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News Is Mostly Grand for the Angels

Times Staff Writer

The Angels continued to sizzle on a steamy 96-degree Saturday evening, whipping the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, 9-2, for their 10th win in 11 games.

The victory at Angel Stadium evened their record at 45-45, the first time since April 29 they’ve been at .500, and pulled the Angels within 1 1/2 games of Oakland and Texas in the American League West.

Vladimir Guerrero notched his 1,000th run batted in with a run-scoring single in the first inning and blew the game open with a grand slam in the seventh; Ervin Santana (11-3) gave up two runs and four hits in seven innings to win his seventh consecutive decision, and Mike Napoli put the Angels ahead with a two-run home run in the fourth.

But the Angels also had the equivalent of a glass of ice water splashed in their face -- pitcher Jered Weaver, the kid with the golden arm, was scratched from Monday’s start against Cleveland because of an inflamed shoulder, putting the second dent in the rotation in two days and leaving the Angels with a starting staff that, at least temporarily, will include Dustin Moseley and Joe Saunders.

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“We’re being a bit overcautious for good reason,” Manager Mike Scioscia said of Weaver, who is not expected to go on the disabled list. “We see the talent he has, it’s going to be a long season for him, and we want him to be as effective in August and September as he is now. ...

“The strength in the shoulder is fine. The inflammation is subsiding. But he’s not at a level where he can pitch yet. A half-step back now could benefit him.”

The Angels’ rotation has posted quality starts in 37 of 46 games and keyed the team’s recent run, going 10-0 with a 1.42 earned-run average in 11 games to push the Angels back into contention.

But suddenly that rotation, which Oakland General Manager Billy Beane recently said “might be the best in baseball,” is not looking so vaunted.

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Kelvim Escobar was put on the DL Friday because of an irritated elbow, though he is expected to miss only one start, and an examination of Weaver, who is 6-0 with a 1.12 ERA in his first six big league starts, revealed a mild case of biceps tendinitis.

Weaver will continue to undergo treatment and could return by next weekend.

The Angels will call up Moseley, a right-hander who is 8-4 with a 3.99 ERA at triple-A Salt Lake, to start Monday against the Indians.

Saunders, a left-hander who is 10-3 with a 2.51 ERA at Salt Lake, pitched Thursday and is aligned to replace Escobar in the Angels’ rotation Tuesday.

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“It’s disappointing for me because I want the ball all the time, and I’ve never missed a start,” said Weaver, who complained of some tightness in his arm after throwing seven shutout innings at Oakland on July 8. “But it’s not a big concern. If this was a crucial game, I’d be out there, but we want to tame the fire a bit, get that inflammation knocked down.”

The Angels announced Weaver’s injury in the top of the third, just as consecutive triples by Julio Lugo and Carl Crawford and Rocco Baldelli’s sacrifice fly gave the Devil Rays a 2-1 lead.

But Napoli, who leads AL rookies in home runs, on-base percentage, walks and slugging percentage, erased that deficit when he followed Garret Anderson’s infield single in the fourth with a towering two-run home run to left, his 12th of the season.

Chone Figgins’ bunt single, his steal of second and third and Orlando Cabrera’s sacrifice fly made it 4-2 in the fifth, and singles by Kendry Morales and Adam Kennedy ignited a five-run seventh.

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Both runners advanced on Figgins’ groundout, and Maicer Izturis was walked intentionally to load the bases. Cabrera popped to first for the second out, but reliever Chad Harville hung a 1-and-0 breaking ball to Guerrero, who hammered it over the wall in right-center for his fourth career grand slam.

Responding to chants of “Vladdy! Vladdy!” from the sellout crowd 44,125, Guerrero, who is 22 for 50 (.440) in his last 13 games after a six-for-45 skid (.133), popped out of the dugout for a curtain call.

“It’s great to have Vlad back in a groove, swinging like he can -- that’s important for us,” Scioscia said. “But what’s going to make us go is all the players around him doing their part.”


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