By Joe Haakenson, AngelsWin.com Contributor -
GAME 33 - TIGERS AT ANGELS
ANAHEIM -- The Angels spent most of April digging themselves a hole. And while there are those who believed they might have been buried as well, the Angels instead started climbing their way out of it.
They beat the Detroit Tigers, 7-6, Thursday night before 15,003 at Edison Field, going over .500 (17-16) for the first time since April 7 when they were 3-2. They also climbed over the Oakland A's and into second place in the American League West.
The Angels didn't make things easy on themselves, falling behind 4-0 before rallying to go up, 7-4. The Tigers cut the deficit to 7-6 before Angels closer Troy Percival slammed the door in the ninth for his fifth save.
Julio Ramirez, making his second start of the season in right field for the Angels since being called up May 2, had a two-run triple to get the Angels offense going, and Troy Glaus had a two-run double that put the Angels up for good.
Every Angel in the starting lineup had at least one hit, including two by Scott Spiezio, as the Angels won for the 11th time in their past 13 games.
''It's definitely exciting, coming from where we were,'' said Angels shortstop David Eckstein of going over .500. ''But we want to keep building upon it.''
However, most of those in the Angels clubhouse answered questions about being in second place and over .500 with a yawn.
''Our goal is not .500,'' Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. ''Our goal is to become the type team that is championship caliber. That's our goal, that's our challenge. I don't think any of us take too much stock in the standings or our record at this point. There are still some things we need to do on a more consistent basis.''
Angels starter Aaron Sele (3-2) won his third consecutive start after going winless in his first four. Sele gave up four runs and nine hits in six innings.
Sele had his typical first-inning troubles, giving up two runs. In his past three starts, all eventual wins, Sele has allowed eight runs in the first inning. For the season, Sele has yielded 11 first-inning runs in seven starts.
Sele, though, continued his struggles after the first inning on Thursday. He gave up an RBI double to Damian Jackson in the second inning, and after a 1-2-3 third, he gave up three more hits and a run in the fourth, and the Angels were down, 4-0.
''I'm not concerned at all, as long as we win,'' Sele said. ''Who cares? They hit some good pitches. Sometimes it's 1-0, sometimes it's 7-6. You take 'em all.''
Sele's ERA is 5.75, but the Angels are averaging 5.86 runs per game in his starts, which would explain his winning record.
''He still hasn't hit stride as to what we're looking for,'' Scioscia said of Sele. ''But he's done one thing well: compete. He settled in and pitched a good ballgame.''
Down 4-0, the Angels started their rally in the bottom of the fourth with Garret Anderson's one-out single. But the key to the inning was the throwing error by shortstop Shane Halter. Instead of making the second out of the inning, Tim Salmon was safe at first and Anderson went to third.
Bengie Molina followed with a sacrifice fly to score the Angels' first run, and Spiezio singled, moving Salmon to second. That's when Ramirez got his chance, hitting the ball off the fence in right field driving in both Salmon and Spiezio to cut the Tigers' lead to 4-3. But Ramirez wanted more.
Right fielder Robert Fick tried to make a play on the ball, which ricocheted back toward the infield. By the time Fick retrieved the ball, the speedy Ramirez had a triple easily, then was waved home by third-base coach Ron Roenicke. However, the relay from the first baseman Simon was in time to nail Ramirez at the plate for the third out.
''I thought I was going to make it, but I ran out of gas,'' said Ramirez, who is hitting .286.
The Angels scored three more in the fifth to go ahead for good. Glaus' two-run double was the big blow, putting the Angels up, 5-4.
ANAHEIM -- It's too early to evaluate any off-season trade, but so far the Angels have the edge over the Mets in the deal that sent Mo Vaughn to New York for pitcher Kevin Appier last December 27.
Appier is 3-1 and ranks fourth in the American League with a 2.83 ERA. He's allowed two earned runs or fewer in six of his seven starts and he's pitched into the seventh inning in four of his starts.
Meanwhile in New York, Vaughn didn't hit his second homer of the season until Thursday, and he has just 10 RBIs while batting .257.
''I think it's worked out fine,'' Angels general manager Bill Stoneman said. ''We were looking to strengthen our starting pitching and Kevin's done that. And we filled Mo's spot on the offensive side with (Brad) Fullmer (in a trade with the Blue Jays).''
Stoneman, though, said he doesn't evaluate the trade based on how Vaughn is doing. In fact, he said the trade is better for the Angels if Vaughn plays well.
''Obviously, you want the guy you obtain to do well, and you want the guy that you traded away to do well also,'' he said. ''It certainly doesn't hurt a relationship (with the opposing general manager).''
Vaughn has already missed time with a broken finger, and his weight is always an issue. If Vaughn continues to struggle, Stoneman said there's no reason for the Mets to feel they got snookered.
''They knew the risks going in,'' Stoneman said. ''They knew Mo didn't play last year. We certainly didn't hide anything from them. They even went out to see him (in a workout).''
For the third time in the past four games, Tim Salmon was not in right field for Thursday's game. He was the designated hitter, but manager Mike Scioscia insists Salmon is still his right fielder, even though Salmon went into Thursday's game hitting .186 and ranked 38th among 42 starting outfielders in the American League in fielding percentage.
''Tim's our right fielder, he'll be out there (tonight),'' Scioscia said. ''At times it makes sense to put the other guys out there because Tim's more comfortable in the DH spot.''
Julio Ramirez got the start in right field on Thursday.
Reliever Donne Wall (tightness in right arm) threw a bullpen session Thursday and likely will throw another this weekend. He's eligible to come off the disabled list Tuesday, but probably will go out on a rehab assignment first.
Benji Gil (ankle) and Shawn Wooten (thumb) are still two weeks and one month away, respectively, from returning.