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Santana makes lead look big

Angels produce only four runs, but that feels like padding for the starter, who beats Mariners, 4-2.

June 03, 2008|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

SEATTLE -- To infinity and beyond? No offense to Buzz Lightyear, but at this point, the Angels would take five runs and beyond.

The lid remained firmly sealed on the offense, which has gone 13 consecutive games with four runs or fewer, but that hardly slowed the Angels, who rode the arm of Ervin Santana and just enough timely hitting to a 4-2 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Monday night.

Santana, despite "not feeling much energy," limited Seattle to two runs and six hits in 7 2/3 innings to improve to 8-2, and the Angels pounced on Mariners left-hander Jarrod Washburn for two runs each in the third and fourth innings at Safeco Field.

The bottom three hitters in the lineup -- Casey Kotchman, Robb Quinlan and Jeff Mathis -- combined for six of the Angels' 10 hits, with Mathis snapping a lengthy slump with a two-run home run in the third and Quinlan hitting a run-scoring single in the fourth.

The Angels went two for 11 with runners in scoring position and are 17 for 91 (.187) with runners in scoring position in the last 13 games, but they've won nine of those games, including four in walk-off fashion on their last homestand.

"There are some good signs," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "We went long stretches of May without pressuring teams and putting runners in scoring position. Tonight, we got a lot of guys in scoring position, and that's the first step. We just have to cash in."

The early runs gave the Angels starter a rare, albeit small, cushion.

"Even though it was only 4-1, Ervin didn't have to be so fine and put so much pressure on one pitch, and that helped," Scioscia said. "He pitched well to hold that team down."

Santana faced four batters or fewer in seven of eight innings.

The right-hander was pulled after Jose Lopez's solo homer with two outs in the eighth pulled the Mariners within 4-2. Jose Arredondo got Jose Vidro to fly to center, and Francisco Rodriguez retired the side in order in the ninth for his 22nd save.

Setup man Scot Shields would have normally pitched in the eighth, but the right-hander was unavailable because of tightness and discomfort in his left rib cage, an injury that flared up before he threw a scoreless inning against Toronto Saturday.

"I felt something while I was warming up and thought it was normal aches and pains," Shields said. "I pitched with it and had no problem, but when I went to play catch on Sunday, I aggravated it. I figured I'd better take a couple of days now rather than pitch and something wrong and be out for eight weeks."

Something has been wrong with the Angels offense for several weeks, but not Kotchman, the Angels' most consistent hitter, a rock in a lineup filled with inconsistency and injury. Not surprisingly, Kotchman, who is batting .324 with a team-leading 30 runs batted in, was in the thick of both scoring rallies Monday night.

The first baseman singled to lead off the third and took second on right fielder Jeremy Reed's error. Quinlan grounded out, but Mathis, who hit .083 (four for 48) in his previous 15 games, drove a two-run home run to left, his first extra-base hit since April 23.

"I just got lucky a little bit," Mathis said. "It's been pretty rough -- you can see that. But I'm starting to feel better in batting practice."

The Mariners countered with a run in the bottom of the third when Ichiro Suzuki tripled and scored on Lopez's double.

But Gary Matthews Jr. singled with one out in the fourth, Kotchman singled, and Quinlan hit an RBI single to make it 3-1.

Mathis, who has hit three of his four home runs this season in Safeco Field, walked to load the bases, and Maicer Izturis beat out a fielder's choice-grounder to shortstop for an RBI and a 4-1 lead.

Kotchman also led off the sixth with a single off Washburn, improving his average against left-handers to .426 (20 for 47) this season.


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