The Los Angeles Angels got back to the .500 mark with one of their most impressive offensive showings of the season. The fact that it came against a pitcher making his third major league start made no difference to them.
Chris Iannetta hit his fourth career grand slam, Albert Pujols and Matt Joyce also homered and C.J. Wilson pitched two-hit ball over six innings for the Angels in a 12-2 rout over Detroit on Thursday night.
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The defending AL West champions, who trail first-place Houston by six games, entered this four-game series with the league’s worst team batting average (.234) and on-base percentage (.290).
"As bad as it looks, we’re still in a really good spot," Iannetta said. "The majority of last year we were playing .500 ball, then we got hot in little stretches — and by the end, we had 98 wins."
Wilson (3-3) struck out seven and walked five. The left-hander allowed his only run in the third, hitting two-time AL MVP Miguel Cabrera on the right foot with the bases loaded after giving up a leadoff single to James McCann and two two-out walks.
"It was a cutter that just seemed to get away from him," Iannetta said. "Obviously, we’re not trying to hit him with the bases loaded. It just cut too much. C.J. has a ton of movement on his pitches. They start on the black and then take off. We were getting him to chase right there. It was unfortunate."
Buck Farmer (0-1) made his first start of the season after getting recalled from Triple-A Toledo, and was charged with seven runs and nine hits in five-plus innings. The 24-year-old right-hander, a fifth-round draft pick by the Tigers in 2013, was 5-1 with a 2.98 ERA in nine starts this season with the Mud Hens.
"We didn’t really do much. We didn’t pitch great, we didn’t hit great, and you’re not going to win too many games like that," manager Brad Ausmus said. "Buck’s last inning obviously cost him some runs, but before that he did OK. Tonight wasn’t his best night, but he’s still got a chance to be a very good pitcher and he’s got some good nights ahead of him."
Pujols gave the Angels a 2-0 lead in the first with his 529th career home run and ninth this season, driving a 2-2 pitch to left field after a leadoff single by Erick Aybar.
"It felt great, especially when you had a great team on the other side that can do the same thing against your guy," Pujols said. "It was good to give C.J. some run support — and it’s always good to win the first game of a series."
Joyce, who spent his 2008 rookie season with the Tigers before he was traded to Tampa Bay for pitcher Edwin Jackson, drove Farmer’s first pitch of the second inning into the old Angels bullpen area in right field for his third homer of the season and second in two nights.
"We didn’t have too much information on Farmer — just a couple of videos of him from last year. But we knew he liked to get on top of the fastball, and we took advantage of it," second baseman Johnny Giavotella said.
"It was great. We have a lot of potential to score a lot of runs every game, and we had great at-bats tonight," he added. "We put a lot of balls in play, and it showed a little preview of what we can do."
Giavotella led off the fifth with a triple and scored on Aybar’s squeeze bunt to third baseman Nick Castellanos with the infield in to give the Angels a 4-1 lead. But Aybar, the only Angels player to start every game at the same position this season, pulled his left hamstring running to first base and was replaced at shortstop by Taylor Featherston.
The Angels’ first four batters in the sixth reached base against Farmer, who was yanked after Joyce’s infield hit with the bases loaded. David Freese scored on Grant Green’s groundout, and pinch-runner Kirk Nieuwenhuis came home on Angel Nesbitt’s wild pitch to make it 7-1.
The Angels broke it open in the seventh with Freese’s bases-loaded RBI single and Iannetta’s homer against Tom Gorzelanny.
Tigers: Tigers SS Jose Iglesias, who has been bothered by a bruised knee, was in the starting lineup for the first time in five games and was 1 for 3 with an RBI double in the ninth. He was injured in a collision with Houston 1B Chris Carter on Saturday.
Angels: OF Collin Cowgill was placed on the 15-day DL, retroactive to May 26, because of a sprained right wrist. The injury occurred while he was taking batting practice on Sunday.
Tigers: RHP Anibal Sanchez (3-5) has given up seven runs in each of his previous two starts, lasting 3 1-3 innings in an 8-1 loss to Milwaukee on May 19 and 5 2-3 in a no-decision against Houston on Sunday. Both games were in Detroit.
Angels: LHP Hector Santiago (3-3) gave up five earned runs in 26 innings over his last four starts, but had only one win to show for it.