ANAHEIM -- The suddenly-streaking Angels got more solid pitching from Joel Pineiro, superb defense from Peter Bourjos and timely hitting from Vernon Wells and Co. to take the opener of a three-game set with the Detroit Tigers, 5-1, before 43,012 fans at Angel Stadium.
Winning with Pineiro. He hasn't been getting most of the decisions, but the Angels are now undefeated in Pineiro's last five starts, with the 32-year-old right-hander going 2-0 in that span. Monday's outing was his best yet in that stretch, as he went seven innings and allowed only five hits. It was also his best outing in a good two months, as Pineiro hadn't allowed fewer than two runs in a start since May 5 and hadn't lasted seven or more innings since May 16. He lowered his ERA to 3.90 with the win and improved his win-loss record to 4-3, the best percentage of anyone on the team not named Weaver, Haren or Downs.
Hunter's hand. Angels right fielder Torii Hunter didn't miss a beat in his return to the lineup after missing three days worth of at-bats over the weekend because of a bruised hand. He said before the game his hand was feeling only "80 percent," but his first trip to the plate resulted in a homer, Hunter taking Detroit's first-time starter deep to the center-field seats for a solo dinger. He also reached base via a walk -- although he did get picked off first shortly after. His first-half numbers may not support it, but the Angels do need Hunter's bat in the lineup.
Outfield defense. Both Bourjos and Wells made plays that saved potential extra-base hits Monday night, Wells reaching back to snag a deep Brandon Inge fly in the fifth inning and Bourjos running all the way to the wall in center to catch a Miguel Cabrera drive with two on and no out. He also made a nice leaning-left grab on a liner earlier in the game. All three plays -- especially Bourjos' two -- changed the trajectory of Monday's game. On the topic of Bourjos' defense, his over-run miscue on Sunday that allowed the Dodgers' only run to score was a topic of conversation in the Angel clubhouse pregame. Manager Mike Scioscia said before the game Monday that only two or three other center fielders in the majors would have gotten to the ball, considering where he started from when the ball came off the bat.
Hitting from behind the plate. It seems most members of the Angel lineup are either heating up or staying hot of late, except for one spot: catcher. Both Hank Conger (1 for his last 12) and Jeff Mathis (.108 in June) are struggling at the plate, although Mathis did go 2-for-3 on Saturday against the Dodgers and also hit a liner down the right-field line in the seventh inning of Monday's game that looked very much it was fair. It would probably have been a double, but first-base umpire Angel Campos called it foul. Still, the heating-up Angels need offense from the catcher spot.
Set-up detractors. The Angels' left-handed set-up man, Scott Downs, has now retired the last 15 batters he's faced after the 1-2-3 inning he recorded Monday against the Tigers' 1-2-3 hitters. Scioscia spent some time in the last week campaigning for Downs to make the AL All-Star team, and, as his ERA creeps back into the mid-1's, we're starting to see why. He's made 34 appearances on the year, allowed runs in only five of them and never allowed more than a single run in an outing. Jordan Walden's been the flame-throwing closer, sure, but Downs has been the Halos' most dominating reliever all year long.
Sportsmanship. Not really -- Wells is a fine sportsman and an all-around good guy. But it's easy to see the 32-year-old outfielder is getting some of his long-lost swagger back with home runs like the one he hit in the eighth inning of Monday's game off of Tiger left-hander Phil Coke. Almost as soon as the ball departed his bat, he dropped his hands and flipped his bat over the foul line and began his home-run trot. He knew it was gone immediately. Maybe when Wells' numbers get closer to his career figures he'll stop celebrating each dinger, but, for now, it's an acceptable action.