ANAHEIM (AP) – Miguel Cabrera and the Detroit Tigers are the latest Angel Stadium visitors to learn just how tough it is to get a ball to drop in center field when Peter Bourjos is on patrol.
Bourjos robbed Cabrera on consecutive at-bats, and Torii Hunter and Vernon Wells homered in the Los Angeles Angels’ 5-1 victory Monday night, sending the Tigers to their fifth loss in seven games.
Although Charlie Furbush was fairly solid in his first major league start for the Tigers, they couldn’t get any offense going with Bourjos vacuuming up the line drives hit by Detroit’s top slugger.
After the rookie speedster stole two bases and scored on Furbush’s balk in the third inning, Bourjos made a sprinting catch at his shoetops on Cabrera’s sinking liner in the fourth. He then brought down the house on a leaping catch with two runners on in the sixth, hitting the wall on the fly while snaring another drive from the majors’ 2010 RBI leader.
“They looked like they had somebody standing everywhere we hit it,” Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. “I thought we hit some balls pretty good. … They played a perfect game. Steals, made some double plays, really good.”
Jhonny Peralta hit an RBI single in the fourth for the Tigers, but Furbush (1-2) didn’t make it out of the fifth inning, yielding five hits and three runs – including one run on that comical balk.
And the Tigers’ potent offense was no help this time: Cabrera and Victor Martinez, two of the AL’s top four hitters, were a combined 0 for 7.
Furbush joined the rotation one day after the Tigers fired pitching coach Rick Knapp, replacing him with bullpen coach Jeff Jones after three blowout losses last week in which Detroit yielded a combined 45 runs. The Tigers’ staff ERA ballooned to 4.39, third-worst in the AL, and Detroit fell out of first place in the AL Central during last week’s embarrassments.
Furbush was still pleased after he bounced back mentally from giving up a homer to Hunter, his second batter.
“You’ve just got to flush it away,” Furbush said. “That’s what happens. I put a pitch right over the middle of the plate, and he put it away. … I like knowing my role as a starter, knowing when I’m pitching, so it’s great.”
Erick Aybar and Mark Trumbo added RBI singles for the Angels, who have won nine of 11 while surging into first place in the AL West.
Furbush, a minor league starter before joining the Tigers’ bullpen, replaced Phil Coke, who is 1-7 in his 14 starts this season. Coke pitched the eighth inning for Detroit, giving up Wells’ 12th homer.
With Bourjos on third after easily stealing two bases against Furbush’s deliberate delivery, Furbush nearly completed his throwing motion out of the stretch before scrapping it at the last moment when his spikes apparently caught on the rubber, causing a blatant balk.
Leyland still was fairly pleased with Furbush’s effort, saying he’d make sure the young starter’s confidence was strong before his next start.
Hunter missed the Angels’ past two games against the Dodgers with a bruised left hand, but connected in the first inning for his ninth homer of the season, hitting the fake rock pile beyond center field at Angel Stadium. After a decade as maybe the majors’ best defensive center fielder, Hunter has ceded the position to Bourjos – and he can’t complain.
“I see it a little differently – some good steps, some good angles,” Hunter said. “With his breaks on the ball, it’s like, how is he even close to that? He’s always there, man.”
Joel Pineiro (4-3) yielded five hits and three walks in seven innings, but largely avoided trouble in his fifth consecutive start without a loss. He tired in the late innings of his longest start since May 16, but the Angels’ infield ended the sixth and seventh innings with double plays – not to mention Bourjos’ trouble-saving defense.
“I think that was the momentum-changer big-time in the ballgame,” Pineiro said of Bourjos’ leaping catch. “If you can keep it in the ballpark, they’ve got a good chance of making the play anywhere in our outfield.”
NOTES: Angels SS Maicer Izturis got a day off, with Aybar replacing him. … Los Angeles passed the midway point of a season-long 13-game homestand, while Detroit opened a seven-game road trip heading to the All-Star break. … Angels 2B Howie Kendrick, a first-time All-Star selection on Sunday, extended his hitting streak to 13 games with a fourth-inning double, matching the longest by a Los Angeles player this season. … Detroit RHP Al Alburquerque played catch Monday for the first time since going on the DL with soreness in his right forearm.
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.