Angels fire hitting coach Mickey Hatcher

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From beat writer Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com comes word that the Angels fired longtime hitting coach Mickey Hatcher late Tuesday night.

Triple-A Salt Lake hitting instructor Jim Eppard has been promoted to serve as Hatcher’s replacement.

The news comes with odd timing considering the Halos beat the A’s 4-0 on Tuesday in Anaheim, but this decision runs much deeper than one game.

The Angels have probably been the biggest disappointment of the 2012 baseball season’s first half and currently trail the American League West-leading Rangers by a whopping seven games. The offense has been shut out eight times already and ranked 23rd in the majors in runs scored heading into Tuesday’s game. Someone had to be the scapegoat.

It’s worth remembering that Hatcher had a small clash of philosophies with Albert Pujols back in late April, and that Hatcher is a nearly-lifelong friend of Angels manager Mike Scioscia. Maybe this is standard protocol in Anaheim, but GM Jerry Dipoto made Tuesday’s announcement. Scioscia was not present.

Video: Javier Báez jukes David Freese to avoid tag at first base

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Cubs shortstop Javier Báez pulled off one of the best jukes you’ll see, avoiding the tag from David Freese on a play at first base in the second inning of Tuesday night’s game against the Dodgers. Báez barely made contact with a Kenta Maeda pitch well outside the strike zone, tapping it towards Freese. Báez halted his momentum, juking Freese while he attempted to apply the tag, then dove into first base.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts attempted to argue that Báez went out of the baseline, but the umpires’ no-call stood and Báez had himself a single. He would end up stranded on base, unfortunately for him and the Cubs.