Reporting from Kansas City, Mo. -- It was a half-hour before Wednesday night's game in Kauffman Stadium when Torii Hunter heard the news that Ken Griffey Jr. had retired, and the Angels center fielder immediately thought back to 1999, his first full season in the big leagues.
"I struck out against Jamie Moyer in the Kingdome, and when I ran out to center field, he stayed there and waited for me," Hunter, who was playing for the Minnesota Twins at the time, said of Griffey, the Seattle center fielder.
"He told me, 'You have all the ability and tools, and you're going to be a great center fielder some day.' That always stuck with me. He's one of my favorite guys in the game. It hurt when I heard the news, but I thought of how he inspired me."
Hunter then delivered a performance that would have made Griffey proud, hitting a two-run single in the first inning, a double in the third and a 427-foot solo home run in the seventh to lead the Angels to a 7-2 victory over the Kansas City Royals.
Bobby Abreu, Hideki Matsui and Kevin Frandsen each added two hits, as the Angels (27-28) won for the fourth time in five games.
The 14-hit attack helped erratic left-hander Scott Kazmir, who gave up only one run and five hits in 5 2/3 innings, win for only the second time in his last six starts and improve to 4-5 on the season.
This was progress, not perfection for Kazmir, who has been plagued by injuries and mechanical problems and still has a 5.86 earned-run average. He walked four and struck out only two Wednesday night, and of his 103 pitches, only 59 were strikes.
"The results were there, but the command wasn't what it needs to be," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "His ball-strike ratio was not good. When he had to make a pitch, he did. He got some outs after some deep counts. He moved forward with some things, but there's still some upside."
Kazmir was replaced by right-hander Francisco Rodriguez, who retired the four batters he faced and has not yielded a run, or walked a batter — a rarity for an Angels reliever—in 5 1/3 innings of four appearances.
Jason Bulger added a scoreless eighth before Scot Shields gave up a meaningless run in the ninth that ended the bullpen's string of 12 scoreless innings dating back to Saturday. The bullpen entered Wednesday ranked 13th in the American League with a 4.94 ERA.
"The guys in the bullpen are settling in," Scioscia said, "and Rodriguez has given us a big lift."
The Angels are hitting better too, even without their best hitter. They've scored 26 runs on 42 hits, including eight homers, in four games without first baseman Kendry Morales, who broke a bone above his left ankle Saturday.
Maicer Izturis, who Scioscia said would get more starts in the leadoff spot, opened Wednesday night's game with a walk, and Abreu smacked his 500th career double, to center field.
Abreu moved into some select company, joining Barry Bonds, Rickey Henderson and Craig Biggio as the only players in major league history with 500 doubles, 250 homers and 350 stolen bases.
Hunter singled to left for two runs, and a third run scored on Mike Napoli's RBI fielder's choice. Juan Rivera's RBI double and Frandsen's RBI single made it 5-1 in the fourth, and Matsui's RBI single in the fifth made it 6-1.
Rivera, who fouled a ball off his left big toe, left the game in the fourth inning, and X-rays were inconclusive.
Hunter capped the scoring with his eighth homer of the season and first since May 19, a shot that cleared the bullpen behind the left-field wall.
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