|Los Angeles Angels' Torii Hunter hits a two-run home run against the Seattle Mariners in the fifth inning of a baseball game in Anaheim, Calif., Saturday, July 9, 2011. (AP Photo/Lori Shepler)|
Hunter homers twice off Pineda in Angels' 9-3 win
ANAHEIM, Calif.—Things have certainly changed over the past couple of weeks for the Los Angeles Angels.
They find themselves in a familiar position -- fighting for first place in the AL West -- because of their rejuvenated offense.
Torii Hunter drove in a season-high five runs with a pair of homers, Mark Trumbo also went deep, and the Angels beat the Seattle Mariners 9-3 on Saturday night to stay a game behind the Texas Rangers for the division lead. The Halos have hit 15 homers in 12 games during this homestand, after getting just 14 in their first 35 games at the Big A this season.
"I'm happy about the way we're playing. It's like all cylinders are clicking," Hunter said. "This is the team I thought we should have been. All of our young guys are stepping up and swinging the bats well. Our defense has been a lot of fun, and the pitching staff has been doing pretty well. Sometimes you've got to ride the wave until it's done, or ride the bike until the wheels fall off."
Joel Pineiro (5-3) allowed three runs and 10 hits over seven innings, helping lead the Angels to their 13th victory in 16 games after he was staked to a 4-0 lead against his former team. The right-hander is 3-0 in his last five starts, after going 0-3 in his previous four.
"I made my pitches when I needed to and got out of jams," Pineiro said. "I thought I mixed up my pitches a little bit more. I threw more sliders, curve balls and changeups than I usually have. And when you keep the ball down, you'll have the results."
Rookie Michael Pineda (8-6) gave up a season-worst seven runs and six hits in five innings, equaling his shortest outing in 18 starts. He finished with seven strikeouts after fanning his first five batters on 19 pitches. All of them swung at strike three, with Pineda's pitches coming out of the shadows between the mound and home plate.
"You couldn't see anything. You couldn't see the rotation on the ball. It was scary, man," Hunter said. "You don't want to face a guy like that in the shadows. You saw the way we were swinging. It was unbelievable. I was panic-swinging. I mean, I'm not taking anything away from him because he's been pitching well all season. But if you can't see off this guy, it's not good. Later, on, we could see and had much better at-bats."
Seattle manager Eric Wedge was ejected during the Angels' four-run third inning. Trumbo led off with a single and took off for second as Hank Conger checked his swing on ball four. Trumbo originally was called out at second by umpire Greg Gibson after the throw down by Miguel Olivo, but that was wiped out by the walk to Conger -- denying the Mariners a critical strikeout-double play and giving the Angels runners at first and second instead.
"It changed the course of the entire ballgame," Wedge said. "I mean, two outs and nobody on to first and second with nobody out -- and then they score four runs. It's a damn shame."
Wedge was tossed after venting his anger from the dugout at third base ump Sam Holbrook, who ruled on appeal that Conger held up in time on the swing. Then he came out of the dugout and got his money's worth.
"It's getting to a point with these umpires that you can't even look at them without them throwing you out," Wedge said. "I mean, God forbid you question something or make any type of gesture to show you're unhappy with it. Those guys are so damn sensitive, it's just unbelievable.
"Unless he just wasn't paying attention, there's no reason he should miss that," Wedge added. "It's ridiculous. It was obvious to everybody in the ballpark, except for him. It was just a bad call. When you have something like that that changed the course of the entire ballgame, that's a helluva difference."
No. 9 hitter Mike Trout, playing in his second major league game, followed the controversial call with a bunt single for his first major league hit. The throw to first by Pineda got past first baseman Adam Kennedy, allowing Trumbo to score the game's first run. One out later, Hunter homered to left-center on the first pitch to make it 4-0.
"They're playing really good over there. And when their offense gets going, they're tough on anybody," said Kennedy, who was the second baseman on the Angels' 2002 World Series championship team. "Michael Pineda's been great for us, but it's tough when these guys have little margin for error. We're just not picking them up on a nightly basis."
The Mariners, who have lost 15 of their last 17 at Angel Stadium, closed to 4-3 with a run-scoring double by Olivo in the fourth inning and two-out RBI singles in the fifth by Dustin Ackley and Olivo. But the Angels responded in their half of the fifth with an RBI double by Maicer Izturis and Hunter's 11th homer of the season, an opposite-field two-run shot that just cleared the short fence in the right-field corner and extended the margin to 7-3.
"In the last couple of weeks, I think I've found something in my swing and I'm just sticking with it," Hunter said. "I have some good days and I have some bad days, as far as results, but I still feel good at the plate."
Notes: Of the 25 players on the USA roster at last year's All-Star Futures Game at Angel Stadium last July, Trout is the 16th to be promoted to the majors. He is the seventh to make his big league debut this season, along with Zach Britton (Baltimore), Jordan Lyles (Houston), Lonnie Chisenhall (Cleveland), Dee Gordon (Dodgers), and Kansas City teammates Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas. ... If Hunter does not make an error on Sunday, it would mark the fourth time in his career that the nine-time Gold Glove OF has played errorless ball going into the All-Star break. ... Angels 2B Howie Kendrick singled in the seventh, extending his career-best hitting streak to 18 games.