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Angels' win nickel-plated

They get to five runs for the first time in 14 games, and it's just enough to beat Seattle, 5-4. Saunders gets AL-leading ninth win.

June 04, 2008|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

SEATTLE -- The Angels didn't exactly shatter the four-run barrier Tuesday night. They kind of tapped it with their bats, breaking it up just enough to slip a fifth run through the cracks and snap a 13-game streak in which they had scored four runs or fewer.

And that fifth run -- scored, fittingly, by catcher Jeff Mathis, who wears No. 5 -- was the difference in the Angels' 5-4 win over the Seattle Mariners in Safeco Field.

Joe Saunders (9-2) allowed four runs -- one earned -- and six hits in seven innings, striking out five and walking one, to become the American League's first nine-game winner and lower his earned-run average to 2.63, tied for third-best in the league.

Jose Arredondo retired the side in order in the eighth, giving the rookie right-hander 9 2/3 scoreless innings since allowing a homer to the first big league batter he faced, Nick Swisher, on May 14, and Francisco Rodriguez struck out the side in the ninth for his major league-leading 23rd save.

Saunders, who entered spring training expecting to battle for the fifth rotation spot, weathered a two-error fifth in which the Mariners scored three unearned runs, and struck out Adrian Beltre with his 31st pitch of the inning to preserve a one-run lead. The Angels held on to win for the 10th time in 14 games.

"I wouldn't have believed it, that's for sure," Saunders said of being the league leader in wins two months into the season. "You always dream about winning every game. It's a nice roll to be on. . . . I was fighting for my job in spring training. You kind of go out there knowing that you're fighting for your job every game."

It appeared the Angels would run away with this one when they took a 5-0 lead in the top of the fourth, marking the first time since a 10-2 rout of the Dodgers on May 18 they scored more than four runs in a game.

Torii Hunter hit a run-scoring double off Seattle starter Erik Bedard in the first, Maicer Izturis hit a two-run single in the second, and Izturis and Howie Kendrick had RBI singles in the fourth.

"That was exciting for us to come out and get five runs -- we haven't seen that number five for about three weeks," Hunter said. "But the pitching and defense have been doing the job, and we've come through when it matters."

But the Angels, who came in with 24 errors, tied for the second fewest in the majors, were not in prevent-defense mode Tuesday.

Jose Lopez hit a solo home run off Saunders in the fourth, and the Angels committed two errors in the fifth -- the first time this season they made two errors in an inning.

Yuniesky Betancourt sparked the rally with a two-out double to left, and Ichiro Suzuki chopped a grounder over third baseman Robb Quinlan's head for an infield single.

Lopez grounded to second, where Kendrick bobbled the ball for an error that enabled Betancourt to score. Jose Vidro hit an RBI single to right-center, and Ibanez hit what appeared to be an inning-ending chopper to third.

But Quinlan, who had three hits and scored twice, threw several feet wide of Casey Kotchman at first, an error that allowed Lopez to score, trimming the Angels' lead to 5-4.

Saunders then struck out Beltre on a breaking ball in the dirt, punctuating the punch-out with a scream and a pump of his fist.

"We did some things that were uncharacteristic of what we've done the first two months -- you've got to clean up innings, and we cracked the door open," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "But Joe picked us up and kept his composure."

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mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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