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Revitalized Jerome Williams gives Angels a big lift in 7-1 victory over Orioles

The right-hander, who was pitching in Taiwan two years ago, goes seven strong innings in his first major league start since 2007.

August 21, 2011|By Ben Bolch
  • Starter Jerome Williams delivers a pitch during the second inning of the Angels' 7-1 victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday.
Starter Jerome Williams delivers a pitch during the second inning of the… (Gary Friedman / Los Angeles…)

Jerome Williams' resolve was made in Taiwan.

That was where the journeyman pitcher found himself two years ago, determined to resurrect a career that had gone sideways since his days as a major leaguer ended in 2007.

"If Taiwan never came," Williams said, "I probably would have hung it up."

The Angels are thrilled he didn't. On an improbable Sunday afternoon at Angel Stadium, the 29-year-old was not only back in the major leagues but in the thick of a pennant race.

He didn't disappoint, pitching seven superb innings against the Baltimore Orioles to lead the Angels to a 7-1 victory that completed a three-game sweep.

Peter Bourjos and Howie Kendrick homered as part of a 14-hit attack for the Angels, whose fourth consecutive win pulled them to within four games of Texas in the American League West.

Williams picked up the victory 2,156 days after his last one in the major leagues with the Chicago Cubs on Sept. 25, 2005. He had not made a major league start since 2007.

"It's been a long road and the things I've been through … I'm just speechless right now," said Williams, who held the Orioles to six hits and one run. "It's incredible."

Fans stood and cheered Williams as he walked off the field for the last time in the middle of the seventh inning. Williams pointed skyward as a tribute to his mother, who died of breast cancer 10 years ago.

The former first-round draft pick of the San Francisco Giants had endured stints overseas, in the minor leagues and in two independent leagues since his last major league start, his career beset by injuries and weight problems.

Angels scout Bobby DeJardin helped the team sign Williams in June after watching him pitch for the Lancaster (Pa.) Barnstormers of the independent Atlantic League. Williams made 10 starts for triple-A Salt Lake before the Angels promoted him last week.

Changing speeds and relying on a variety of pitches, he struck out six hitters and walked none. The Orioles scored on Matt Wieters' seventh-inning homer.

"He's got a lot of baseball left in him if he keeps pitching like that," Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said.

Williams was perfect through the first three innings before getting into trouble in the fourth. Singles by J.J. Hardy, Nick Markakis and Adam Jones loaded the bases with none out.

But Williams (1-0) struck out former Angel Vladimir Guerrero on a sinker and got Wieters to hit into a 3-6-1 double play to end the inning.

Angels outfielder Torii Hunter, who faced Williams earlier in his career, said he appeared to be a different pitcher than he was in his first stint in the major leagues from 2003 to 2007.

"He just re-created himself," Hunter said. "He's throwing two-seamers, cutters. He's not throwing the straight fastball anymore. He's keeping the ball down and it seemed like he just learned how to pitch."

Williams said he didn't know what he would be doing had he quit baseball.

"Baseball is all I know," he said. "Baseball is my life."

As Williams spoke with reporters clustered around his clubhouse locker, his son Tai, 2, sat nearby patiently clutching the game ball. A ticket stub protruded from a pocket in the toddler's overalls.

"That's his ball," Williams said.

It was Williams' moment, a keepsake for the ages.

ben.bolch@latimes.com

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