Angels' Vladimir Guerrero Returns To Power

SportsVladimir GuerreroAmerican LeagueBobby AbreuWars and InterventionsArizona DiamondbacksJason Marquis

ANAHEIM -- The Dodgers weren't the only Southland team with a superstar slugger who has been missing in action for much of the season.

Vladimir Guerrero hardly resembled himself recently, even before he sheared his trademark dreadlocks. He had lost his characteristic pop, enduring a power outage so severe that his spot as the Angels' cleanup hitter appeared to be in jeopardy.

Two robust swings of his bat later, it was back to Vladdy being Vladdy.

Guerrero ended the second-longest home-run drought of his career and doubled in another run Wednesday at Angel Stadium, helping the Angels beat the Colorado Rockies, 11-3.

The designated hitter drove in three runs as part of an 11-hit barrage on a night starter Joe Saunders (8-4) hardly needed the support. The Angels' left-hander pitched six-plus strong innings, allowing four hits and one run on Garrett Atkins' seventh-inning homer.

"It was nice to get those two hits out of the way and hit the ball hard," Guerrero said through an interpreter.

Justin Speier, Rafael Rodriguez and Darren Oliver combined to pitch the final three innings for the Angels, who held onto a share of first place with Texas in the American League West.

Bobby Abreu hit a two-run homer, drove in three runs and helped Rodriguez escape a shaky eighth inning with a strong throw to home plate. The Rockies had tagged Rodriguez for four hits and two runs when Abreu threw out Atkins attempting to score from second base on Brad Hawpe's single.

Guerrero's extra-base hits were only the seventh and eighth of the season for a player who had struggled mightily to drive the ball even after returning in late May from a five-week absence caused by a torn chest muscle.

"Vlad looks like he was relieved," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "I think you have to understand how much he competes internally. He understands his talent and wants to be the best player he can. It's tough when he's searching for stuff."

Scioscia said before the game Guerrero was pressing and said he had considered giving the slugger some time off or dropping him in the batting order. Guerrero said he watched video and lowered his hands to fix a swing Scioscia described as "a little long."

Guerrero's swing looked plenty compact in the first inning. He doubled to left-center on the second pitch he saw from Colorado starter Jason Marquis (9-5), breaking an 0-for-14 skid and driving in Chone Figgins with the Angels' first run. It took only one pitch an inning later for Guerrero to hit a two-run homer over the wall in left-center.

"You could tell the way he was going up there, his whole approach was different," Saunders said. "He wasn't always swinging at the first pitch and was waiting for pitches he could drive."

His second homer of the season and first in 28 games prompted the silent treatment from his teammates and triggered more cheers from fans when they learned it won them free tacos as part of a promotion. Guerrero had gone 30 games without a homer in 2007.

"We didn't know if he had forgot the way around the bases." Scioscia joked. "We didn't know how long it was going to take him."

Guerrero won't have many opportunities to build on his success this weekend when the Angels play the Arizona Diamondbacks in Phoenix, because the games will be played without a designated hitter. Guerrero, still not sufficiently recovered from his injury to play in the outfield, will be limited to pinch-hitting duties.

ben.bolch@latimes.com

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