05/21/08 11:37 PM ET
Pair of Vladdy blasts propel Angels
Slugger drives in all four runs to help Garland notch fifth win
By Lyle Spencer / MLB.com
The time arrived for Vladimir Guerrero on Wednesday night. He busted out of a lengthy slumber with a pair of booming homers, accounting for all of the Angels' runs in a 4-3 decision over the Blue Jays in front of 20,163 at Rogers Centre.
"I don't think anybody around here forgets what he's capable of -- and what he's going to do," Kotchman said of Guerrero, who had homered only four times in 169 at-bats coming into the game. "A guy with his swing and his track record ... it's only a matter of time before this happens."
Having put the Blue in the Jays by thoroughly frustrating them for two straight nights, the AL West-leading Halos will go for a sweep Thursday night behind Ervin Santana. The right-hander is a late replacement for Joe Saunders after the southpaw turned up ill on Wednesday.
Durable Jon Garland (5-3) yielded three runs across six innings to claim the Guerrero-driven win. The veteran right-hander marveled at an Angels defense that thwarted the Jays with big plays.
"Unbelievable," Garland said. "I'm the type of pitcher who puts balls in play, and it's been tremendous."
The final gem was handled by left fielder Garret Anderson, who sprinted back with the crack of Alex Rios' bat to steal extra bases with the tying run on first in the ninth behind Francisco Rodriguez.
"That was a tough catch he made look easy," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of Anderson's play on the warning track, which sent Aaron Hill back to first rather than homeward bound with the tying run. "That ball was squared up. He was playing normal depth, and he made a terrific catch on it.
"Garret's a terrific outfielder. He runs as clean a route as anybody in the game."
Rodriguez finished the job for his MLB-leading 19th save in 20 tries after rookie Jose Arredondo and setup man Scot Shields each had escaped jams in the seventh and eighth innings, respectively.
"The team over there, they've been built around pitching forever," Jays manager John Gibbons said of the Angels. "And they've got guys who get clutch outs when they have to."
They also have a No. 3 hitter known for carrying teams for weeks and months on his broad shoulders.
Guerrero struck quickly in the first, launching a curveball off the outside corner from Shaun Marcum (4-3) over the center-field wall. The Jays matched that run with Matt Stairs' two-out RBI single in the bottom half.
In the third, walks by Chone Figgins -- back in the lineup after missing 15 games with a strained hamstring -- and Gary Matthews Jr. set the table for Guerrero with one out.
Turning on an inside fastball, Guerrero muscled it over the wall in left for a three-run lead. It was the 34th multihomer game of Guerrero's illustrious career.
"That's what came back to pretty much cost us the game -- me walking those two guys," said Marcum. "Then Vlad comes up with the home run and we end up losing the game. If I don't walk those two guys, Vlad hits a solo and we win the game, 3-2."
Marcum was amazed by Guerrero's plate coverage, among other things.
"It was a first-pitch two-seam fastball in off the plate," the Jays pitcher said of the three-run blast that proved to be the game-winner. "It wasn't even a strike -- neither was the curveball [for the first homer]. I'm still kind of in shock that he hit them both out. They were pretty good pitches.
"He's probably one of the toughest guys to pitch to, because it seems like he swings at everything and he finds a way to hit it on the barrel. The only other way to get him out, I guess, is to throw it down the middle, which is what I did on the strikeout [in the fifth]. I'm surprised he didn't hit that one off the Jumbotron."
The scouting reports on Guerrero apparently don't offer a lot of help.
"It seems like when we go over our hit zones and everything," Marcum said, "all of his boxes are bright red -- not white or blue. It seems like everything is a hot zone for him."
After Guerrero took care of the Angels offense, the Jays picked up a run in the fifth on Rios' two-out RBI single, and they made it a one-run game an inning later when Lyle Overbay doubled and scored on Gregg Zahn's bullet off Garland, caroming into left field beyond Figgins' dive.
"It went off my glove and then my calf -- which I was pretty happy with," Garland said, not needing to explain how it would have felt glancing off a wrist or forearm.
A diving stab by Kotchman on Brad Wilkerson's liner left a pair of runners stranded.
Arredondo, the exciting new kid in the bullpen, showed his mettle after a pair of ground-ball singles created a two-on, none-out jam in the seventh.
Unleashing a biting split-fingered fastball, Arredondo struck out Scott Rolen and got Stairs to hit into a 3-6-3 double play started by Kotchman and turned by shortstop Maicer Izturis.
It was more of the same in the eighth with Shields dealing. With two on and one out, Marco Scutaro rapped into a 4-6-3 double play started by rookie Sean Rodriguez and turned by Izturis.
That was the lightning, the thunder having arrived earlier.
The last word belonged to Guerrero, through coach Alfredo Griffin's translation: "I saw the ball very well tonight. My swing felt great, comfortable. We needed the home runs tonight with so few hits [four]. That's my job, to help the team -- especially a night like tonight."
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.