Bell solid in debut, but bats steal show

Bell solid in debut, but bats steal show

ANAHEIM -- Angels righty Trevor Bell was admittedly nervous taking the mound for his first Major League start on Wednesday.

But once his first pitch to Rays leadoff hitter Jason Bartlett went over for a strike, he was able to relax and just pitch.

Bell ended up tossing 5 1/3 solid innings, and the Angels' offense did the rest in a 10-5 win to complete a three-game sweep at Angel Stadium.

"It was amazing," the North Hollywood, Calif., native said. "It was everything I wished it would be and more. And to do it in the place near where I grew up was special."

The 22-year-old was the model of efficiency, as he threw 20 first-pitch strikes to the 25 batters he faced and needed just 75 pitches to record 16 outs in the no-decision.

It was a performance that impressed Angels manager Mike Scioscia, who had high praise for the rookie after the game.

"Trevor Bell really looked sharp and gave us a chance to win," Scioscia said. "I really liked his moxie out there. He wasn't afraid to pitch in, and he changed speeds well."

But even though Bell was effective in his first start, he still exited in the sixth inning with the Angels down two runs after allowing two homers to Carlos Pena that plated three runs.

"I had a feeling that the team would win today," Bell said. "For some reason, there were hits falling in, and so I knew we'd get the 'W,' so I felt fine."

Bell's premonition proved to be correct as Gary Matthews Jr. connected for a three-run home run off Rays reliever Grant Balfour with two outs in the sixth that shifted the momentum to the Angels, giving them a one-run lead that would only grow larger.

"It was a big one," Matthews said. "I hadn't faced Balfour that much. The pitch I hit was a breaking ball, middle in. He might've missed his location a little bit, but I put a good swing on it, and it definitely got the momentum in our favor."

The home run was a back-breaker for the Rays. It was only Matthews' third of the season, and Balfour had yielded just two all year.

"The play of the game was Matthews' home run," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "We had two outs and Balfour in that situation, I love it.

"That's probably the last thing you expect to happen, and he crushed it. He absolutely crushed it. That was the turning point of that game. If we could have maintained that lead, we could have used everybody differently."

The Rays, though, had a chance to tie it the seventh after Bartlett opened the frame with a double against Jason Bulger, but Darren Oliver came in and retired the side to end the threat.

"We were able to get the ball to Darren Oliver, who did a great job of getting some outs," Matthews said. "He kept the game in our favor."

It proved to be important, as the Angels kept the momentum going in the seventh inning with five runs, including a three-run home run by Howard Kendrick to put the game out of reach for the Rays.

Kendry Morales also had a huge at-bat in the inning, as he fouled off nine pitches with the bases loaded before finally putting the 12th pitch from reliever Randy Choate in play to shortstop Bartlett, who threw the ball away at third base to allow two runs to score.

"That was something," Scioscia said of Morales' at-bat. "[Choate] was burying that sinker and Kendry fouled them off until he almost got one through the six-hole, but he put it in play, which was important. It was a good at-bat."

Just two batters later, Kendrick connected for a three-run home run on a 1-1 changeup from Dan Wheeler that gave the Angels a 10-4 lead.

"I was just trying to get a pitch to hit," Kendrick said. "He made a mistake there and left it up. I didn't try to do too much, but it ended up being a home run."

The home run marked the 24th run of the series for the Angels, who improved to a season-high 24 games above .500. Leadoff hitter and catalyst Chone Figgins said that patience was the key to their offensive success this season and in their three-game series.

"From one to nine, everyone has been patient," Figgins said. "We've been in deeper in counts, but when we've got pitches to hit, we've hit them. And we've been fortunate to have a lot of runners on base, which is fortunate because we run the bases so well."

The Angels improved to 13-1 at home against the Rays since 2006 while also completing their 11th sweep of the season.

The Angels now travel to Baltimore to face the Orioles in a four-game series that begins on Friday.

"We did a good job this series, and it's carried over from the last 50 to 60 games or so," Scioscia said. "And it needs to continue. So it was a good series, but we need to take it on the road this weekend."

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