Morales, Trumbo power Angels to sixth straight win

Morales, Trumbo power Angels to sixth straight win

Morales, Trumbo power Angels to sixth straight win
SEATTLE -- Somewhere along this West coast trip, the Angels may have found themselves.

How it happened, or when it occurred, is tough to say, but the Angels head home a far different team from the one that left Anaheim 10 days ago. It's evident in the way they manufacture runs, in the way they come back into games, in the way they're pitching.

It's evident in the end result - six victories in a row, and one game below .500 for the first time since the season was just five games old.

"You see us moving forward with confidence," manager Mike Scioscia said after a 4-2 win over the Mariners on Sunday, which gave them a four-game sweep over the Mariners at Safeco Field and made them 7-3 in a trip that also went through San Diego and Oakland.

C.J. Wilson, who got the win after giving up one run in a six-inning start that saw him battle through a blister, has noticed the team becoming "more complementary."

"Our team has been getting on base, good strike zone discipline," Wilson said, "and then pitching-wise, we've done a good job of minimizing damage."

The Angels' offense isn't exactly running on all cylinders. But Sunday marked the first time all year that they went a whole game without striking out. They got homers from Mark Trumbo and Kendrys Morales, but they also manufactured runs in the first -- on a leadoff single and stolen base from Mike Trout, then a two-out RBI single by Morales -- and in the ninth -- on a leadoff double by Morales and back-to-back flies from Trumbo and Howie Kendrick -- that were critical in the win.

"The breaks we're getting are about us doing things the right way," said Trumbo, whose seventh-inning shot landed in the second deck, traveled an estimated 431 feet and gave him seven on the year. "The more that we're able to do that and put pressure on the other team, the better our luck is going to be."

But the most positive sign from an offense that came in ranked second to last in the American League in runs per game came from the bat of one player: Morales.

The hotter Albert Pujols gets -- he's hit six homers and driven in 12 over his last 12 games, despite an 0-for-4 showing Sunday -- the more important Morales' production from the cleanup spot becomes. And Morales finally responded on Sunday, with his first homer since May 13 and his first three-hit game since May 5.

Heading into the series finale against Mariners starter Hector Noesi, Morales had only a .373 slugging percentage on the year and, after a four-strikeout game Saturday, was batting .185 on the road trip.

"We need him," Scioscia said. "The thing I like about what we're seeing evolving is the running game is coming into play; I think we're starting to create a little bit more. But we still need the middle of the lineup to do what they can do. .. It was definitely good to see [Morales] break out and drive the ball this afternoon."

"I'm of the thought that wherever someone hits, you just have to do your job," Morales added in Spanish. "I need to do my job wherever I hit."

Wilson scattered two hits and two walks in his six-inning outing, moving to 6-4 with a 2.77 ERA on the year, but left after just 88 pitches due to a blister in his left middle finger, which bothered him for the last three frames and finally opened up in the bottom of the sixth.

But Wilson, who was taken out of the game shortly after jogging to the mound for the bottom of the seventh, doesn't expect that blister to affect his next scheduled start. The Thursday off-day sure helps that cause.

"I'm going to be fine," said Wilson, who dealt with blisters frequently in 2010. "It's just kind of annoying."

With Wilson ailing, Scioscia had little reservations about going to his vastly improved bullpen for the final three frames with a two-run lead.

Jordan Walden gave up a run on two wild pitches in the seventh, but Ernesto Frieri and Scott Downs put up zeros in the next two frames and now the bullpen's ERA is at 0.89 over the last 40 1/3 innings.

"He pitched a great game," Scioscia said. "I think that the blister did affect a little bit of his command as the game went on, but when he had to make some outs, he made some pitches."

Blister aside, Wilson's outing gave the Angels 28 quality starts in their last 35 games. That starting staff, which came in tied for the AL lead with a 3.40 ERA, has not allowed more than three earned runs in 11 of the last 13 contests and combined to post a 2.38 ERA on the trip.

They've set the tone. And now, as the Angels sit 24-25 and in second place in the AL West, 6 1/2 games back of a Rangers team that has won three straight, the other departments are finally following suit.

"The rotation sets the tone," Wilson said. "If we go out there and prevent scoring right out of the gate, it gives our offense a lot of confidence."

Confidence. As they boarded their charter flight back to Anaheim on Sunday afternoon, for a week that will see them host the Yankees and Rangers, the Angels seemed like a team with a whole lot more of that.

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for 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.