Erick Aybar hit a tiebreaking two-run homer in the eighth inning, Vladimir Guerrero connected twice to back another strong performance by Saunders, and the Los Angeles Angels beat the Phillies 6-2 on Saturday night.
Saunders (11-3) allowed two runs and five hits in seven innings. He had 15 career victories entering this season, but is now tied with Arizona’s Brandon Webb for most wins in the majors.
The left-hander was originally drafted out of high school by the Phillies in the fifth round of the 1999 amateur draft. He didn’t sign a contract, went to Virginia Tech and was selected in the first round (12th overall) by the Angels in 2002.
“It wasn’t a great experience, but it’s water under the bridge,” Saunders said of the negotiation process with the Phillies. “It was nice to show them what they missed out on. But there’s no hard feelings.”
Saunders hadn’t allowed a runner past first base until running into trouble with two outs in the seventh. The Angels quickly answered off Brett Myers.
Chone Figgins singled with two outs and Aybar followed with a drive to right field for his third career homer in 393 at-bats. Aybar entered the game in the third inning because shortstop Maicer Izturis left with tightness in his right hamstring.
“Swing hard and see what happens,” Aybar said of his approach to the at-bat.
The Angels have won the first two games in this interleague matchup of division leaders. Since sweeping a three-game series in Atlanta earlier this month, the Phillies are 3-8, including their first four-game losing streak of the season.
“We’ve got to play much better,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. “Right now, we’re not hitting enough.”
Francisco Rodriguez entered with two on in the ninth and got the last three outs for his 29th save in 31 chances.
Jayson Werth broke Saunders’ bid for his first career shutout with a solo shot to center in the seventh. Angels center fielder Gary Matthews Jr. drifted back for the ball and appeared to have it lined up a few feet in front of the warning track. He suddenly turned around and watched it clear the wall and bounce back onto the field.
Chris Coste followed with a walk and scored on Pedro Feliz’s double to left-center to tie it at 2. Eric Bruntlett then singled to center, but he was thrown out going to second after Feliz was held up at third.
“That was a key play,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.
Guerrero gave the Angels a 1-0 lead in the fourth. He drove another one to left-center about one section away from his first shot to make it 2-0 in the seventh.
Guerrero tormented the Phillies when he played for the Montreal Expos, and he’s doing it again now in his fifth season with the Angels. He has 31 homers and 84 RBIs against Philadelphia, most against any team in both categories.
“He can hit them out of any park,” Scioscia said.
Guerrero has a 12-game hitting streak during which he’s batting .458 (22-for-48) with six homers and 12 RBIs.
Myers, awful as a starter this season after a successful stint as a closer last year, had one of his better outings. He allowed four runs and six hits in 7 2-3 innings, but was hurt by the longball as usual. He’s given up a major league-leading 23 homers.
“I felt like I threw the ball well, but the result wasn’t what I wanted,” Myers said.
The slumping Chase Utley got a rare night off for the Phillies. He’s second in the majors with 22 homers, but is hitless in his last 23 at-bats and is hitting .158 in his past 15 games.
Guerrero has 35 career multihomer games, including two this season. … Utley had started 101 consecutive games. … The Phillies are 2-6 in interleague play. … Chuck Finley was the last Angels pitchers to get four strikeouts in one inning. He did it against Detroit on Aug. 15, 1999.