06/21/07 3:26 AM ET
Evans helps Angels top Astros
Rookie provides first big-league hit, scores go-ahead run
By Larry Santana / MLB.com
In his first Major League start, Evans recorded his first Major League hit -- a towering two-run homer over the left-field wall -- drew a pivotal walk to load the bases in a six-run seventh inning and scored the go-ahead run to help the Angels to an 8-4 come-from-behind win in the finale of a three-game series against Houston on Wednesday.
Evans' round-tripper was launched in his first Angel Stadium at-bat in the bottom of the second on a 3-1 pitch from Wandy Rodriguez. The blast trimmed a then 3-0 deficit, bringing them within a run as his father, Michael, watched gleefully from the stands.
"The first thing I thought was 'Thank you, Jesus,'" Evans said. "What an amazing blessing for the first hit. My dad got to see it. It was perfect, especially with the win. I said before the game that now that I'm in my first start, I really want to contribute in some way to help us win a game, so to come back and win like that, it was just a perfect night."
Evans became only the fourth Angels player to record a home run with his first hit. Catcher Mike Napoli accomplished the feat on May 4, 2006.
With the early heroics alleviating the pressure to register his first base knock, Evans was able to relax at the plate enough during his next two at-bats to "look for a better pitch to hit" than some of the tosses being offered by the oppponents.
That patience proved invaluable in the bottom of the seventh.
His team trailing, 4-2, with one out and runners at first and second, Evans drew a walk from Astros right-hander Dave Borkowski to load the bases. Taking a cue from the Dublin, Ga., native, Reggie Willits and Chone Figgins followed with consecutive walks to knot the score at 4. A sacrifice fly to left by Orlando Cabrera plated Evans for the go-ahead run.
Vladimir Guerrero, forever showcasing his affinity for theatrics, slugged a three-run screamer to left center to put the Halos up for good, 8-4. The pitch, a slider down the middle of the plate, was Borkowski's final heave of the night.
Guerrero's 351st homer of his career and first since June 3, was the only hit of the inning. Howie Kendrick reached on a throwing error by shortstop Eric Bruntlett before Napoli was walked to bring Evans, the man occupying Guerrero's regular post in right field, to the plate.
"It's so thrilling because I've been there before," Guerrero said of Evans' momentous first hit. "In my experience, I like to see guys get their first base hit on their first or second at-bats because I know the pressure can mount up. So to see him hit a home run in that first at-bat for his first base hit, I think it's something he's going to remember for a long time."
"Those guys outplayed us in a lot of respects," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "We really didn't pitch very well against them. We got better as the series went on, and better as this game went on, but we had problems getting the ball into some zones we needed to. They're a good offensive lineup if you let them get command of the count. They did it too often on us, and we paid a price."
But the perennial bullpen peril -- the potent Scot Shields/Francisco Rodriguez combination -- would not suffer the same fate.
Shields worked his way out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the eighth, ending the inning with a pair of consecutive strikeouts in a 23-pitch effort. Rodriguez followed with a flawless ninth, fanning center fielder Hunter Pence and Lance Berkman before getting Carlos Lee to ground out to Figgins with a sharply-hit chopper at third to end the game and preserve the 8-4 win.
"I don't know if there's a better back end of the bullpen right now," Scioscia said of the duo. "These guys have been incredible the last couple of years, and they've been on the money this year."
Pence anchored Houston, going-3-for-5 with a home-run -- his seventh of the season -- while Berkman extended his hitting streak to nine games.
The Halos will conclude Interleague Play with a three-game series against Pittsburgh on Friday. Joe Saunders will be called up from Triple-A Salt Lake -- just as Evans was on Sunday -- to take the mound for the ailing Jered Weaver (back), whose return to the rotation has not yet been determined.
Larry Santana is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.