Angels 8, Mariners 4
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP)—Joe Saunders wore his old college cap, wrote “VT” on his cleats and scribbled “Virginia Tech” in the dirt on the mound.
Then the only Hokies’ alumnus currently in the majors finished up his tribute by pitching six scoreless innings Friday night in the Los Angeles Angels’ 8-4 victory over Seattle on Friday night.
“I was really nervous coming in—just the sheer fact of knowing what the game meant to me, to all the Hokie Nation out there in Virginia, to my family, and to this team because we needed to win.
“There was a lot riding on it.”
Most of all, there was his honoring the memory of the 32 victims shot to death on the Virginia Tech campus last Monday.
He said the game finished his tribute, but that the shooting “is always going to be in the back of my mind. Both my mother and father and my uncle went there. The family’s got a lot of history there.”
“So this was pretty special,” added Saunders, drafted by the Angels out of the school in 2002.
During a moment of silence for them before the game, Saunders seemed near tears.
Commissioner Bud Selig had given him special permission to wear the school cap, and Saunders said, “I can’t thank him enough for that.”
Although he gave up seven hits, Saunders pitched out of trouble and got good defensive support—including line drives to first base that set up double plays in the second and third innings.
“I think somebody upstairs was looking after me tonight, and everybody in Blacksburg was looking after me,” he said. “My heart was out to them.”
Saunders (2-0) walked two and struck out one as the Angels ended a six-game losing streak.
Seattle’s Richie Sexson complimented Saunders on his outing.
“It’s got to be tough for him, having gone to school there. He’s got a heavy heart, I’m sure, but he did a good job and battled through it,” Sexson said.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia also said Saunders did a good job in an emotional situation.
“This was a tough week for Joe, and understandably so,” Scioscia said. “As traumatic as it is for all of us to see what happened, it hasn’t affected all of our families. He was connected with that school, with that campus.
“He was shaken, but he wanted to pitch and he knew that his wearing the hat would be a symbol to show everyone his sentiments for that school. It was a great touch. Joe’s a classy guy and he pitched great under the circumstances.”
The Angels scored two runs in both the first and third innings against Miguel Batista (1-2), and Guerrero’s fourth homer made it 5-0 in the fifth. Batista gave up six runs on 10 hits, including a solo homer by Mike Napoli in the sixth as the Mariners lost their fourth straight.
Seattle’s Jose Guillen, who has said he would never forgive Scioscia for throwing him off the team after a blowup late in the 2004 season, went 2-for-4 in his second trip to Anaheim since then.
Scioscia said before the game that Guillen had “flip-flopped” in his attitude about him and the Angels, saying, “Everything was fine when he was traded. I spoke to Jose two times the day he was traded, and he said publicly that he was accountable for what happened. He took anger management, said how much he loved us, regretted the incident, took responsibility for the incident, and said he had moved on.” … Former Angels SS Gary DiSarcina was named manager of the Boston Red Sox’s Class-A team in Lowell, Mass. … Seattle LHP Eric O’Flaherty was recalled from Triple-A Tacoma for bullpen depth. … The Angels recalled INF Kendry Morales from Triple-A Salt Lake to replace the injured Howie Kendrick on the roster.