Saunders' effort, Blackburn's wild pitch give Angels winApr 3, 2008 - 5:07 AM By Anthony Maggio PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer
MINNEAPOLIS (Ticker) -- Joe Saunders has been inching his way toward a regular spot in the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim's rotation the last two seasons. On Wednesday, he may have made his most convincing case yet.
Saunders threw eight scoreless innings to lead the Angels past the Minnesota Twins, 1-0.
"It's one thing to come up to the big leagues, and it's another thing to make footprints here," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Joe's been slowly making some footprints and he's a guy that we have a lot of confidence in.
"You have to keep persevering until you plow your way through and make your footprints. Joe's doing that. He's been using experience, making a lot of good adjustments out there. Hopefully, he'll stay as consistent as he was tonight."
Minnesota starter Nick Blackburn (0-1) was nearly as dominant, but his wild pitch in the seventh inning allowed Howie Kendrick to score and lead the Angels to their second consecutive victory.
"There was a little bit of nerves, not too much, but I was able to keep within myself early, so I think that was a big part of it," Blackburn said. "I felt great out there. I felt better than I had in a long time."
Saunders made 18 starts for Anaheim last season, beginning the campaign by winning his first six decisions. However, he lost five of his last six outings and saw his ERA rise from 3.82 to 4.44 in that span.
The lefthander showed no signs of struggling in this one. Saunders (1-0) retired the first eight batters he faced and allowed just four hits with four strikeouts and one walk.
With John Lackey and Kelvim Escobar on the disabled list, Anaheim could not afford a poor start from Saunders.
"It's nice to really get off to a great start, nice to get some early wins for the team," Saunders said. "With our two horses down for a little bit, I stepped up tonight, and that's my job. That's what I like to do."
Blackburn (0-1), making the first major league start, was Saunders' equal through nearly all of his seven innings. But one mistake cost him dearly.
Kendrick reached on an infield single to lead off the seventh and advanced to third on a sacrifice and a groundout. He then scored when Blackburn his 1-0 curveball bounced in the dirt and past catcher Mike Redmond, rolling all the way to the backstop.
"When he threw it, I saw it hit (the ground)," Kendrick said. "Then once it kicked up, I knew I had a chance to score. I just tried to bust it towards home, and it worked out in our favor."
Minnesota threatened in the eighth as Craig Monroe led off with a walk, but Saunders promptly induced his third double-play grounder of the evening to quelch any momentum.
"Frustrating," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He threw some sinkerballs and kept getting us to roll over it."
Francisco Rodriguez pitched around a leadoff walk in the ninth for his first save of the season.
Gary Matthews Jr. and former Twin Torii Hunter both had two hits for the Angels.
Justin Morneau went 0-for-3 for Minnesota. The former American League MVP is hitless in 10 at-bats this season.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
- - - - - - - - - - - -
LA ANGELS 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 7 2
MINNESOTA 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 4 0 (FINAL)
BATTERIES: LAA - JOE SAUNDERS, FRANCISCO RODRIGUEZ (9TH) AND JEFF MATHIS
MIN - NICK BLACKBURN, MATT GUERRIER (8TH), DENNYS REYES
(8TH), PAT NESHEK (9TH) AND MIKE REDMOND
Apr 2 10:20 PM
AT MINNESOTA - SCORING UPDATE
WILD PITCH BY NICK BLACKBURN ALLOWED HOWIE KENDRICK TO
SITUATION: 1 RUN IN, NONE ON, 2 OUT
CURRENT SCORE: LA ANGELS 1
MINNESOTA 0 TOP, 7TH
DUE UP FOR LA ANGELS: C FIGGINS (.364, 1-FOR-2, BB)
Angels 1, Twins 0 Top 7, 0 OutsApr 2 9:38 PM
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