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Guerrero overpowers Blue Jays

He ends drought with two homers and knocks in all the Angels' runs in a 4-3 victory. Defense is sharp.

May 22, 2008|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

TORONTO -- The first pitch was a breaking ball low and away, and Vladimir Guerrero reached out for it, depositing a solo home run over the center-field wall in the first inning.

The second pitch, a fastball inside, Guerrero turned on viciously, driving it into the second deck above the left-field wall for a three-run home run in the third.

A pair of "pitcher's pitches," as Toronto right-hander Shaun Marcum called them, cost the Blue Jays a game Wednesday night, as Guerrero, perhaps the best bad-ball hitter in baseball, powered the Angels to a 4-3 victory at Rogers Centre.

"I'm still kind of shocked that he hit them out," Marcum said. "But it seems like when you go over Vlad's hitting zones [in the scouting report], all of the boxes are red. There are no blue boxes. Every box is a hot zone."

Guerrero has been relatively cold. He entered Wednesday with only four home runs, the lowest total of his career for the first 45 games of a season, and his loss of power has been a vexing and most worrisome topic among Angels fans.

But for one night at least, no one asked, "What's wrong with Vlad?" With two mighty cuts in his first two at-bats, Guerrero had his 34th career multi-homer game, his 15th in five seasons with the Angels.

"I saw the ball very well tonight, and my swing felt great, comfortable," Guerrero said through an interpreter. "We needed the home runs tonight with such few hits. That's my job."

The Angels won despite being outhit, 11-4. They've managed only nine hits in the first two games of the series but have come away with two wins in a stadium in which they are 20-38 since 1996.

"It's safe to say Vladdy carried us offensively tonight," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "But the way we played defense and made pitches in key situations also bailed us out."

One night after escaping bases-loaded jams in the eighth and ninth innings, Angels relievers walked a tightrope again Wednesday.

After Jon Garland (5-3), who is now 6-0 at Rogers Centre, went six innings, giving up three runs and eight hits, rookie right-hander Jose Arredondo, who appears to have leapfrogged Justin Speier in the bullpen pecking order, gave up two singles to start the seventh.

Aaron Hill took third on a passed ball, putting runners on the corners with no outs, but Arredondo struck out Scott Rolen with a nasty split-fingered fastball and got Matt Stairs to bounce into an inning-ending 3-6-3 double play.

The Blue Jays put runners on first and second with one out in the eighth off setup man Scot Shields, but Marco Scutaro grounded to second baseman Sean Rodriguez, who started a double play.

Francisco Rodriguez, who walked the bases loaded during his 33-pitch save Tuesday, had a much smoother ninth, retiring three of four batters for his major league-leading 19th save.

"We pitched and played defense," Scioscia said. "It's really the foundation of our club."

No matter who is playing the infield. Starting shortstop Erick Aybar went on the disabled list Wednesday, but Maicer Izturis has filled in capably the last two games. And Sean Rodriguez, aside from an error when he lost his footing on a grounder Wednesday night, has been superb.

Garret Anderson in left and Casey Kotchman at first also made fine defensive plays.

"The defense has been unbelievable," Garland said. "I'm the type of pitcher who is going to put the ball in play, so the defense has to be there for me. The last few games, it's been terrific. The double plays are smooth. It's good to see."

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mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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