Matsui lifts Halos with 1,500th career RBI

Matsui lifts Halos with 1,500th career RBI

SEATTLE -- The soft, curling single to opposite field wasn't exactly a slump-buster, but Hideki Matsui's 1,500th RBI in professional baseball served a higher purpose than fixing his recent woes at the plate.

In the 10th inning, Matsui delivered the eventual winning run to give the Angels a 4-3 victory against the Mariners in front of 30,446 at Safeco Field on Saturday. The hit came at the tail end of a 5-for-46 skid and set up a shot at a series sweep on Sunday.

"I'm just happy," said Matsui, who finished 2-for-5 for his first multihit game since April 24. "I'm certainly not at my best right now, but to be able to come through in a very important situation in the game is definitely satisfying.

"It's nice to achieve a milestone like [1,500 RBIs]. Hopefully I can keep building on that and keep extending it."

Matsui's hit bailed out the Angels after a few defensive miscues and command problems from the mound gave the Mariners a chance to snap their losing streak, which now stands at eight games.

Seattle starter Doug Fister, who came into the game leading the American League in ERA at 1.29, cruised through the Angels' order in the first two innings before a single and double troubled him in the third. He got out of that with a flyout, but first baseman Kendry Morales made him pay in the fourth with a no-doubt solo home run to right field -- the first big fly hit off Fister this season.

The Angels added two more in the fifth on two singles, a walk and a two-run single by Torii Hunter, who slapped a liner to right after fouling off four pitches. Third baseman Kevin Frandsen, who was called up from Triple-A on Saturday, started that two-out rally with the second of his three singles, but his one mistake in the field opened the door for the Mariners and was the beginning of the end for starter Joe Saunders.

His throwing error kicked off a two-run fifth for the Mariners, who got back into the game on a two-run triple by Ichiro Suzuki that Juan Rivera misplayed in left field. Seattle tied the score at 3 in the sixth on an RBI double by Mike Sweeney.

Saunders allowed three runs (one earned) on five hits in 5 2/3 innings. His control was an issue, as he walked five batters and threw just 54 of his 106 pitches for strikes.

"I think Joe definitely took a step forward," manager Mike Scioscia said. "He had the ball down, and when he missed, he missed down. Some things got away from him. Five walks are obviously something we'd like to clean up. He got his pitch count up and couldn't really finish the sixth, but all in all, much better start. It's a step forward for sure."

Saunders was more succinct: "We win, I win, so that's what I like to see.

"It obviously wasn't one of my best starts, but it was a battle start out there. When you can battle your butt off, give your team a chance to win, keep them in the ballgame and the team can still pull it out, that's a victory in my book."

Both teams had chances to put the game away in the ninth. The Angels got a runner to third with one out, but they were undone by consecutive groundouts, and after reliever Fernando Rodney walked the bases loaded in the bottom of the frame, the Mariners squandered the chance when Sweeney grounded out.

Where Saunders and the Angels (nine walks allowed) struggled with control, Fister did not. His lone free pass of the game, to Bobby Abreu in the fifth, snapped a streak of 17 2/3 innings without one, and he notched his fifth straight quality start of the year.

"I'll tell you what, I thought Fister went out and pitched his tail off again," Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said. "This guy's been outstanding. I thought he battled through some jams but still gave us seven innings and a quality start. He just gets better and better."

Scioscia hopes a day of rest, coupled with his clutch hit, will put an end to Matsui's struggles in the batter's box. He'll have the day off on Sunday, but Scioscia isn't worried about his slugger's confidence, given his track record.

"When you look at the numbers Hideki has put up in both leagues, they're eye-popping because they really show the talent he is," Scioscia said. "If you just look at the time he's been over here playing in the United States, his numbers are up there with anybody's. He's a clutch hitter, and it doesn't surprise me to see a guy as talented he is to have the great numbers he has. He's having an incredible career."

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