ANAHEIM -- Whether this is the game that gets them back on track remains to be seen.All the Angels know is they won on Tuesday night -- and they badly needed to. The offense pounded Indians starter Ubaldo Jimenez for eight runs in four frames while newcomer Zack Greinke gave up four runs in seven innings, an unspectacular effort that was nonetheless good enough to earn him his first win in an Angels uniform after a 9-6 victory at his new home. It's just one game, of course. Yeah, it came on a night that saw the two teams ahead of them lose, allowing the Angels to move seven back of the first-place Rangers and one back of the second-place Athletics in the American League West. And, for at least one night, perhaps it eased some of the frustrations that came with nine losses over their previous 12 games. But the bigger question is how the Angels can build off it. How they can use it as a springboard to get back in the race after a disappointing second-half start. Time will tell. "It's just one game," manager Mike Scioscia said. "You want to carry it over, but I think the confidence is going to build in our team when we start to roll out there every night with a chance to win no matter who we're playing. We saw it for, what, two and a half months straight. We did it. And we need to get back into that game." Maybe Tuesday night was a sign that they're getting there again. Or maybe it was just the Indians. The Angels set a season high with four runs in the first inning -- snapping a 27-inning streak without a lead in the process -- and got four more in the fourth to provide enough cushion for a struggling bullpen. Five starters had at least two hits, with Albert Pujols belting his 26th homer and finishing with four RBIs, and the offense totaled 13 hits as a group. Facing Jimenez, who came in with 11 losses and a 5.25 ERA, the Angels got the first five hitters of the game on while batting around in the bottom of the first. Torii Hunter, Kendrys Morales, Mark Trumbo and Chris Iannetta hit RBI singles in the first to give the Angels a quick four-run lead. In the fourth, they made it an 8-2 game on a solo homer by Erick Aybar -- on a tear since returning from the disabled list -- and a three-run shot by Pujols, who homered in back-to-back games for the seventh time this season. "I think they had a good approach against me; they were swinging at the first pitch," Jimenez said. "They hit good pitches." The Angels' offense had totaled three runs over its last two games and combined to go 5-for-39 with runners in scoring position over the previous five. "We just kind of talked amongst ourselves and said, 'Let's bear down and get it done,'" Hunter said. "It showed today. That was a lot of fun." Greinke, part of a rotation that had received very little past Jered Weaver the last few weeks, had given up 10 runs in his last two starts (a span of 12 innings). But he was sharp against the Indians' light-hitting offense, giving up only a Michael Brantley two-run homer through the first six innings -- and retiring 10 of 11 leading up to it -- before running into a little trouble in the seventh. His last start in Oakland, when he walked five and gave up four runs in five innings, was "as bad as I've ever pitched in my life, probably," Greinke said.
But after winning his first game since June 27, he said, "Today was more of a normal game."And over the last three games, the Angels have been getting normal production from their rotation, with Weaver, Greinke and C.J. Wilson combining to give up nine runs in 20 2/3 innings. "We're getting length -- good length -- and that's going to be critical to us playing well during this pennant stretch," Scioscia said. "As these guys hopefully get their game back, get their command back, we're going to get better results out of our starters, which will help our 'pen, also." That bullpen, which came in with a Major League-worst 8.37 ERA in August, almost allowed the Indians back in it, with LaTroy Hawkins surrendering an eighth-inning, two-run homer to Casey Kotchman to make it a three-run game. But Kevin Jepsen and Ernesto Frieri recorded the final four outs. "We're not down," Hunter said. "We're disappointed, just like fans are disappointed -- just like media's disappointed -- but we're not down. We're still every day ready to go, ready to win. We try to keep the atmosphere upbeat, in the clubhouse and in the dugout, so we're ready to play every day. Today, we just told ourselves, 'Let's start today, and when tomorrow comes, we'll start tomorrow.'" "Tomorrow" comes Wednesday, and the Angels will look to win their first series since taking two of three from the Royals July 23-25. One step at a time.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com Read his columns and his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.