For much of the season, 2008 all-star Joe Saunders was firing blanks. After finally admitting to an arm injury, and spending some time on the DL, it's Saunders' opponents who are getting blanked. In his second start since returning from the DL, Saunders tossed seven scoreless innings, allowing only three hits and three walks, while striking out four. He lasted 98 pitches, 57 of which were strikes. After loading the bases in the first on a hit and two walks, Saunders allowed just three baserunners over his final six innings. Trevor Bell, in his first major league relief performance, worked two perfect innings to close out the game.
With the Mariners' bats silenced by Saunders, it was up to the Angels to provide some noise, and they responded by bringing the thunder. After Chone Figgins scored on a Torii Hunter sac fly to give the Angels a 1-0 lead, Vladimir Guerrero crushed a fastball over the wall in left center for a two run shot. The Angels added another run in the third on Howie Kendrick's RBI ground out. Juan Rivera added three runs to the board in the fifth with a blast to left field that scored Hunter and Guerrero. Vlad struck again with a mammoth two run shot to the upper deck in left in the seventh inning. Kendrick's RBI single later in the inning closed out the scoring.
With the Rangers losing to Toronto, the Angels lead in the AL West now stands at six games. The re-emergence of Joe Saunders, and the acquisition of Scott Kazmir (if his last three outings are predictive) puts the Angels in a pretty good position to win their third straight division title.
Thoughts on the game:
- Kendry Morales is turning into a bona-fide star. He had three more hits last night, including two double, pushing his average to .314. He's slugging nearly .600, and his OPS+ (142) is actually two points higher than Mark Teixeira.
- More on Morales: His OPS+ has increased every month of the season from an April low of 113 to an August high of 191. He's simply been dominant since the all-star break, leading the AL in RBIs over that stretch. He hit his first home run this season as a right handed batter in mid-July. He's since added three more. He's becoming a threat from both sides of the plate.
- The competition for the post-season roster just got a little more heated in the wake of Bell's relief appearance. He was solid for two innings in his last start before falling apart. If he can show over the next month that he's capable of providing quality pitching for an inning or two at a time, he could be a big boost to the bullpen.