ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP)—Vladimir Guerrero(notes) hit his first 50 home runs in the major leagues for the Montreal Expos when Jim Tracy was their bench coach. Now, the manager of the Colorado Rockies, Tracy remains in awe of him.
Guerrero playing his second game since getting rid of his trademark dreadlocks, drove in the first of the Angels’ three runs in the first with a double that ended an 0-for-14 rut. He made it 6-0 in the second with a first-pitch homer with two outs after Abreu’s RBI double.
“Those first couple of at-bats we saw from him tonight were very Vladimir Guerrero-like,” Tracy said. “It looked like he hit a pretty good pitch, but we’ve seen Vladimir do that before—hit a pretty good pitcher’s pitch and hit it hard. I don’t know of another hitter I’ve seen who can cover the outer part of the plate and beyond as well as this guy does.”
Guerrero’s 394th career homer and second of the season ended a drought of 109 at-bats since his previous one on April 12 against Boston’s Hideki Okajima. The longest drought of his career was 30 games in 2007. He made a slight adjustment, lowering his hands after watching some videotape of himself before the game.
“Vladdy got the home run he’s been looking for, and I think cutting his hair has had something to do with it,” Angels center fielder Torii Hunter said with a grin. “Vladdy’s on his way. We see the progress he’s making since he’s been back. Every day his bat speed has gotten better.”
Guerrero, who was the Angels’ DH, has not played right field all season because of a torn muscle in his chest, which has sidelined him for 35 games and still prevents him from throwing from that distance.
“I don’t really see this game tonight as anything more than another game,” Guerrero said through a translator. “I’m not thinking about what could happen from here on, but I’m happy that things came out well because I’ve been working hard at it.”
The Angels, trying to win three straight division titles for the first time in the franchise’s 49-year history, remained tied with Texas for the AL West lead after falling a season-worst 5 1/2 games off the pace on May 13.
Joe Saunders (8-4) allowed a run and four hits in six-plus innings, including a solo homer to Garrett Atkins leading off the seventh. He struck out six and walked one and improved to 5-1 with a 2.70 ERA in eight interleague starts.
“We made it very easy for Joe to pitch tonight,” Tracy said. “He was given plenty of breathing room, and he went out there and threw strikes and really didn’t give us much of a chance to get any kind of inning started to get back in the game.”
Chone Figgins was 3 for 4 and scored three runs, helping hand the Rockies their second straight loss after a stretch where they won 17 of 18.
Jason Marquis (9-5) threw 88 pitches over 3 1-3 innings in the second-shortest of his 15 starts this season. The right-hander, trying to tie Kevin Slowey and the injured Roy Halladay for the major league lead in wins, retired nine of the 21 batters he faced and allowed eight runs and seven hits.
“I couldn’t command my pitches, couldn’t make the adjustment. I put my team behind the 8-ball,” Marquis said.
One of the runs was unearned, the result of a fielding error by three-time Gold Glove first baseman Todd Helton in the fourth. Helton misplayed a leadoff grounder by Eric Aybar before Hunter drove him in with an infield single that made it 7-0 and chased Marquis. Josh Fogg came in to face Guerrero and threw a wild pitch that enabled Figgins to score.
NOTES: Six of the Angels’ next 13 games are against Texas, including a three-game series that begins Monday night at Arlington. … The Rockies have lost 14 of their last 18 meetings with the Angels, who are a major league-best 11-4 this season in interleague play and 125-102 since the format was introduced on 1997. … The Rockies have homered in a season-high eight straight games.