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Saunders foiled in bid for ninth win

Saunders foiled in bid for ninth win

ANAHEIM -- Joe Saunders said the night before Wednesday's game that he wanted to make it the sixth straight time that an Angels starter lasted until at least the eighth inning. Detroit's Marcus Thames had other ideas.

Thames homered twice against Saunders and drove in four runs to keep the Tigers from being swept against the Angels in a 6-2 Detroit win in front of 42,191 fans at Angel Stadium. Both of Thames' homers came on changeups with a runner on base.

"I threw those two pitches to the best of my abilities," said Saunders, who fell to 8-2 on the season. "You just have to execute your pitches and I did, but he executed the home runs."

Thames wasn't the only star for Detroit, as starter Armando Galarraga pitched masterfully, giving up just four hits and two runs in 8 1/3 innings while striking out four. Galarraga didn't allow a runner to reach second base until Maicer Izturis' two-run homer in the ninth inning.

"He pitched a good game and let his defense help him," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said, "You tip your cap to Galarraga with the way he pitched with his good sinker getting double plays and ground balls."

Galarraga's success added to the woes of the Angels' offense, which has been held to three runs or fewer in 12 of the last 15 games. The Angels had just two hits in the first seven innings before Casey Kotchman's single to lead off the eighth.

"We did a little better than it shows up in the box score, but we're still not getting enough guys on earlier to pressure clubs like we need to," Scioscia said.

Instead, it was the Tigers that put the pressure on the Angels early.

The Tigers jumped on Saunders, scoring three runs in the first inning with two coming on Thames' two-run blast. The Tigers had five hits in the inning, including Edgar Renteria's RBI single, scoring Magglio Ordonez from second with two outs.

"The first inning I made good pitches, but they put good swings on it," Saunders said. "I didn't make bad pitches; I just didn't make the right ones."

One of the pitches Saunders wanted back was his changeup to Thames with a 2-2 count.

"The first one was a good changeup, and I threw it for a strike," Saunders said. "He just got the head on it."

Saunders settled down after the rocky first inning and didn't allow another hit until the fifth, when Placido Polanco hit a ground-rule double to left field with one out. On the very next pitch, Thames hit another changeup over the center-field fence.

"The second homer made me mad because I knew it wasn't the right pitch," Saunders said. "I would have liked to throw something hard and in because all night he was looking out over the plate getting his arms extended."

Saunders, who entered the game second in the American League in ERA, made it through the end of the inning but was relieved by Justin Speier after throwing 93 pitches. Saunders allowed five earned runs on seven hits in five innings, raising his ERA to 2.76.

Meanwhile, the offense never could get anything going until the ninth inning. Galarraga retired Sean Rodriguez to start the inning before walking Reggie Willits and allowing a two-run homer to Izturis, his first of the season.

But the homer was too little, too late, which has been the problem the last 15 games. The Angels haven't scored more than four runs since May 18, and the frustration is starting to mount.

"These guys know they are better offensive players so there's frustration there," Scioscia said. "As long as there is confidence there, it's gonna play itself out. A couple hits here and there. These guys will do fine."

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

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