ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP)—Mike Piazza’s first home run as a full-time designated hitter was a memorable one.
“I was just fortunate to pick up the team tonight,” Piazza said. “These moments are special and you’ve got to enjoy them. Hopefully, there’s a few more. But if these games are going to be like this, I’m going to need a lot of antacid on the bench, I’ll tell you that.”
Piazza, who has the most home runs as a catcher in major league history, drove a 1-1 pitch just to the right of dead center field for his first homer in 22 career at-bats at Angel Stadium.
“It’s a big park out there, so fortunately I got enough,” Piazza said. “K-Rod’s the best in the business. Fortunately, I got a good ball to hit and didn’t miss it. It kind of moved just a little, but I was able to get the hands in and square the ball up pretty well.”
Rodriguez knew he made a mistake as soon as the four-seam fastball left his hand.
“I was trying to go down and away, and I left it right down the middle,” he said. “When you’re facing a guy like that who’s a power hitter, you can’t make a mistake with him.”
Before the game, Rodriguez (0-1) had to respond to reporters’ questions about a smudge on the bill of his cap that a blogger spotted. But Major League Baseball would not confirm if any complaints were filed by the Texas Rangers, who faced him twice during the Angels’ season-opening three-game sweep.
“If somebody sees something on my hat, they’re probably going to think I’m cheating. But I’m not, so I’m not worried about that,” Rodriguez said. “They’re looking at it in a bad way and trying to make something out of nothing. I haven’t heard anything like that in the five years I’ve been here. At first, it irritated me a little bit, but I can’t control that. I have my mind clean. I didn’t do anything wrong, so you’ve got to just let it go.”
It was the 19th one-run decision involving the A’s and Angels in the last 38 meetings, and the 26th decided by fewer than three.
“It was a typical A’s-Angels game. It felt like last year never ended,” Oakland manager Bob Geren said. “It was close the whole way, and whoever made the big pitch or the big play or got the big hit was going to win. And we got it tonight with Mike’s big homer off of K-Rod. Mike’s a Hall of Famer.”
Vladimir Guerrero and Garret Anderson hit consecutive solo homers in the fourth for the Angels, who finished second behind Oakland in the AL West last season after winning back-to-back division titles for the first time in franchise history.
The only time the Angels have begun a season 4-0 was 1970, when they opened with a five-game winning streak.
Gaudin allowed two runs and five hits in five innings. He struck out three and walked none in his 11th big league start and first since June 14, 2005, with Toronto, when he surrendered three home runs in a 7-0 loss to St. Louis. The right-hander was inserted into the rotation because of an injury to Esteban Loaiza.
Saunders escaped a bases-loaded jam in the third, striking out Bobby Kielty with the bases loaded after giving up an RBI single to Eric Chavez. That failed opportunity came back to bite the Athletics in the fourth, when Guerrero hit a first-pitch homer with one out and Anderson drove a 1-2 delivery to the exact same spot to tie it at 2.
The homers snapped Gaudin’s streak of 33 1-3 consecutive innings in the regular season without allowing one. The previous batter to take him deep was the Angels’ Juan Rivera, who isn’t expected back until sometime around the All-Star break after breaking his left leg in winter ball.
Colon pitched four scoreless innings of one-hit ball for Class-A Rancho Cucamonga on Thursday night while working his way back from a torn rotator cuff that sidelined him for the final two months of last season. … Of the 41 big league ballparks Piazza has played in, the only ones the 12-time All-Star has not homered in are the Metrodome (13 at-bats) and the new Busch Stadium (seven at-bats). He also came up empty in 23 at-bats at Puerto Rico’s Bithorn Stadium, where the Montreal Expos played some home games in 2003 and 2004. … Both teams announced which players will wear No. 42 on April 15 in honor of the 60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s first major league game. Oakland will be represented in that regard by Stewart, first base coach Tye Waller and Milton Bradley, who turns 29 years old that day. Matthews also will wear it for the Angels.