SEATTLE (AP)—The Los Angeles Angels’ bullpen was key in last year’s run to the postseason.
With the addition of J.C. Romero, the Angels’ relievers look even stronger.
Romero, who was acquired from Minnesota in the offseason, escaped a bases-loaded jam with no outs in the sixth inning to keep the game tied before Orlando Cabrera’s two-run single in the ninth inning lifted the Angels to a 5-4 win over the Mariners in both teams’ season opener on Monday.
“We have the confidence that we are deep in our bullpen,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “And we got a good indication of kind of talent Romero has today.”
The work of Romero and winner Scot Shields—who threw 1 1-3 scoreless innings— made the win look similar to last regular season, when the Angels bullpen tied a team record with 54 saves while winning 25 games.
“Not many times are you going to have a first outing with a new team with that kind of pressure,” said Romero, who pitched the previous six seasons in Minnesota. But to me, it’s fun.”
The Twins traded Romero in December after late-season confrontations with manager Ron Gardenhire.
“My time in Minnesota was pretty good,” Romero said. “But this is another chapter in my life. To be a part of this bullpen is great.”
Romero and Shields retired nine straight to keep the game tied into the ninth inning. Seattle’s George Sherrill then walked Casey Kotchman in a nine-pitch battle. Jose Molina sacrificed pinch-runner Maicer Izturis to second and pinch-hitter Tim Salmon, playing his first game since Aug. 23, 2004, advanced him to third on a groundout. Reliever J.J. Putz walked Chone Figgins, who stole second before Cabrera’s two-run single for the Angels.
The only Los Angeles bullpen abnormality came when closer Francisco Rodriguez gave up a solo homer to pinch-hitter Roberto Petagine in the ninth. Petagine had one homer in 18 games with Boston last season, his first major league season since 1998.
Rodriguez finished the inning for the save.
Kenji Johjima, playing in the first major league game for a Japanese catcher, homered in the fifth inning for Seattle.
“It was a very good opening day, but the result just wasn’t right,” Johjima said thru an interpretator. “I can’t say I’m satisfied with today’s result.”
Los Angeles took a 2-0 lead in the first inning when Vladimir Guerrero hit a two-run homer off starter Jamie Moyer, who was pitching in his third consecutive Seattle opener. Guerrero leaned across home plate and lifted the low, outside pitch into the Mariners’ bullpen.
He has homered on his first swing of the season in each of the last two years.
“He doesn’t have a strike zone,” Moyer said of the six-time All Star. “He is—and I say this respectfully—he’s a freak.
“Ninety-eight point nine, nine, nine percent of the hitters in this league couldn’t have hit that pitch.”
Johjima became the first Mariners player to hit a home run for his first major league hit since Greg Dobbs on Sept 8, 2004 against Cleveland. It happened four times last season in the major leagues, the last time by Florida’s Jeremy Heredia on Aug. 31. … Betancourt and new Mariners No. 2 hitter Jose Lopez each had RBI singles off Colon to tie the game in the fifth inning. … Guerrero has 15 home runs against Seattle, more than any other AL team. This the former Montreal Expo’s third Angels season. … Matt Hasselbeck of the NFC champion Seahawks threw out the ceremonial first pitch with seven teammates on the mound behind him.