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Angels Perform Scheduled Maintenance

Looking to take advantage of a stretch of games against losing teams, they beat Royals, 7-5, to move within 11/2 games of first.

August 08, 2004|Ben Bolch | Times Staff Writer

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The calendar is starting to work in the Angels' favor as they move into the portion of the season when their schedule is soft and their ace seems unbreakable.

Bartolo Colon continued his strong second-half push Saturday night during the Angels' 7-5 victory over the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium, winning his sixth consecutive start to tie the career high he had set twice previously.

Colon was hardly dominant, giving up eight hits and four runs in six innings, but he helped himself by making an over-the-shoulder catch and maintaining excellent velocity on his fastball, which was consistently in the mid- to upper-90s.

"Second half, I've always felt like I can put everything together," Colon, who is 38-19 from August onward during his career, said through an interpreter.

Colon (11-8) received ample assistance after departing with the scored tied, 4-4, heading into the seventh. Darin Erstad hit a two-run double in the seventh and Vladimir Guerrero made a potentially game-saving catch in the eighth as the Angels improved to 2-0 to start a 13-game stretch against losing teams.

Troy Percival notched his 20th save by pitching a scoreless ninth, pulling the Angels to within 1 1/2 games of the Oakland Athletics in the American League West, the closest they've been to first since June 23. The Angels trail the second-place Texas Rangers by one game in the division and in the wild-card standings.

"We've done this before -- string a few [victories] together -- and then stub our toes," said Erstad, who finished with three runs batted in. "We just realize we have to come out tomorrow and get it done."

Jose Guillen drove in his 85th and 86th runs with a fifth-inning double, tying the career high for runs batted in he set last season with Oakland and Cincinnati.

"He's always had the potential to do this," Angel Manager Mike Scioscia said. "This is the first year he's been in a set lineup for a whole year."

Things got sticky for the Angels in the eighth after Ken Harvey's double down the right-field line scored Mike Sweeney to draw the Royals to within 7-5. Reliever Scot Shields sandwiched a walk to Desi Relaford between strikeouts before John Buck hammered a pitch that Shields thought was bound for the gap in right-center.

But Guerrero closed on the ball in a hurry and made a sprawling catch to his right to end the inning.

"He really laid out for it, and it saved the game," Shields said. "Every night there's something that guy does that amazes you."

The Royals threatened again in the ninth when they put two on with one out before Percival got Sweeney to hit a breaking ball for a game-ending double play.

Percival became the sixth player in major league history to record 20 or more saves in nine consecutive seasons.

Colon, 6-0 with a 3.54 earned-run average in his last six starts, struck out seven and walked none but was not overpowering; four of the eight hits against him were doubles.

"His stuff looked as good as it's looked in the last month, but the guys in their lineup are much better hitters than what their offense has shown," Scioscia said. "That's a tough lineup to get through."

Colon helped himself get out of a two-on, no-out mess in the fourth by retiring the next three batters, including Ruben Gotay on an over-the-shoulder catch while retreating behind the mound. Colon retired nine of the last 10 batters he faced and said he was able to maintain his velocity as well as he had since beating Texas in his second start of the season.

"It's good to be able to put together a nice streak and do it when it's important to the ballclub," Colon said.

Said Erstad: "None of us have ever lost confidence in him. He's a workhorse, and he's stepping up now."

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