Morales proving value day after day
First baseman's rut proved to be short-lived down stretch
ANAHEIM -- After winning the American League Player of the Month honors after setting the Angels' club record with 33 RBIs in August, first baseman Kendry Morales suddenly fell into a rut in early September.
The switch-hitter went into a 3-for-28 skid and all of the talk about being a legitimate American League Most Valuable Player candidate began to lose a bit of its steam.
Morales was even held out of the Angels' starting lineup on Monday to get a day of rest and to clear his head of his recent slump.
But Morales was still called on to pinch-hit in the seventh inning against the Yankees and he delivered a towering home run to right field off reliever Brian Bruney in the Angels' 5-2 win.
And then he followed that up with a 4-for-4 performance with a walk the next day, and he was swinging the bat like he did just a few weeks earlier. Morales even singled in his first at-bat on Wednesday to reach base safely in seven straight plate appearances over three days.
So for Morales, it was clearly just a matter of time before he was back to his old ways of crushing the ball from both sides of the plate.
"It's part of baseball," Morales said through a translator about his slump. "It just happens. I wasn't getting desperate. I was just trying to look within myself and not try to do too much. It helps the game slow down."
Morales also got some help from Angels hitting coach Mickey Hatcher, who guided him with timing problems regarding his landing foot coming down too early in trying to do too much at the plate.
The subtle change in mechanics certainly showed against the Yankees.
"He's getting back into his groove," center fielder Torii Hunter said. "This is a good time to come back into it, because we have just a few games left."
Morales' recent surge also just so happened to coincide with the return of the man he replaced at first base this season, with Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira making an appearance at Anaheim for the second time this year.
Morales and Teixeira are off to MVP-type years for their clubs as both have done all the two clubs could ask for and more in their first full seasons in Anaheim and New York, respectively.
And the two sluggers' numbers aren't too different either, aside from Teixeira's sizeable lead in on-base percentage. In just his first full season, Morales leads the two in batting average and trails Teixeira by six homers and 19 RBIs after Wednesday's game between the two teams.
"His numbers speak for themselves this year," Scioscia said of Morales, who has 31 homers and 99 RBIs this season. "He's contributed in a way he's had the potential to do, but to see it in the first five full months of playing every day is incredible."
And those numbers might not even be the most telling for Morales as he's doing all this while being paid $600,000 this year, while Teixeira is making $20 million with the Yankees. So essentially, Teixeira is getting paid 33 times as much as Morales, despite the fact he's not out-producing him by anything even remotely close to that margin.
The key for Morales, though, is to replicate this type of season again in future years, much like Teixeira has done over his impressive seven-year career.
"A guy like Mark Teixeira has done it year after year for quite some time, so it's the kind of consistency Kendry has to strive for and I think he understands it," Scioscia said. "I think that's why we have a lot of confidence he's going to be this good for a long time."
Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.