The Angels got their groove back.
A day after their manager admitted his struggling players had lost confidence, Torii Hunter and Jered Weaver displayed plenty of pluck during a 4-2 victory over the Detroit Tigers on Friday night at Comerica Park.
Weaver mostly plowed through a potent lineup in seven strong innings and Hunter hit a two-run homer before standing his ground during an eighth-inning run-in with home plate umpire Ron Kulpa that resulted in his ejection.
Kulpa called three consecutive strikes on the right fielder, with Hunter turning to argue about the location of the first and third pitches. The umpire then ejected Hunter, later explaining Hunter "said some things that crossed the line."
Hunter called Kulpa "a drama queen" for his exaggerated reaction after the brim of Hunter's batting helmet brushed against the area above the umpire's left eye.
"He made it very dramatic," said Hunter, who also intimated that Kulpa had said something to him in a previous at-bat when Hunter questioned a strike call. "That's what got me really upset."
Angels Manager Mike Scioscia ran onto the field to separate Hunter from Kulpa and argue on behalf of his team leader, eventually resulting in Scioscia's ejection. A vociferous Hunter had to be restrained by third base coach Dino Ebel and first base coach Alfredo Griffin, who herded him into the dugout. Hunter then flung a bag of balls onto the field, a gesture that could earn him a suspension.
"You don't want to act like that," said Hunter, who was also ejected by Kulpa in July 2007 for yelling from the dugout. "I've got kids and I don't want them to see that. But understand — this is my passion. I'm a very competitive guy and I felt like it was taken away from me, the chance to compete."
Hunter's first-inning homer provided half of an early four-run cushion the Angels handed Weaver (11-7), who gave up three hits and two runs — one earned — to help the Angels snap a three-game losing streak and win for only the second time in their last nine road games. The right-hander walked four and struck out nine, increasing his major league-leading total to 171.
The Angels displayed plenty of verve for a team whose charter flight from Baltimore was delayed by a couple of hours, the players finally arriving at their hotel here about 3:45 Friday morning.
"I think in the dugout there was more energy," Scioscia said. "I think we played free."
Howie Kendrick gave the Angels a 3-0 lead in the second inning with a run-scoring double to left-center field off Tigers starter Justin Verlander (12-7), and Peter Bourjos eventually drove in Kendrick with a groundout.
Detroit finally broke through against Weaver with Brian Boesch's solo homer in the third inning, and the Tigers threatened with consecutive walks to open the fourth. But they got only one run, when Miguel Cabrera scored on a throwing error by second baseman Maicer Izturis, who was trying to double up Johnny Damon at first.
Hunter's tirade earned kudos from teammates even though it could result in a fine and/or suspension, the latter penalty one the outfielder said he would appeal.
"He's a competitor and he felt like he got manipulated a little bit and it just set him off a little bit," Weaver said. "It's nice to see that fire out of some guys and hopefully it doesn't hurt us in the long run with a suspension."