ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) – Mike Trout and the Los Angeles Angels were all thrilled to see Torii Hunter, joining in Angel Stadium’s standing ovation for their former teammate before his first plate appearance.
The Angels then put together a victory that finally earned them a few cheers of their own.
Peter Bourjos had three hits and three RBIs, Trout and Albert Pujols drove in two runs apiece, and the Angels slowed the worst start in franchise history with an 8-1 victory over Hunter’s Detroit Tigers on Friday night.
Pujols had three hits and Brendan Harris added an early RBI double for the Angels, who had a season-high 16 hits. Their 5-10 start still matches the 1961 expansion team’s miserable beginning, but a comprehensive win over the defending AL champions was greeted with relief and excitement.
“It was a very good, complete game for us,” Trout said. “It’s a good feeling when things click like that. We need more of that.”
Tommy Hanson and four relievers combined on a rocky 10-hitter for the beleaguered Angels pitching staff, giving up their only run with two outs in the ninth. Rookie Luis Jimenez added two hits and scored three runs while playing standout defense at third base for the Angels, who got a much-needed boost in their first game since Tuesday.
“We haven’t played many good ones, but this was certainly one of them,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.
The Angels stumbled back to Anaheim after seven losses in nine games. Wednesday’s game in Minnesota was rained out, and the Angels had Thursday off before hosting Detroit for the only time this season.
Hanson (2-1) then labored through six scoreless innings for the Angels, yielding six hits and four walks while getting bailed out repeatedly by his defense. The Southern California product still earned his first career victory at Angel Stadium and interrupted the sequence of terrible starts by Los Angeles’ rotation, which began the night with a majors-worst 6.07 ERA.
“I don’t feel like anyone has panicked in this clubhouse,” Hanson said after his first scoreless start since June 2011 with Atlanta. “We know we’re a good team, and we’re going to play well. I feel like we just need to get rolling, and I don’t think anybody is second-guessing our team in this clubhouse.”
Hanson was in trouble from the start, allowing a runner into scoring position in each of the first five innings, but he kept the Tigers scoreless with help from two well-timed double plays by a defense that had committed an AL-worst 12 errors. Detroit then loaded the bases against relievers Mark Lowe and Sean Burnett in the seventh, but Prince Fielder grounded into a double play.
Anibal Sanchez (2-1) gave up 11 hits while pitching into the seventh inning for the Tigers, who have lost two straight.
Detroit capped an ugly game with a defensive miscue: During Los Angeles’ five-run eighth inning, Bourjos cleared the bases with a triple off Octavio Dotel when Detroit outfielders Austin Jackson and Matt Tuiasosopo misplayed his catchable drive to the warning track.
“This was really the first time all year where we just didn’t play a very good game,” Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. “Sanchez was good, but we didn’t come up with the big hit when we needed it and we just didn’t play very well, which is uncharacteristic for us.”
Hunter extended his hitting streak to 12 games after receiving a standing ovation in the former Los Angeles outfielder’s first night back in Anaheim. Hunter acknowledged the cheers with a tip of his batting helmet to the stands and the Angels’ dugout before hitting a single to improve his average to .422.
“It was awesome,” Hunter said. “It got so loud, you have to tip your cap and acknowledge the fact for the respect they gave me.”
Hunter spent the past five seasons with the Angels as a steady slugger and their unofficial team captain, taking a prominent leadership role in the clubhouse and the public eye. He repeated his long-stated desire to retire with the Angels after hitting a career-best .313 with 92 RBIs last season.
But Angels owner Arte Moreno declined to re-sign the 37-year-old free agent, even at less than market value, instead handing $125 million to former MVP Josh Hamilton, who’s hitting .200 after going 1 for 5.
Hunter got another ovation when he ran out to right field in the bottom of the first, with fans holding signs declaring their love and thanks. Hunter pointed at the elevated right-field stands and tapped his chest.
“I just came to play the game hard and tried to treat people like I wanted to be treated,” Hunter said. “I was very respectful to the fans and the organization, and I guess that’s the testament — a standing ovation. That shows I did my job while I was here for five years. They’re the top fans in the game. They’ve got to be. Those guys are awesome. I love ’em.”
NOTES: Jimenez is playing in the absence of 3B Alberto Callaspo, who went on the 15-day disabled list Friday with a strained right calf. … Los Angeles recalled RHP Michael Kohn, improving its bullpen depth in the injury absences of relievers Ryan Madson and Kevin Jepsen.
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