And as usual around the Angels, Torii Hunter had something to do with every positive development.
Hunter hit an early two-run homer, Saunders pitched five effective innings in his return to the rotation and Los Angeles snapped its three-game skid with a 4-2 victory over the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday.
Hunter, who extended his hitting streak to 12 games, claims he threw a tantrum over his AL West-leading team's slump of five losses in six games. The Angels' clubhouse leader has a hit in every game since returning from a month on the disabled list last week, and he reached base three times as Los Angeles managed to remain the only major league team without four straight losses this season.
"I was just hoping the guys were upset, because I was upset," Hunter said. "We have a pretty good team. Traveling back from the East Coast [last Sunday], we were just trying to find our way, but we were able to capitalize on their mistakes."
Hunter's first-inning shot off Edwin Jackson (10-6), his 18th of the season, provided a valuable cushion for Saunders, who looked good after a 2˝-week regimen of massage, electrotherapy and a cortisone shot to get some life back in his sore shoulder.
"I think that early home run helped Joe relax," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "That's certainly the most consistent velocity I've seen all year from Joe."
Saunders (10-7) was cool in the 97-degree Orange County heat while making his first start since Aug. 7, after which he went on the disabled list. The left-hander had struggled for over a month before his DL stint, but the Angels' Opening Day starter allowed four hits while striking out six.
"It was nice to be able to throw the ball without any hint of tightness," Saunders said. "My arm was free, and I just let it go. ... I look back on [the struggles] and say I should have done this a little earlier, but it's my fault. Hopefully if it ever happens again, I'll step up and say something."
Kendry Morales and Chone Figgins added run-scoring hits for the Angels, who avoided being swept at home for the first time since June 2007 and prevented Detroit's first road sweep of the Angels since August 1993. Manufacturing runs with their usual mix of hits, walks and sharp baserunning, the Angels capitalized on Jackson's high leg kick to steal five bases, matching a season high.
"They got a couple of runs early with the home run, then they got two bleeders to get another run on me," said Jackson, who yielded eight hits and four walks in 6 1/3 innings during his first loss in seven starts since July 19. "That's what a good team does. They find a way to get runs, whether it's hard-hit balls or well-placed balls."
Figgins even appeared to steal home after Hunter's strikeout in the seventh inning, but third-base umpire Chad Fairchild had called time on the field.
Four Los Angeles relievers collaborated on four scoreless innings. In his first appearance in eight days, closer Brian Fuentes hit two batters but hung on for his 36th save in 41 chances.
Adam Everett hit a two-run homer for the AL Central-leading Tigers, who had won eight of 12. Detroit still earned an impressive series victory before opening a key four-game home set with Tampa Bay.
"Going into the game, I felt like we'd score more runs, but I tip my hat to Saunders," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. "He pitched good. Mike [Scioscia] made us look at a different relief pitcher every inning, which was pretty smart. I thought we might hit a couple of homers today. I was not anticipating Everett would be one of them."
Everett halved the Angels' lead in the fifth with just his third homer of the season, the light-hitting shortstop's first since June 10.
Miguel Cabrera extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a sixth-inning double, but went 1-for-4.
The Tigers sent right-hander Armando Galarraga back to Triple-A Toledo for a 10-day stint to rest his inflamed pitching elbow. Nate Robertson, out since late June with a left elbow injury, will be recalled to start for Detroit on Saturday. ... Umpire Tim Welke missed his second straight game after getting hit in the mask with a foul tip Monday night. Delfin Colon again replaced him. ... Vladimir Guerrero's fifth-inning single was his 1,000th hit with the Angels. He's the eighth player to get 1,000 hits in the franchise's 49 seasons.