ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP)—Joe Saunders is having one of those seasons where everything is going right, even when he is getting shelled.
The Los Angeles Angels’ left-hander remained unbeaten despite giving up a career-high 12 hits over five innings against the Baltimore Orioles. Gary Matthews Jr. and Torii Hunter homered in the first inning to overcome a two-run deficit, and catcher Jeff Mathis erased Brian Roberts on the basepaths twice to help preserve a 6-5 victory on Sunday.
Saunders (6-0) threw 85 pitches in the shortest of his seven starts, allowing four runs. In his previous outing last Tuesday, he gave up four hits over eight innings in a 2-0 win against Oakland.
“Physically, I feel fine. The stuff was just lacking today,” Saunders said. “I didn’t really have much. I didn’t have my normal fastball. My changeup command was OK at times, but my curve ball was sporadic. When I got ahead of guys it was a struggle for me to make my pitch and put them away. It was just a battle out there from the get-go.”
Nonetheless, Saunders became the third pitcher in Angels history to start a season 6-0 or better—joining teammate Jered Weaver (9-0 in 2006) and Aaron Sele (7-0 in 2004). Ervin Santana gets a chance to join that list on Monday night at Kansas City.
Kevin Millar’s second RBI single reduced the Angels’ lead to 6-4 in the fifth, and Nick Markakis greeted reliever Justin Speier with a leadoff homer in the seventh on the right-hander’s first pitch of the game.
Scot Shields pitched a perfect eighth and Francisco Rodriguez got three outs for his major league-leading 13th save. He got help from Mathis, who picked Roberts off first base for the second out in the inning.
“There are certain times when you look down there because it’s a better spot for a guy to be getting a bigger lead,” Mathis said. “Sometimes, a guy may not get off very far, but I’ll throw down there just to let him know that I’m watching him. And that helps me with my accuracy when I need to make a good throw down there.”
Saunders gave up two runs and five hits in the first inning, but the Orioles helped him out by running themselves into a pair of outs during the rally. Roberts led off with a double, tried to steal third one out later and was thrown out for only the third time in 37 attempted steals of third since the start of the 2006 season.
The next three Baltimore batters singled, with Millar and Ramon Hernandez each driving home a run. But Hernandez coasted into second base after his drive struck the left field fence on the fly, and Garret Anderson threw him out to end the inning.
The Angels came back with four in the bottom half against Steve Trachsel (1-4), who lost his fourth straight decision.
Matthews, batting leadoff for the first time this season with Chone Figgins nursing a sore right hamstring, drove a 3-2 pitch directly over the 400-foot marker in center field for his fifth home run.
Hunter made it 4-2, driving a 1-1 cutter into the second tier of the left field bullpen after a single by Vladimir Guerrero and an opposite-field double by Casey Kotchman that landed just inside the left field line. It was Hunter’s fifth homer this season and first since April 7.
“Sometimes when you’re hitting around .300, you want to maintain it, so you cut your swing down,” Hunter said. “I haven’t been swinging as hard as I used to and I’m trying to have better at-bats.”
Melvin Mora led off the third with his fourth homer, but Robb Quinlan responded in the bottom half with a two-run shot that gave the Angels a 6-3 lead. The homer was his first since June 10, 2007 at St. Louis, and his first at Angel Stadium since last May 6.
Trachsel allowed six runs and seven hits in three-plus innings, the second straight start in which the right-hander failed to make it through the fourth. He has surrendered 20 earned runs in 21 innings over his last five starts after beating Seattle in his season debut.
“I’m just kind of really frustrated,” said Trachsel, who pitched a one-hitter against the Angels at Anaheim on June 15, 2003 while with the New York Mets. “I felt great and I warmed up well. I think I had some pretty decent stuff today. The guys gave me a quick two-run lead—which going against that starter is pretty nice. But I just squandered it. I just haven’t been getting the job done lately, and I’m not real happy about that.”
This was the second time Matthews and Hunter have homered in the same game as teammates. Hunter displaced Matthews as the Angels’ regular center fielder when he signed a five-year, $90 million contract on Nov. 21. This was the seventh game in which Matthews was the DH. … Matthews started 34 times in the leadoff spot last season, batting .281 in those games with three homers, 11 RBIs and 24 runs scored. … Guerrero’s hit ended an 0-for-15 drought—the first time he had gone hitless in five consecutive games in his career.