Willits again plays a leading role in win
[ nant but minimized several threats while pitching six strong innings to earn his first victory since April 22 before an appreciative crowd of 44,342, the largest at Angel Stadium since 1998.
The Angels won the interleague battle between division leaders known for dominant pitching and inconsistent hitting with some stationto-station offense run amok. They scored nine runs with the benefit of only three extra-base hits — all doubles — and another breakout effort from Reggie Willits.
The leadoff hitter continued his push to hold on to the left fielder’s job by collecting two hits and two runs batted in. He also scored the Angels’ first two runs off Penny (5-1), who failed in his bid to become the first Dodgers starter to open a season 6-0 since Kazuhisa Ishii won his first six starts in 2002.
“I don’t know if you can put it on one guy with the way we’ve been swinging the bats, but what he has done in the leadoff spot, especially the last 10 games, has been terrific,” Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said of Willits, who has nine multi-hit games and is batting .371. “He’s been the catalyst of everything.”
The Angels broke open a taut game with a five-run sixth inning that featured a two-run single by Willits, run-scoring singles by Maicer Izturis and Mike Napoli, and an RBI double by Shea Hillenbrand — only his fourth extra-base hit of the season.
“Not really any hard-hit balls,” Penny said. “They just went through the holes today.”
Penny exited his worst outing of the season with two on and nobody out in the sixth. He gave up eight hits and eight runs in five-plus innings, and his ERA nearly doubled from 1.39 to 2.54. The eight earned runs were as many as Penny had given up in his first eight starts combined.
Santana (3-5) improved to 3-1 at home after giving up only one run, on Russell Martin’s double to left-center in the fourth, and continually work- ing out of jams, including one with runners on first and third and nobody out in the fifth.
The mess was precipitated by a bizarre defensive gaffe by third baseman Chone Figgins that brought both managers out of their respective dugouts.
Andy LaRoche’s grounder nicked off Figgins’ glove and rolled into foul territory. Figgins went to retrieve the ball but dropped it and it rolled into the photographers’ well, prompting the umpires to award LaRoche third base on a play that was scored as a double and an error.
Scioscia raced onto the field to protest the call and Dodgers counterpart Grady Little soon followed to join a separate discussion with umpires.
Santana promptly rendered moot Figgins’ fourth error in 17 games since returning from the disabled list. He walked Rafael Furcal but got Juan Pierre to line out to second baseman Izturis and struck out Nomar Garciaparra looking at a 92-mph fastball that Garciaparra argued was out of the strike zone.
Jeff Kent also took issue with home plate umpire Ron Kulpa’s strike zone after a called strike brought the count to 2-and-2. As tensions threatened to escalate, Little trotted toward home plate for a brief discussion with Kulpa and Kent, who popped out to shortstop Orlando Cabrera on the next pitch to end the inning.
“He was all over the place,” Kent said of Santana. “The catcher would set up out, he would throw in. But he was missing on the good side. He was difficult to pattern.”
Said Scioscia: “His stuff tonight was a notch above anything we’ve seen in his last four or five starts. What we saw tonight just reaffirms that the stuff is there.”
YOU CAN’T WIN: The Dodgers’ Nomar Garciaparra argues with plate umpire Ron Kulpa, who’d called him out on strikes in the fifth inning.