The sensational rookie looks to maintain his torrid stretch Saturday night when the Angels continue the “Freeway Series” against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Angel Stadium.
With Anderson out with a right hip flexor injury, Willits has taken over in left field and has batted .394 (13-for-33) with 11 runs scored in his last eight games. He leads all rookies with a .371 batting average, has a team-high nine steals and is tied for second on the Angels with 15 walks.
Willits reached base his first three times up against Brad Penny with a walk and two singles Friday to help the Angels (25-18) win the series opener 9-1. It was the third straight multihit effort for Willits, and the fifth time in eight games he scored at least twice.
“I thought as a team, we had a great night,” Willits said. “Against a pitcher of his caliber, you really just try to have good at-bats.”
The Angels handed Penny his first loss after the Dodgers starter entered the game as baseball’s ERA leader at 1.39. He was tagged for eight runs and eight hits over a season-low five innings.
Angels slugger Vladimir Guerrero, however, wasn’t part of that attack as he went hitless in four at-bats. He’s still hitting .373 at home this season, although he’s batting just .203 over his last 17 interleague contests.
The Angels won for the eighth time in 10 games and improved the second-best home record in the AL to 15-6.
After the defeat, Dodgers second baseman Jeff Kent, who went 0-for-4, voiced his disapproval of interleague games.
“They’re comical. I’ve (complained) about this forever,” he said. “I grew up in this game not playing interleague games. Then all of a sudden, they force-feed it to you. It’s too bad that we’re chasing the dollar instead of the integrity of the game.”
This series marks the first time the clubs have met with both teams in first place, but the Dodgers (25-17) fell for just the second time in seven games. They have also lost 12 of their last 15 games in Anaheim.
The Dodgers now seek to avoid their first consecutive defeats since being swept by San Francisco in a three-game series at home April 24-26.
Mark Hendrickson (2-0, 2.61 ERA), who began the season in the bullpen, will make his sixth start for the Dodgers. He’s struggled in his last two outings, posting a 6.10 ERA, although he didn’t receive a decision either time.
Hendrickson has pitched well against the Angels in his career, going 5-3 with a 3.70 ERA in nine appearances - including eight starts.
Jered Weaver (2-3, 3.62) makes his first career interleague start for the Angels. Weaver has been outstanding since losing his first two outings, going 2-1 with a 1.82 ERA in his last four starts.
The right-hander took advantage of some early run support to last a season-high seven innings Monday, when he allowed one run and six hits in a 7-2 victory at Texas.
No Dodger hitter has ever faced Weaver.