Halos help Santana remain unbeaten
Guerrero homers in four-run fourth to back righty's fourth win
DETROIT -- Torii Hunter showed again on Friday night why he's a seven-time Rawlings Gold Glove Award winner, but it was nothing new. He's been there, done that.
On this occasion, the magician in center field was more impressed with the art of teammate Ervin Santana in the course of the Angels' 4-3 victory over the Tigers at Comerica Park.
"When you paint 95, 96, 97 [mph] sometimes on the outside corner and get a nasty slider working, I don't care how good a hitter you are -- you're not hitting a painted slider," Hunter said. "Picasso. Not a chance."
After the Angels erupted for four fourth-inning runs -- Vladimir Guerrero launching a two-run homer and Casey Kotchman lashing a two-out, two-run single -- the pitching staff held on for dear life.
Santana painted corners for 6 1/3 innings, leaving the remaining brush strokes against the heavy-handed Tigers to Darren Oliver, Justin Speier and Francisco Rodriguez.
When they came through -- in part because Hunter ran down Gary Sheffield's bases-loaded missile approaching the fence in left-center to close the seventh -- the Angels had taken three in a row on the road from two of the most imposing outfits in the game, those of Boston and Detroit.
"I mean, it's tough," K-Rod said after setting the Tigers down in order in the ninth to avoid Sheffield, waving his menacing weapon in the on-deck circle. "They've got a tremendous lineup, both of them."
Santana moved to 4-0, with K-Rod notching his 10th save after Oliver got one big out and Speier four -- including a bullet off the bat of Ivan Rodriguez flagged at first by Kotchman to leave two stranded in the eighth.
"As long as you make your pitches, you're going to be fine," Rodriguez said. "You have to attack them, not fall behind much. You don't want to get people on base."
In front of 40,380, the Angels batted around in the fourth inning to produce all their offense against losing pitcher Nate Robertson (0-3). In his six other innings, the lefty faced the minimum of 18 hitters, allowing one single quickly followed by a double play.
Guerrero's 368th career homer and a single in the eighth left him two hits shy of 2,000 in his career. The homer to left came after Chone Figgins started the uprising with a booming double to dead-center.
Hunter's double, Erick Aybar's infield single and Jeff Mathis' walk loaded the bases with two outs. Kotchman delivered a two-run single through the middle.
After retiring the first nine men he faced, striking out three, Santana served up a leadoff homer to Curtis Granderson on a 3-1 fastball in the bottom of the eventful fourth. Placido Polanco followed with a double to right-center, scoring on Magglio Ordonez's groundout.
The Tigers made it a one-run game in the sixth on two walks, a Polanco single and a fielder's choice grounder by Miguel Cabrera.
Having thrown 111 pitches, 71 for strikes, Santana (6 1/3 innings, six hits, three earned runs) departed with two on and one out in the seventh.
Manager Mike Scioscia alluded to a problem Santana was having with the nail on his right middle finger, but the pitcher underplayed it while admitting it caused him some problems unleashing the slider.
"I've had it before," Santana said of the nagging nail, "but I don't think about it. That's part of my job."
Granderson, like the other center fielder, was impressed with Santana even though he took him deep.
"He just keeps pumping fastballs," Granderson said. "And the fact that you can do it that well and get guys out is amazing. It's like having a closer in there for six, seven innings. It's hard for me to go back and think of that many guys who can throw that hard at any time.
"It's not one of those things where you say his stamina's very good. He's just very gifted."
After Santana departed, Oliver retired Granderson on a fly ball to Hunter. Speier was summoned to face Polanco, who upset the strategy with a walk.
Bases loaded, and here came Sheffield, due to erupt with his sub-.200 average. He lifted a drive to deep left-center. Hunter raced over and flagged it down a few feet from the fence.
"Soon as the ball left the bat, we all turned our heads down [in the bullpen] -- we thought that was a homer," K-Rod said. "But Torii got a great jump and caught that ball."
Hunter, judging by the sound and the arc, also figured it had a chance to carry over the wall.
"The wind held it up, brought it back," Hunter said. "I thought he got it pretty good. He hit it pretty high. In most day games, that's out. I'm happy about that. Everybody is."
Nobody was happier than Santana, who conquered a team and a ballpark that had given him fits in two previous Motor City outings.
Asked if his confidence was higher than in the past, Santana smiled and said, "Three hundred percent."
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.