Vladimir Guerrero is trying to slug his way into the hall of fame AND into a big contract for next season. He hit two home runs, including the eventual game winner in the seventh inning, the 400th of his career. Kendry Morales hit his 24th and 25th homers of the year, the bullpen combined for 4.1 innings of one run relief, and Juan Rivera made a game saving grab as the Angels shook off their weekend series with Texas to take game one of their matchup with Tampa Bay.
Tampa got two runs in the first inning for the early lead, but the Angels stormed back in the bottom of the second, taking a 3-2 lead on the strength of a solo blast from Vlad, and RBI singles from Erick Aybar and Chone Figgins. Jason Bartlett's third inning homer tied the game briefly, but Kendry Morales homered right back in the bottom of the inning, a two run shot for a 5-3 lead. The Angels pushed the lead to three in the fourth inning, but the Rays fought back to tie it in the fifth, with Carlos Pena's home run eventually chasing starter Sean O'Sullivan from the game.
Morales' second homer of the game gave the Angels the lead yet again, but Jason Bartlett's RBI triple in the sixth inning brought the Rays even again. Bartlett finished a single shy of the cycle.
That set the stage for Vlad's heroics. He drove a 3-1 fastball off the foul pole in right field for an 8-7 lead and his 400th career home run. Following Juan Rivera's single, Vlad acknowledged the crowd with a curtain call to the delight of more than 37,000 home fans.
Kevin Jepsen, after a shaky seventh, worked a perfect eighth, and turned it over to Brian Fuentes in the ninth against the heart of the Rays order. Fuentes got Carl Crawford to bounce to second on the first pitch, and followed that by striking out Evan Longoria. Ben Zobrist, the Rays' last hope, drove a deep fly ball to the short fence in left, where Juan Rivera robbed a likely home run to preserve the 8-7 win.
Thoughts on the game:
- The Angels may have gotten their big bat at the trade deadline after all. Guerrero, in seven games since returning from the DL, is hitting 357/400/786, with four home runs (all solo). We'll forgive him for the 1-2-3 double play he grounded into in the fourth inning.
- Kendry Morales is, well, I don't even know how to describe what he's doing. Since the All-Star break he's hitting 349/374/771, with 10 homers. His OPS+ is comparable to Mark Teixeira (135 v. 144), and he's making $22 million less. The only real difference between the two is Teixeira's patience, but on this Angels team, that's not as important as it may have been last year.
- Trevor Bell makes his major league debut on Wednesday filling in for the injured Joe Saunders.