LOS ANGELES// Vladimir Guerrero used his milestone 400th career home run to lift the Los Angeles Angels to an 8-7 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday, the seventh-inning blast completing the scoring in a 20-hit slugfest. The AL West-leading Angels' powerful right-hander drilled a pitch from reliever Russ Springer off the right-field foul pole for the decisive blow to give his side an opening victory in a three-game series.
"It came at a time when the team really needed it," Guerrero said. The blast was the second home run of the game for Guerrero, who bagged a solo shot in the second inning. First baseman Kendry Morales also homered twice to reach 25 for the season as Los Angeles (66-44) overcame a determined challenge by the Rays (61-51) in a game featuring six home runs. Tampa Bay rallied from a 6-3 deficit with three runs in the fifth inning, then Carlos Pena homered to centre field to make it 6-6.
After Morales put the Angels back on top with one of his round-trippers in the bottom of the fifth, Jason Bartlett, who finished three for five with two RBIs, had a game-tying triple against Los Angeles pitcher Jason Bulger in the sixth. "It just wasn't our day," said Tampa Bay's Ben Zobrist, who finished with two hits. "They hit a home run off the foul pole. It was a good game. You never like losing, but we hit the ball well."
Kevin Jepsen recorded the win for Los Angeles after pitching a scoreless seventh and eighth, and Brian Fuentes came on in the ninth to pick up his 32nd save of the year. The Angels' young starter Sean O'Sullivan, who pitched a no-hitter in the minor leagues last month, allowed six runs in four and two third innings. Tampa Bay's Matt Gaza came into the contest having allowed just three runs or less in his last five starts, but was knocked around for six runs in only three and a third innings against the Angels.
Elsewhere in the American League, the Boston Red Sox ended a six-game losing streak with a 6-5 victory over Detroit Tigers at Fenway Park. They came into the game following a barren four-match series against the American League East Division leaders New York Yankees. The victory took Boston's record to 63-48 for the season, and it took on greater significance with the Yankees' seven-match winning run coming to an end with a 5-4 defeat by the Toronto Blue Jays.
The Chicago White Sox missed the chance to gain ground on Detroit in the Central Division as they lost 6-4 to Seattle Mariners, but announced a major acquisition, signing right fielder Alex Rios from the Blue Jays. The White Sox will take on the remainder of the two-time All-Star's big contract, which runs through 2014. The Oakland Athletics belied their status as the division's bottom side with a comfortable 9-1 win over the Baltimore Orioles.
In the National League, the Florida Marlins gained ground on the East Division-leading Philadelphia Phillies with an 8-6 success at home to Houston Astros. The Marlins are now three-and-a-half games behind the division leaders. The Central Division leaders, the St Louis Cardinals, won their fourth match in succession with a 4-1 triumph at home to the Cincinnati Reds while the second-placed Chicago Cubs slipped to an 11-5 loss to the Colorado Rockies. The Rockies were inspired by Troy Tulowitzki, who registered a career-high seven RBIs.
Colorado still trail the Los Angeles Dodgers in the West, however. The Dodgers snapped a three-game losing streak with a 4-2 win over the San Francisco Giants, while the Arizona Diamondbacks were 7-4 victors over the New York Mets. * With agencies