The Angels' gregarious center fielder was away from the team during its series with the Indians earlier this week, home in Pine Bluffs, Ark. with his ailing grandmother, Edna Cobbs, who passed away on Friday morning at the age of 80.
But on Saturday night, Hunter put everything in his personal life on the back burner as he and the Angels took it to the Orioles in an 11-6 victory at Camden Yards. Hunter had two homers, five RBIs and scored four runs in the Angels' onslaught on Orioles pitching and helped the Angels come away with their ninth win in 10 games. The Angels now have a 64-39 overall record, tying the team's best mark after 103 games.
"I just kind of take things in perspective," Hunter said. "You look at life and I was just looking at my grandmother right there -- there's worse things than baseball that people are going through. ... Whenever I come to the field, this is my safe haven. I come here to play the game and she always used to tell me, 'Just have fun, a lot of people don't get the opportunity to do what you're doing, just have fun.' And I kind of remember that when I go out there, just have fun and play the game."
The way the Angels have been playing lately, it's likely hard for it not to be fun. With the best record in the Major Leagues, the Angels maintained their American League West lead at 10 1/2 games over the Rangers and did so by continuing the offensive outburst they've been riding since the All-Star break -- which has got to be comforting to a team that struggled to score runs early in the season.
"For a long time, our pitching's been just driving this whole machine," said manager Mike Scioscia. "The last couple games, we haven't been as crisp on the mound, but offensively we picked them up, so that's a good sign."
And it was the offense that got the job done on Saturday night in Baltimore. For the second straight game, the Angels' bats provided enough offense to erase any blemishes the Orioles' lineup put on their pitching staff.
Accounting for five of the Angels' 11 runs was Hunter, who crushed a solo homer to center field in the third inning, adding to what was then a 5-3 Angels advantage, and then provided the ultimate insurance against an Orioles comeback when he took reliever Fernando Cabrera's second pitch into left field for a two-run shot in the top of the ninth that finished the Angels' scoring for the night.
"Torii, he's been on an emotional roller coaster, and I think it's a great outlet for him to be able to play baseball," Scioscia said. "It'll probably be rough for him too next weekend, with the services, but he's focused on playing baseball."
"When you're in a groove, you don't know what's going on," Hunter said. "You just kind of wait for that pitch and you don't even want to think. ... Just go up there, see ball, hit ball and that's all I'm doing right now, I'm not even thinking. And when you hit it, it's so sweet."
It was that offense, which included a three-run homer from Juan Rivera in the eighth, a two-run shot from Casey Kotchman in the third and a two-run single from Hunter in the first that picked up starter Jon Garland, who finished with 5 1/3 innings, allowing five runs off seven hits and two walks. Orioles starter Radhames Liz wasn't as fortunate as the rookie hurler allowed six runs in 5 2/3 innings, picking up his third loss of the season.
"This time of year, the ball usually flies out of here pretty good," Garland said. "The ones I gave up were going anyway, they were both attacked pretty good and I just didn't get the ball down."
The Angels have now hit 27 home runs in 19 games in July after hitting a total of 20 homers in the entire month of June. They even added a milestone to that tally on Rivera's homer in the eighth. Garret Anderson, who had walked two batters earlier, scored the 1,000th run of his career when he came around to score in front of Rivera.
"It's nice to see [the offense] this time of year," Garland added. "A lot of pitchers usually go through a little dead stage and when you start putting runs up like this it takes a lot of weight off."
After erasing the Angels' early two-run advantage in the bottom of the first, via a three-run homer by designated hitter Aubrey Huff, the Orioles then cut the 6-3 lead to one run when left fielder Luke Scott smacked a two-run shot of his own into center field, signaling the end of the night for Garland.
Amanda Comak is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less