Angels unload on Lima to even series

Angels unload on Lima to even series

ANAHEIM -- Kevin Gregg threw 49 pitches and put six Royals on base in the first two innings Saturday, including a wild pitch that tied the game, 1-1. And with Jose Lima scuffling but surviving, it looked like the Angels might be in for an ugly game.

But then things started to go the Angels' way. With the bases loaded and two outs in the second, Gregg fanned four-time All-Star Mike Sweeney. In the bottom of the inning, Maicer Izturis, making his first start as an Angel, tripled and scored to lead off the second. And, finally, in the bottom of the fourth, the Angels pounded out their biggest inning of the season, scoring five runs to chase Lima (0-1).

The good fortune didn't end there. Bengie Molina tagged an eighth-inning homer, Esteban Yan threw three hitless innings of relief and the Angels evened the series with a comfortable 8-3 win.

"I think this was the first game that we showed a glimpse of the offensive team we need to be," manager Mike Scioscia said. "Tonight, we ran the bases very well and our situational hitting was good."

It was particularly so in the fourth inning, when Molina's slide into second base, as the speedy Izturis burned down the first-base line, forced an error by Royals second baseman Ruben Gotay, who never touched the bag. Chone Figgins and Darin Erstad knocked RBI singles, after which Erstad stole second base, allowing both men to score on Vladimir Guerrero's two-out single up the middle.

Just for good measure, Scioscia called the hit-and-run with Garret Anderson at the plate, and it worked perfectly, allowing Guerrero to score from first when Anderson lofted the ball into the right-center field gap.

It was small ball at its finest, as the Angels turned a collection of well-placed but softly hit balls into a quintet of runs. It was also more than enough support for Gregg (1-0), who started in place of the injured Kelvim Escobar.

Gregg needed only 33 pitches over his final three innings. His only mistake was a pitch up in the zone to Matt Stairs, who crushed a two-run homer over the scoreboard in right. He said the turnaround all started with Sweeney's bases-loaded at-bat.

"It was a pivotal situation -- the bases loaded with their best hitter at the plate," Gregg said. "It's not exactly a situation you want to be in, but I battled through it and got the punchout."

After that, with a little coaching from Molina, Gregg settled down.

"He just got me focused on throwing strikes," Gregg said. "I needed to attack their hitters and put them on the defensive side."

Gregg departed after five innings with a 7-3 lead, which Yan made seem insurmountable, not allowing a Royal to reach second base.

Molina hit his second homer of the season in the eighth to complete the scoring, launching Shawn Camp's first pitch just over the wall in dead center. Bret Prinz closed out the game without incident.

The Royals ended up with just three hits, losing for the eighth time in their last nine games against the Angels.

As for the Angels, Saturday's win was a step in the right direction for an offense that began the game last in the American League in runs scored and on-base percentage.

"I know, offensively, we'll set the table more and pressure defenses more as we get into our game," Scioscia said.

Mark Thoma is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.