Joe Saunders came into Spring not even assured of a starting job, though it's safe to say he had the inside track. A solid spring, and two injuries later, and he slid into the #3 role, where he delivered an ace-like performance. He needed only 80 pitches, 52 of the strikes, to complete eight innings, striking out four while only walking one. Had it not been for an opening two games that hadn't required a closer, he might have been allowed to go the distance. But Mike Scioscia needed to get Frankie Rodriguez some work, and after a brief hiccup to start the ninth, he got a little lucky when Carlos Gomez decided to try a two strike bunt that failed for the first out. He induced a double play grounder from pinch hitter Joe Mauer, the seventh double play hit into by the Twins in the first three games of the season.
Nick Blackburn was the hard luck loser, and no doubt he's being snatched up in fantasy leagues as we speak. He allowed five hits, struck out six, and only walked one. His only mistake came in the seventh inning, when he allowed the Angels to score without the ball leaving the infield. Howie Kendrick reached on an infield single to short, moved to second on Jeff Mathis' sac bunt, to third on Erick Aybar's ground out, and pounced at the opportunity to score on Blackburn's wild pitch.
Torii Hunter delivered his first two hits as an Angel, one of which (8th inning) should have delivered an insurance run, but a cautious Gary Matthews held up at third base, and one batter later, Casey Kotchman grounded into a double play ending the half inning.
So the Angels go for the series victory today, and it would be nice to leave the dome with three victories in hand. It's always a tough place for the Angels to play, and it seems like they've played a very high percentage of close games with the Twins over the last six or seven years. Joe Saunders, for his part, leave town with the highest game score of the young season, and he'll lead the league (tied) in ERA for a few days. Now we'll see how Ervin reacts to a day game (horror) on the road (horror of horrors). He's got a chance to make a statement.