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AMERICAN LEAGUE


AMERICAN LEAGUE
The Angels could finally breathe a sigh of relief Thursday night when Roy Corcoran, one of Seattle's primary setup men, replaced starter Chris Jakubauskas in the sixth inning with the Mariners ahead by a run.

That was just the impetus the Angels needed to reel off four straight singles during a five-run rally that propelled them to a 5-1 victory in Safeco Field, ending Seattle's six-game win streak.

Jakubauskas is a 29-year-old right-hander who was making his first big league start, and if you know your recent Angels history, you know how they struggle against pitchers they haven't seen before.

Five starters made their big league debuts against the Angels in 2008 -- Baltimore's Chris Waters, Texas' Matt Harrison, Atlanta's Charlie Morton, Boston's Justin Masterson and the New York Yankees' Alfredo Aceves.

The group combined to go 4-0 with a 1.85 earned-run average in those games.

Jakubauskas, who played at La Verne Damien High and Citrus College, seemed poised to be the latest unknown to beat the Angels when he blanked a Vladimir Guerrero-less lineup on three hits through five innings and took a 1-0 lead into the sixth.

But singles by Chone Figgins and Bobby Abreu put runners on first and third with one out, and Seattle Manager Don Wakamatsu went to his bullpen for Corcoran.

Figgins was thrown out at home on Torii Hunter's fielder's-choice grounder, but Kendry Morales walked to load the bases, and Mike Napoli stroked an 0-and-2 pitch into center field for a two-run single.

Gary Matthews Jr., Juan Rivera and Maicer Izturis followed with RBI singles, the final hit coming off Mark Lowe, and the Angels took a 5-1 lead.

That was more than enough offense for Angels left-hander Joe Saunders, who gave up one run and three hits in seven innings to improve to 2-1 on a day that Nick Adenhart, the 22-year-old Angels pitcher who was killed in a traffic accident on April 9, was buried in Maryland.

"It was a tough night for me and the organization because we laid to rest Nick, and I couldn't be there," said Saunders, a former Virginia Tech standout. "But my mom was able to go to the service, and that was special for me and my family.

"It was also the second anniversary of the shootings [that claimed 33 lives] at Virginia Tech. So I dedicate this to Nick and to Hokie Nation."

Saunders, who improved to 5-1 with a 4.13 ERA against Seattle and 9-1 with a 2.08 ERA in April, gave up a run in the fourth but ended the inning by striking out Wladimir Balentien with the bases loaded on a full-count changeup.

"The tone was set with Joe on the mound," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "He got out of a few jams, and once he settled in, he threw strikes, got ahead of hitters and got a lot of ground balls. It gave us a chance to get into the flow of the game."

The hits with runners in scoring position finally started flowing in the sixth, when the Angels scored all of their runs with two outs. The Angels entered with a .200 average with runners in scoring position but went four for nine in those situations Thursday, none bigger than Napoli's in the sixth.

"He choked up, shortened his swing and hit it hard up the middle," Scioscia said. "That one at-bat not only stuck out in this game, but hopefully it will be a catalyst for some guys who have been struggling with runners in scoring position."

--

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: April 17, 2009

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