06/28/09 8:39 PM ET
Halos win wild one to complete sweep
Matthews' steal of home one of many game highlights
By Lyle Spencer / MLB.com
On a wild Sunday that brought a rousing end to Interleague Play, the Angels slugged it out with the Diamondbacks before prevailing, 12-8, to complete a weekend sweep at Chase Field.
The Angels finished Interleague Play with an MLB-best 14-4 record. Taking eight of nine in National League parks, the Angels scored 64 runs, averaging 7.1 per game.
"Personally, I prefer the National League style, although I've grown to appreciate the offense you can create with the DH," said Angels manager Mike Scioscia, whose formative years were spent commanding the Dodgers' pitching staff behind the plate.
"We haven't won these games because we're playing National League clubs. We've faced some clubs that have been playing great baseball -- the Dodgers, Colorado, San Francisco. We've faced some tough clubs and won because we've been playing good baseball."
Out-hit, 15-11, in the series finale, the Angels won with power, with a boost from the generosity of the snake-bitten Diamondbacks.
While homers by Juan Rivera, Jeff Mathis and Maicer Izturis and a three-run double by Gary Matthews Jr. continued to challenge the Angels' one-dimensional offensive image, they had the D-backs to thank for four errors -- three during a stunningly sloppy fifth inning behind right-hander Max Scherzer.
"We swung [the bats], but they opened the door for us," Scioscia said. "It's good to get the runs on the board. We didn't pitch very well today. It's not often you can give up 15 hits and win a game."
Trailing, 2-0, after the Diamondbacks reached Matt Palmer (7-1 with the win) for a pair of first-inning runs, the Angels seized the lead in the fourth. Matthews cracked a two-out, two-strike, bases-clearing double and promptly stole home, old school-style, after moving to third on a throwing error by third baseman Augie Ojeda.
"If you're going to do it with two strikes [on the hitter], you've got to get a good jump," Matthews said. "You don't get too many opportunities to steal home with the manager's green light."
Scioscia had flashed it to third-base coach Dino Ebel, who relayed the message to Matthews that it was his if he wanted it.
"That was a good at-bat," Matthews said, who had worked the count full to send the runners off with Scherzer's delivery from a full windup. "I've had only about 50 at-bats in a month. That's what the difficult part is, keeping your timing right. He threw a fastball away, and I hit it hard."
Taking advantage of Arizona errors by first baseman Mark Reynolds, right fielder Justin Upton and second baseman Felipe Lopez -- a trio of miscues that tied a dubious club record for errors in an inning -- the Angels padded their lead with a five-run fifth.
"I think they have a good team," Matthews said. "They're a little young right now, but they have some talent."
Scherzer (5-5) departed having yielded eight runs, three earned, in 4 1/3 innings.
Rivera's two-run homer highlighted an uprising that included Palmer's first hit with the Angels on a faked bunt that he chopped over third base. Rivera's homer, to left-center, was his 12th of the season.
Roaring back against Palmer and reliever Kevin Jepsen, the D-backs scored once in the fifth and five times in the sixth.
"If he was making pitches and guys were hitting them, we'd be more concerned," Scioscia said of Palmer, who is 2-1 in his past four starts, despite yielding 18 earned runs in 22 innings. "What's happening is he's not making pitches as consistently as early in the year.
"Matty's inability to control the count has caught up with him the last few games. He can pitch better than he's shown the last couple starts."
Palmer felt he didn't bring his fastball inside enough to take advantage of his breaking stuff.
"I know I'm not pitching as well as before," Palmer said. "We'll start coming inside more when I get more comfortable with my four-seamer again."
Pinch-hitter Tony Clark's two-run double ended Palmer's day (five innings, 10 hits, six earned runs), and Jepsen yielded two earned runs on four hits while getting through the inning.
"There's nothing for me to worry about," Palmer said. "I got to two strikes, and a lot of people were looking for my curveball. They had six ground-ball hits. They got through some holes."
Jason Bulger silenced the D-backs in the seventh inning, and Justin Speier continued his fine work of late in the eighth, getting the ball in Brian Fuentes' hands. The closer finished the job, even though it was a non-save situation.
The Angels, who have won 12 of 15, lead the American League West as they head to Texas, where they were swept in mid-May.
With three clubs over .500 with Seattle having made a surge, the AL West is no laughing matter these days.
"We're definitely running on all cylinders," said Matthews, the Rangers' one-time All-Star center fielder. "At some point in the year, you've got to see what you've got. It's what baseball's all about, the challenge."
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.