Halos follow Guerrero to victory

Halos follow Guerrero to victory

BALTIMORE -- The euphoria over the return of Vladimir Guerrero to the Los Angeles Angels lineup was short-lived -- exactly four batters, the time it took the Angels to lose another key offensive player just after Guerrero slugged a two-run homer in his second at-bat after missing four games.

On what appeared to be a harmless play he's successfully maneuvered hundreds of times, center fielder Gary Matthews caught a spike in the infield dirt on a slide into second base and rolled his right ankle. Instead of celebrating the pair of two-run home runs Guerrero hit in a 10-5 victory over the reeling Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday night, the Angels were left to consider an immediate future without Matthews.

"My spike caught in the dirt and I rolled [the ankle] underneath me," said Matthews, who was hobbling through the clubhouse on crutches and in a walking brace after being diagnosed with a second-degree sprain. "I thought I broke it. ... You can't play with a hurt ankle -- that's something you can't do in the outfield. We'll see."

The severity of the injury won't be known until the swelling goes down, and while X-rays taken at Camden Yards after Matthews left the game showed no break, manager Mike Scioscia was left with the unenviable task of contemplating playing all or part of the final three weeks of the regular season without his center fielder. Scioscia is planning on not having Matthews for the remainder of a six-game road trip that began Tuesday at Camden Yards and continues this weekend in Chicago.

"It's baseball," said Scioscia, whose team broke a two-game losing streak. "Guys are going to get nicked up. Obviously, we're getting down to crunch time, and it's not an opportune time, but you deal with what you're dealt, and we have depth on this club."

Guerrero's return, and his 33rd career multiple-homer game, helped cushion the blow. So did a 3-for-4 night from Chone Figgins, who drove in three runs, stole two bases and is now hitting .594 (19-for-32) against Baltimore this season.

"When Vlad went down, other guys stepped in," said lefty Joe Saunders, who picked up his career-high eighth victory despite allowing four runs on 10 hits in five-plus innings. "Now with Gary down, other guys will have to step up. We haven't had a healthy team all season."

Guerrero can carry an offense when healthy, and he appeared rejuvenated after missing four games with an inflamed right triceps. Scioscia said the plan was to use Guerrero as the designated hitter for a few games until his arm has healed enough to handle throws from the outfield. Guerrero didn't seem to have any problems swinging the bat, though a fat pitch from a journeyman right-hander helped his cause early on and led to the Orioles' 17th loss in 20 games.

His two-run blast off right-hander Victor Santos, who was making his Orioles debut and starting for the first time since last Sept. 6 for Pittsburgh, put the finishing touches on a five-run third inning. The outburst erased a 1-0 Orioles lead, and Guerrero's 23rd homer came on the final offering of a disastrous three-pitch sequence from Santos (0-1).


"I've seen Vlad hit a lot of home runs, and they all seem long."
-- Reggie Willits

After Reggie Willits tied the game with an RBI single to right, Figgins worked Santos for an 11-pitch at-bat, finally doubling home a run when Santos left a pitch belt-high over the outer half of the plate. Orlando Cabrera mashed Santos next pitch -- in an identical spot -- deep to right for a sacrifice fly. Santos' first pitch to Guerrero, again up and over the plate, wound up 404 feet away over the center-field wall for a 5-1 lead.

"Everybody's really confident with our offense," Saunders said. "When you go out there, even if you struggle and battle, you know you have a chance to win."

Baltimore's Kevin Millar socked a two-run homer off Saunders in the bottom of the fourth, making it 6-3, and Saunders departed after giving up singles to Millar and Huff to start the sixth. Chris Bootcheck relieved and struck out Ramon Hernandez looking before getting Jay Payton to ground into a 6-4-3 double play. The Angels bullpen allowed a run on three hits over the final four innings.

Two batters into the seventh, Guerrero struck again, this time crushing an 0-1 Fernando Cabrera pitch 421 feet into the left-center stands for his team-high 24th homer.

"I've seen Vlad hit a lot of home runs, and they all seem long," said Willits, who had three hits. "It's amazing. I can't describe it. No way. I couldn't do that. He's pretty amazing."

Scioscia pointed out that Guerrero just missed another homer in his first at-bat, when he flew out to center off Santos to end the first.

"I think he found a little second wind. ... At this time [of the season], a day or two [off] isn't going to hurt a player. I think Vlad getting five, obviously, is what he needed. Not so much to recharge, but for his elbow to get to where it was something he could deal with," Scioscia said.

Speaking of how the Angels weathered four games without Guerrero, Scioscia outlined the club's plan for dealing with Matthews' absence -- however long it is.

"Losing Vlad out of your lineup for that amount of time, you have to be deep enough to absorb it, and we've absorbed it at times," Scioscia said.

Pete Kerzel is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.