for a month and a half. The Angels took him back, sent him to Triple-A Salt Lake and found that he'd made dramatic improvement offensively. Hitting .295 with some pop, he earned the call when Napoli (strained right hamstring) went to the DL.

Defense, general manager Bill Stoneman explained, never was a question with Budde. But he was a .233 hitter in 434 Minor League games coming into this season with a season-high 13 homers in 2004 with Class A Rancho Cucamonga.

"All of a sudden this year, he started hitting," Stoneman said, a development Budde attributes simply to "confidence, getting a chance to play."

A native of Midwest City, Okla., who attended Oklahoma State University, Budde was thinking it might be all over when he found himself stuck in the Angels' system, going nowhere. Married last November, he said he was considering making automobile repair his new career.

Now he's eagerly awaiting his first start after getting his exposure to the Majors in Seattle as a late-inning insertion, flying out in his first big-league at-bat and catching the final two innings on Wednesday night in relief of Mathis.

"Pretty amazing," Budde said, grinning, "just being here."

Minor sensations: Bobby Wilson, right behind Budde on the catching depth chart, drove in six runs with a homer and double in a 13-7 win over Albuquerque on Wednesday. Wilson, a 24-year-old native of Dunedin, Fla., is hitting .321 in 16 games after batting .271 in 50 games for Double-A Arkansas.

Ervin Santana went six innings, giving up six earned runs on 13 hits, but reports informed Scioscia that the right-hander's command (one walk, seven strikeouts) was good and it was a better effort than the linescore suggests.

Erick Aybar, injured on July 1, played his first game since undergoing right wrist surgery. He had an RBI single in four at-bats and played shortstop.

On Aug. 2 in Angels history: The late Lyman Bostock was 3-for-3 with a homer and four RBIs in an 8-2 win over the A's in 1978, and six years later, Fred Lynn went 4-for-4 with a homer and four RBIs in a 14-2 rout of Minnesota.

Up next: Dustin Moseley (4-1, 4.37 ERA) faces A's left-hander Lenny DiNardo (5-6, 3.10) on Friday at 7:05 p.m. PT at McAfee Coliseum.

Lyle Spencer 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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