Angel rookie Matt Perisho was just beginning to feel comfortable in the big leagues when he landed in the hub of history Thursday night, starting against the San Diego Padres on the first day of interleague play before an overflow media mob and a crowd of 22,164 in Anaheim Stadium.
"He's got enough on his mind," Angel Manager Terry Collins said, "let alone this being the first interleague game."
Perisho, who was in awe of his surroundings in his first three starts, had every reason to crumble amid the Thursday night hype, but the 21-year-old responded with his best, and most clear-headed performance of the season, leading the Angels to an 8-4 victory over the Padres.
The left-hander came within one error of his first victory, but for the first time since being recalled from double-A Midland, Perisho pitched well enough to win, giving up four runs--three earned--on seven hits in 6 1/3 innings, striking out five and walking two.
With the exception of San Diego's three-run third inning, when he gave up two home runs,Perisho got ahead of hitters and pitched aggressively, shedding the tentativeness that hindered him in his first three starts.
"I just tried to think about where the glove is, not who's at the plate or who's in the stands," Perisho said. "I've gotten more comfortable here, and this was a good sign of what I can do. At times I was an A, at times I was an F. . . . I give myself a C."
With a 16-hit attack and the pitching of Perisho and relievers Mike Holtz and Mike James, it added up to a "W" for the Angels, who broke a 4-4 tie with a National-League style, two-run rally in the bottom of the seventh.
Tim Salmon doubled to right-center, and Jim Edmonds' RBI single to right off Padre starter Heath Murray gave the Angels a 5-4 lead. Garret Anderson then laced a hit-and-run single to center that moved Edmonds to third. After Chad Kreuter popped to short off reliever Tim Worrell and Luis Alicea walked, Gary DiSarcina flied to shallow right-center.
It did not appear deep enough to score Edmonds, who has torn cartilage in his left knee, but Edmonds tagged anyway and scored when center fielder Steve Finley's throw missed home plate by about 10 feet.
"I expected to be thrown out," Edmonds said, "but when you're running so hard and have all that adrenaline, it's tough to make a perfect throw."
In the eighth, Darin Erstad homered, and Anderson added an RBI single, the four-run cushion preventing closer Troy Percival, who retired the side in order in the ninth, from notching a save.
Victory appeared to be within Perisho's grasp when Tony Phillips' two-out home run gave the Angels a 4-3 lead in the sixth, but Perisho walked John Flaherty with one out in the seventh, and Rickey Henderson singled.
Collins summoned Holtz, the left-hander, to face Tony Gwynn, who shattered his bat on a slow grounder to third. Dave Hollins charged and fielded the ball, but his off-balance throw sailed past first, allowing Flaherty to score to make it 4-4 and Gwynn to take second.
It was Hollins first error since May 14, a span of 23 games, and it put the Angels in a precarious position. But Holtz and James guided the Angels to safety, Holtz striking out Finley and James striking out Ken Caminiti to end the inning.
Perisho's mistakes in the third were minimized when Flaherty and Henderson blasted bases-empty home runs during a three-run rally that gave the Padres a 3-1 lead. But he settled down, rolling through the fourth, fifth and sixth innings allowing only a walk to Jones in the sixth.
"He looked more relaxed," Collins said. "He used both sides of the plate, and that was the best slider he's had this season. Getting strike one on so many guys helped a lot too."
Perisho's pitching enabled the Angels, who scored in the second inning on Alicea's RBI single, to mount a comeback. Alicea, DiSarcina and Phillips each singled in the fourth, Phillips' hit scoring Alicea to make it 3-2.
Hollins tied the score with his ninth homer in the fifth, and Phillips gave the Angels a 4-3 lead with his homer in the sixth, the lead-off batter's third of the season and first since being traded to the Angels on May 18.