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The nexus of Angels frustration: Torii Hunter

ANAHEIM -- Sunday wasn't a total loss for Torii Hunter.

In the eighth inning, immediately after Nick Swisher hit the home run that seemed to ice the New York Yankees' 5-3 win at Angel Stadium, some guy in the right-field seats started showering $1 bills on the right-field warning track.

Maybe it was an Angel fans mocking the Yankees for buying so many star players, or maybe it was a Yankee fan mocking Hunter because he's hitting .229 while making $18 million a year. Or, maybe somebody just dropped their money clip.

Who knows? Hunter wasn't about to let it go. He called time out and helped the ushers gather up the dollar bills blowing all over the field. He gave his share to a kid near the Angels dugout.

"I don't understand how you do that, man," Hunter said later. "There are just so many people with no jobs, no money and he makes it rain at a baseball game. I was not going to let that blow away. I called time out to pick it up. Hey, all money is good money. It was my lucky day. I didn't get any hits today, but I did get $24."

Sunday was one of the stranger days for Hunter this season, but not unfamiliar in one regard. He can't seem to come up with clutch hits. Nobody in the American League has had more opportunities, as the top of the Angels' order has been setting a hearty table for Hunter, the cleanup hitter.

Hunter has batted 127 times with runners on base, the most in the AL. He's hitting .236 in those spots.

Hunter has batted 71 times with runners in scoring position. Only Boston's Adrian Gonzalez has had more of those chances. Hunter is hitting .225 with RISP, Gonzalez .365.

"Torii's a terrific ballplayer," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Nobody's feeling it harder than Torii is right now. He's very frustrated."

Nearly 30 minutes after Sunday's game was over, Hunter sat staring into his locker stall. It's difficult to diagnose what's going wrong for him in the clutch. For his career, Hunter is a .278 hitter with runners in scoring position, slightly better than his career batting average.

One tangible thing that has declined is Hunter's speed. He had a chance to extend a rally in the third inning, but he couldn't beat out a dribbler to second baseman Robinson Cano. Hunter takes a long while to get out of the box because he swings so hard and recoils. At least 60 percent of AL hitters would have reached on an infield hit in that spot. His lack of speed also has made him susceptible to double plays.

In the ninth inning, the Angels hinted at the improbable: a winning rally against Mariano Rivera. They had runners at the corners when Hunter chopped Rivera's second pitch to Alex Rodriguez to start the game-ending double play. It was the 16th of the season for Hunter, most in the AL and on pace to break Jim Rice's league record of 34.

"It's frustrating for me, personally," Hunter said. "As far as the team, I think we played the best we could."