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Joe Saunders pitches Angels to another win

The left-hander throws seven strong innings as Angels win for the seventh time in eight games.

September 12, 2009|KEVIN BAXTER

Even though his team enjoys a comfortable 5 1/2 -game lead in the American League West standings with three weeks left to play, Angel Manager Mike Scioscia refuses to talk about the playoffs.

"We've got to get there first," the superstitious Scioscia said.

But his team isn't so timid. After pitching the red-hot Angels to a 7-1 win over the Chicago White Sox on Friday at Angel Stadium, left-hander Joe Saunders left little doubt what he thinks of his team's postseason possibilities.

"With this offense that we got," he said, "I think we're going to go pretty far."

They'll go even further if they keep pitching the way Saunders did Friday. A day after John Lackey beat Seattle with a five-hit shutout, Saunders (13-7) almost matched him, giving up a run and three hits in seven innings against a solid Chicago lineup. It was the 10th time in 13 games that an Angels starter gave up fewer than two earned runs and it dropped the rotation's September ERA to 1.70.

And the win gave the Angels seven victories in their last eight games.

"All of our guys are throwing the ball well," Scioscia said. "That gives them a lot of confidence to go out there. No one has to try to bite off too much. You go out there and pitch your game."

Few are throwing it as well as Saunders, who is 4-0 with a 1.85 ERA since coming off the disabled list following a bout with shoulder stiffness.

"I think the win against Detroit was the turning point," said Saunders, who beat the Tigers in his return from the disabled list 2 1/2 weeks ago. "I'm way past the injury and the DL stint.

"You [just] try to match what everybody's doing out there. I think we're all throwing the ball great right now and we're just going to try to keep it going as long as we can."

The Angels gave Saunders a 2-0 cushion four batters into their first at-bat. Chone Figgins worked Gavin Floyd (11-10) for a leadoff walk, then moved to third when Maicer Izturis bounced a double over first baseman Paul Konerko's head.

Bobby Abreu followed with a groundout that scored Figgins and a pitch later Vladimir Guerrero singled in Izturis.

Two innings later, Jayson Nix cut the lead in half with a leadoff homer a couple of rows into the left-field bleachers.

"It wasn't a bad pitch," Saunders said. "It was just the wrong pitch."

Either way, it was the last mistake Saunders made, retiring the next 15 batters in order before turning the game over to the bullpen.

The Angels had already given him plenty of breathing room by then, scoring three more runs in a fifth-inning rally in which Figgins again walked and scored, Izturis again doubled and Abreu again drove in a run with an out.

For Figgins, the two walks raised his league-leading total to 91 while the two runs gave him 106, which also leads the league. For Abreu, the two runs batted in gave him 93, leaving him seven shy of his sixth 100-RBI season in the last seven years. And for Izturis, who was three for four, the two doubles marked his second double-double game of the month.

The Angels knocked the White Sox out in the eighth, adding insurance runs on hits from Guerrero and Juan Rivera.

And speaking of knockout blows, Angels shortstop Erick Aybar nearly sent White Sox Manager Ozzie Guillen to the hospital when he lined a foul into the corner of the Chicago dugout in the second inning. Guillen reached up and deflected the ball away from his head at the last second, but after the game his bruised left arm was heavily bandaged.

"Aybar can't hit the ball that hard," Guillen joked. "His bat must have been corked."


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