x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Bereaved Angels dig deep

The grief-stricken Los Angeles Angels took their first steps towards moving on after the death of rookie Nick Adenhart, beating the Boston Red Sox.

The Los Angeles Angels centre fielder Torii Hunter takes his position in front of an image of former teammate Nick Adenhart.
The Los Angeles Angels centre fielder Torii Hunter takes his position in front of an image of former teammate Nick Adenhart.

ANAHEIM // Tight hamstrings, sore knees, tired arms - the Angels are used to coping with such nagging injuries. On Friday night, they took the field with heavy hearts. Playing their first game without teammate Nick Adenhart - the young pitcher who was killed along with two friends in a traffic accident on Thursday - the Angels took a two-and-a-half-hour break from mourning to beat the Boston Red Sox, 6-3, in Angel Stadium.

Howie Kendrick featured in a three-run second inning with a two-run single, Jeff Mathis highlighted a three-run seventh with a two-run single, and Jered Weaver fought through tears to deliver 6 2/3 strong innings, yielding one unearned run and four hits.

Weaver and Adenhart had become so tight that Adenhart was set to move into Weaver's Long Beach house today. After being pulled in the seventh inning, Weaver walked to the dugout, where Adenhart's No 34 jersey hung all game, and pointed toward the heavens. "You know he's looking down on you, and he's going to help us battle through the season," said Weaver, who struck out eight while mixing a fastball with a superb change-up. "It was a tough thing, walking in here and seeing his locker with everything in it. "And we have the patches on our jersey, his picture in centre field, and his number behind the mound. He was a great kid. This is the toughest game I've ever been through. It hasn't hit me yet."

The raw emotion of the previous 36 hours, in which the Angels were stunned by Adenhart's death, grieved with his father, Jim, in a gut-wrenching meeting on Thursday and his mother, Janet, on Friday, and honoured Adenhart with a pre-game video tribute and a moment of silence on Friday night, gave way to a familiar, comforting refrain from the stadium public address announcer: "Let's play ball!"

Torii Hunter, who with the pitcher John Lackey held Adenhart's jersey on the mound during the moment of silence, ran to the centre-field fence and tapped Adenhart's heart on the wall graphic of the pitcher that was erected earlier on Friday. "I gave him a chest bump," Hunter said, "just like I did after the game [Adenhart pitched] Wednesday night." Weaver delivered a first-pitch strike to Jacoby Ellsbury, and with that, the Angels began the monumental task of playing the rest of their season in the face of tragedy, which can be achieved only if they treat the baseball field as their sanctuary.

"There is no template, no instruction manual for dealing with what has happened," the manager Mike Scioscia said. "There are a lot of guys in that clubhouse who were very close to Nick, and it's going to take some time. "But this game has a way of focusing you on the field. One of the easiest things for these guys will be playing the game, going between the lines."

The Angels never seemed to lose their focus on Friday night. Bobby Abreu had three hits and two stolen bases, singling in each of the Angels' run-scoring rallies, and Scot Shields threw 1 1/3 innings for the save. "Baseball is our safe haven, the place you can go where you have no problems," Hunter said. "Before and after the game, that's when you have problems." Before the game, Adenhart's parents, who watched from a suite, took jerseys and caps from Adenhart's locker and some dirt from the Angel Stadium mound. The rest of Adenhart's locker will remain preserved - with the pitcher's cleats, gloves, iPod, headphones and other clothes - for the rest of the season, and Adenhart will have a locker on the road. * With agencies