Homers help Washburn, Angels roll

Homers help Washburn, Angels roll

SEATTLE -- Steve Finley can pretty much pack it in each April as the month has traditionally given him fits.

The 40-year-old has hit just .241 in April throughout his career and posted a .225 mark in the season's first month last season. This year? A .149 average and a .227 on-base percentage fairly indicated there weren't a high number of red-letter days.

But with the calendar having flipped to May, the Angels center fielder took his cue and turned in his best game at the plate this season and helped propel Jarrod Washburn to his second straight win.

Finley went 2-for-3 with a double, a two-run homer and he also scored two runs. With Garret Anderson chipping on a two-run shot of his own, the Angels opened their three-game series with the Mariners by posting a 5-0 victory for their ninth win in their last 12 games with their division rival.

"I hit a lot of balls hard tonight. Hopefully this is a sign of good things to come," Finley said. "May is usually a good month for me, so we'll see."

Washburn turned in 7 2/3 scoreless innings and had an outside chance at the complete game, but manager Mike Scioscia went for the hook in the eighth after his starter gave up a ground-rule double on his 116th pitch.

"He was fatiguing," Scioscia said. "It would have taken a quick inning in the eighth for him to get a shutout."

The Mariners could not push a run across Monday, but Ichiro Suzuki stole the show with a web gem in the seventh that will live in perpetuity wherever highlight reels are shown.

With one on and one down, Anderson launched a drive that appeared certain to be his second home run of the night. Ichiro got an immediate read on the ball, turned and drifted back to the wall in right.

With a perfectly timed leap, Ichiro planted his right foot on the wall, hooked his right arm around the railing that juts out from the seating area and reached back across his body to make the catch. He then held Orlando Cabrera at second with his throw back to the infield.

"Every time we're here it seems he does something crazy," Washburn said. "He is one of the best players ever, in my opinion. I hate pitching against him, but I love to watch him play."

Finley, who has made a circus catch or two in his career, admired it from the on-deck circle.

"He made that look easy. I don't think anybody realizes how hard that was," Finley said. "That was a very difficult play and a very athletic play to make."

That Finley doesn't care for April is clear by the stat lines, but equally clear is Monday wasn't just a matter of a quality hitter being due. Finley has hit .286 over his career in May and hit 51 homers, second only to the 54 he's hit in September.

Encouraging for both Finley and the ballclub was the sign of more production in the middle of the lineup. Vladimir Guerrero and Anderson have been doing most of the damage, but with Finley's bat possibly awakening, the heart of the order looks poised to produce as advertised.

"Steve has been going along and has had good focus in his at-bats," Scioscia said. "Steve doesn't have a lot of hits, but the hits he has have been big hits. If you project his power numbers, they're pretty good. We need that consistency, especially behind Garret."

Also showing signs of pulling it together is Washburn, who opened the season with four straight no-decisions but has found the plus column in his last two starts. Against the Mariners on Monday, Washburn allowed just four hits and walked three while fanning five.

"I feel real good on the mound," Washburn said, who has allowed one run over his last 15 1/3 innings. "My confidence is real good right now. The key is being able to throw anything in any count and mix it up."

Washburn used his changeup Monday and was able to hit both sides of the plate with his slider. He also complemented his four-seam fastball with a two-seamer that helped to produce more ground ball outs.

"Right now all of my pitches are working," Washburn said. "My fastball has lost some velocity, but I've learned to pitch."

Mike Scarr is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.