Guerrero recorded his 1,000th career RBI in the first inning before hitting his fourth career grand slam, and the Angels capitalized on two controversial rulings by first base umpire Bill Welke to beat the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 9-2 Saturday night.
Guerrero, the only outfielder other than Reggie Jackson to start three All-Star games in an Angels uniform, is 22-for-50 over his last 13 games following a 6-for-45 rut and has raised his average to .306. The seven-time All-Star had never batted under .300 over a full major league season.
“He’s like that every year,” hitting coach Mickey Hatcher said of Guerrero’s up-and-down season. “He went through that same period with us last year. He’ll go through those ugly periods where everybody says ‘You’ve got to take pitches,’ but he always believes he’s got to swing himself out of it. You can tell when he steps in the box that he’s feeling good about himself. That’s why he’s capable of carrying a team through a period of time.”
Orlando Cabrera doubled with two out in the first and scored when Guerrero singled through the left side of the infield on the next pitch, becoming the seventh-fastest to reach 1,000 RBIs among active players. The 2004 AL MVP made it 8-2 in the seventh with a drive to center field against reliever Chad Harville. It was Guerrero’s 20th home run.
“Their big guy did it again for them,” said Devil Rays manager Joe Maddon, who was the Angels’ bench coach during Guerrero’s first two seasons with the team. “He has this propensity to hit in clutch situations, and he’s always been that way.
“Sometimes, Vlad will get into bad streaks because he gets out of rhythm a little bit because there’s a lot of movement going on with his swing, or he might just be a little fatigued. But when that fellow’s well-rested, he’s very dangerous. And when he gets hot, there’s nobody hotter.”
Ervin Santana (11-3) won his seventh straight decision, allowing two runs and four hits in seven innings and striking out six. The right-hander has a 2.96 ERA in eight starts during that stretch.
“He’s on a pretty good run, but I think he showed last year that he had that ability,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “He’s got a little more experience now and his confidence is growing with every start.”
The Angels were a season-worst 11 games under .500 following a loss at Texas on May 22, but the two-time defending AL West champions are 45-45 after winning nine of 10 games. They have climbed within 1 1/2 games of Oakland and Texas.
“There’s nobody in here that has it in them to fold the tent,” Scioscia said. “The first step for us was not to get back to .500, but to win our game the next day. Our challenge right now is not the standings, but tomorrow’s ballgame.”
James Shields (4-3) was charged with six runs and nine hits in six-plus innings against the team he beat with six scoreless innings for his first major league victory on June 5. The right-hander was bumped up in the rotation because of Scott Kazmir’s stiff neck, which forced the All-Star lefty to be held back until Tuesday.
Mike Napoli, who leads rookies with 12 home runs, gave the Angels a 3-2 edge in the fourth with a drive into the back of the double-decker bullpen in left field. Before that, Garret Anderson was ruled safe on a dribbler to third when Welke said that Tomas Perez’s throw pulled Travis Lee off the bag. Television replays showed otherwise.
Welke made another disputed call in the fifth, calling Chone Figgins safe on a bunt that bounced high off the plate. Catcher Josh Paul’s throw to first appeared to beat Figgins, who then stole second and third before Cabrera drove him in with a sacrifice fly for a 4-2 lead.
“It was disappointing,” Lee said. “They were kind of tough breaks for us.”
The Angels announced that rookie RHP Jered Weaver (6-0, 1.12 ERA) will miss Monday night’s scheduled start against Cleveland because of biceps tendinitis. … RHP Dustin Mosley, acquired by the Angels from Cincinnati in December 2004, will be promoted from Triple-A Salt Lake to make his major league debut in Weaver’s place. Another minor league pitcher, presumably LHP Joe Saunders, is expected to be called up Wednesday to take injured RHP Kelvim Escobar’s turn in the rotation. … Angels CF Darin Erstad, limited to 27 games and 91 at-bats because of irritation in his right ankle, met with team doctor Lewis Yocum. Erstad has taken four cortisone shots for the ailment, the most recent on Monday. … Devil Rays 3B Ty Wigginton did not play because of pain in his lower back. He hurt himself in the eighth inning of Friday night’s 4-0 loss when he charged a slow bouncer by Orlando Cabrera of the Angels and threw him out.