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Angels use clout against Seattle, 7-3

Times Staff Writer

The New York Yankees were long gone, and so was the Angel Stadium buzz -- not to mention the numerous fistfights in the stands -- that accompanied their weekend visit to Anaheim.

In their place Tuesday night were the Seattle Mariners, with the second-worst record in baseball, and soft-serving left-hander Jarrod Washburn, who seemed to lull the Angels to sleep for four innings with a variety of off-speed and breaking pitches.

But the slumbering giant awoke in the fifth, with Juan Rivera and Vladimir Guerrero crushing home runs during a four-run rally that erased a three-run deficit and powered the Angels toward a 7-3 victory.

Garret Anderson, the top hitter in the American League since the All-Star break, had a two-run homer, and Rivera had a run-scoring double in the eighth, as the Angels won their fifth straight game, improved their major league-best record to 75-43 and pushed their AL West lead over Texas to 15 games.

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“The game started off slow, but Juan had a great at-bat and got some momentum going back our way,” said leadoff batter Chone Figgins, who singled and scored in the fifth. “They had put up zeros to that point, but Juan’s home run put us back in the game.”

The Angels, especially their starting pitchers, who carried the team for the first half, are getting used to such support.

An offense that hit .242 and scored an average of 3.7 runs a game in May and June is batting .301 and averaging 6.6 runs since the All-Star break.

The Angels are a major league-best 18-5 since the break, a span in which they have hit 33 home runs, and in their last five games, they’ve scored 41 runs with 64 hits.

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“In the past month, if you give up runs, you know you’re going to get them right back,” said right-hander Jon Garland, who gave up three runs -- all of them in the third inning -- and nine hits in seven innings to improve to 11-7. “It’s a good feeling.”

The only better feeling might be in Guerrero’s right knee, which the Angels’ slugger admitted was hurting “for more than half the games, probably 60% of the games,” in the first half. “It was uncomfortable.”

Not any more. With daily treatment and more starts at designated hitter, Guerrero says the knee “is not an issue any more,” and it shows.

He capped the four-run fifth with a laser of a two-run homer to left, his 22nd of the season, and is batting .340 with 15 homers and 41 runs batted in since June 1.

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“The way I feel at the plate right now is the best I’ve felt all season,” Guerrero said through an interpreter. “It’s all due to my legs. The strength is back. I’m glad it’s at a point where it’s not a problem.”

Garland gave up five hits in the third, including run-scoring singles by Adrian Beltre and Jose Lopez, an inning in which Manager Mike Scioscia said the right-hander “started to elevate the ball.”

But Garland made a quick mechanical adjustment, staying back and remaining over the rubber “just a touch longer,” and that helped him keep the ball down so well he blanked the Mariners over his last four innings, retiring the last eight batters he faced.

Rivera sent a surge through the crowd and his dugout in the fifth with a towering home run to left field, his seventh of the season, to lead off the inning, pulling the Angels to within 3-1.

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Jeff Mathis reached on an error by shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt, and Figgins singled to right. Both runners advanced on Erick Aybar’s sacrifice bunt, and Mark Teixeira grounded out to second, Mathis scoring and Figgins taking third.

The Mariners elected to pitch to Guerrero with first and second open -- not that they had much of a choice, with Torii Hunter and his seven homers and 22 runs batted in over his last 17 games on deck.

Guerrero smashed a 1-and-0 pitch over the wall in left, and the Angels led, 4-3. Anderson’s 13th homer of the season gave the Angels a 6-3 lead in the eighth -- he’s hitting .386 since the break -- and Rivera had a run-scoring double for a 7-3 lead.

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mike.digiovanna@latimes.com


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