Cross posted at SoCal Sports Hub.
Joe Saunders came into this game looking to right the ship. The left-hander had given up 15 earned runs in 10.2 innings over his last three starts, including six in an inning and a third in his last start against one of the league's worst offenses. Last night he took the hill against one of the best, and settled in for a solid 6.1 innings, allowing three runs on eight hits while walking one and striking out two.
Offensively it wasn't pretty for the Angels. They manages only eight hits, but turned those, along with four walks, into five runs, enough to hang on for the 5-4 victory. Torii Hunter laced a two run double to left in the top of the first for the early lead, driving in Chone Figgins, who had singled, and Mark Teixeira, on base courtesy of the walk. Detroit responded with a two out run in the first to cut the lead in half. Following a Vlad Guerrero double, Torii Hunter singled to drive in his third run of the game.
Saunders got a little squirelly in the third inning. He hit Placido Polanco, then gave up back to back doubles to Magglio Ordonez and Miguel Cabrera to tie the game. Hunter then doubled with one out in the fifth, and two consecutive Tiger errors on ground balls by Mike Napoli and Brandon Wood allowed him to score the go ahead run. That's where the game stood until Scot Shields delivered a gopher ball to Miguel Cabrera in the bottom of the eighth to tie the game.
In the ninth inning, the Angels manufactured the go ahead run. Figgins led the inning off with a walk, and promptly stole second. Garret Anderson got him over to third on a ground out, and Mark Teixeira delivered the sac fly that brought Figgins home. Frankie Rodriguez worked a shaky ninth inning, allowing a single and a walk before retiring Polanco for the game's final out, and his league leading 54th save. The Angels magic number sits at seven, making it conceivable, thought not probably, that they could clinch the division this weekend in Chicago at games I will be attending in person.
Angels top three performers:
1) Torii Hunter had three hits, two of them doubles, and drove in three of the Angels' five runs.
2) Jose Arredondo entered the game in the bottom of the seventh with the tying run on second and one out. He retired the only two hitters he faced (the first by strikeout) to preserve the lead for Saunders.
3) Joe Saunders didn't pitch his best game, but following a string of bad performances, and facing an excellent offense, he got himself back on track with a quality start. He lost the win on Shields' blow hold.
Jeff Weaver of the game:
Tough call, here. The bottom of the order continues to underwhelm, though Wood and Sean Rodriguez deserve credit for two stellar plays in the field in the second inning. Garret Anderson was 0-5 and left four men on base, though he did provide a productive out that led to the eventual winning run. But the nod probably goes to Scot Shields, whose two out gopher ball in the eighth allowed the Tigers to tie the score.
What to look for tonight:
Smooth and Steady Jon Garland takes on Zach Miner, who owns a surprising 8-4 record to go along with a 3.46 ERA. He's 3-2 in his last five starts, and that includes a start in which he lasted only an inning and a third and gave up five runs. Take that start away and he's got an ERA barely over one in four of his last five starts. The Angels could conceivably reduce their magic number to five.
Game Time is 4:05 PST on FSN.