Gary Matthews Jr. and Shea Hillenbrand led a 13-hit attack with three hits each. Everyone in the Angels’ starting lineup had at least one hit, one run scored and one RBI except No. 9 hitter Brandon Wood, who made his major league debut at third base and was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts.
“It was definitely a good homestand for this team and a good confidence builder for us also,” Matthews said. “It seemed like everybody got involved. It’s not always going to be that way. But anytime you can get a comfortable lead, it makes it easier for the staff to know that they don’t have to go out and be perfect, and gives the pitcher the confidence to attack the strike zone.”
For the fourth time during its 6-1 homestand, Los Angeles gave its starting pitcher a lead of seven or more runs to work with before the other team got on the board—not counting Wednesday night’s 9-1 win over the Devil Rays. The Angels have scored at least five runs in every game since losing 3-0 at Oakland in the finale of their 1-7 road trip.
“Every team feels comfortable at home, but we have to make sure these young guys know that we have to do it on the road, too,” shortstop Orlando Cabrera said. “We came off a really bad road trip and scored like six runs in six games. April is a crazy month for everybody. It can either go really good or really bad. I know the pitching’s going to be there, so the offense has to step up.”
Colon (2-0) allowed four hits in seven innings, including a two-run homer by Carlos Pena in the fourth. The 2005 AL Cy Young Award winner had plenty of gas left at the end of his second start this season, striking out the side in the seventh and reaching 94 mph with his 103rd and final pitch. His strikeout total was his highest since June 4, 2005, when he fanned 11 in six innings of a 13-6 victory at Boston.
“As you get more comfortable on the mound, you gain more strength,” Colon said through a translator. “I expected to be stronger in my second start. I felt stronger after my first three innings than my last inning. But in that last inning, I told myself to let it loose to see how my arm was really feeling— because at that point I had built enough stamina.”
The Angels right-hander, whose status for the game was in question because of a sore left ankle he tweaked covering first base last Saturday in his season debut, had plenty of room for error after getting staked to a 9-0 lead through the first three innings. It helped him improve to 9-1 against Tampa Bay.
“It feels good. But at the same time, it’s almost like another challenge,” Colon said. “You can’t be happy just because there are so many runs up on the board. We had a 7-0 lead against Detroit the other day and they came back, so I have to treat a big lead like it’s a close ballgame.”
The Devil Rays’ two one-sided defeats were particularly galling for manager Joe Maddon, whose team came flying into Anaheim—figuratively and literally— off a two-game sweep of the Yankees at home.
“We played so well against the Yankees,” Maddon said. “But when things start going well, we kind of let up. And we can’t do that. That’s ridiculous. That’s part of what I really want to eradicate here. We haven’t done anything yet that permits us to think that just because you win two hard-fought games, all of a sudden you’re pretty good. We’re not.”
Jae Seo (1-2) lasted 1 1-3 innings, retiring only three of the 12 batters he faced. He was charged with six runs and seven hits. It could have been worse for Seo, but former Angels catcher Josh Paul threw out Matthews trying to steal second base after a leadoff single in the first.
“It was just a bad beginning,” Maddon said. “Jae wasn’t sharp today, and they just kept piling it on. When you get that kind of starting performance, it makes everything look bad.”
Seo threw 42 pitches in the opening inning, including a first-pitch fastball to Guerrero that cleared the fence in left-center after a walk to Cabrera.
“We got Vladdy back healthy after missing a couple of games in Boston, and he didn’t miss a beat,” Matthews said. “When you throw him back in the lineup, it sort of balances everything out and nobody’s got added pressure.”
The Angels played their second weekday matinee in three days. On Tuesday, they jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the first three innings against Detroit’s Jeremy Bonderman. … Maddon, who spent 31 years in the Angels organization and six of them as Mike Scioscia’s bench coach, is 2-9 against the Angels and 0-5 in Anaheim.