ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Now that his vision has cleared, Juan Rivera should be seeing the ball better, hitting it farther and having the kind of late-season surge he and the Los Angeles Angels are accustomed to.
Rivera hit a tiebreaking homer in the seventh inning, Mike Napoli also went deep and the Angels beat the Seattle Mariners 7-6 on Saturday night after blowing a five-run lead against the AL's lowest-scoring team.Rivera has 11 hits in 31 at-bats over a nine-game span after sitting out the previous six because of blurred vision, which doctors said was stress-related. The home run marked his first RBI since his return to the lineup."He's definitely swinging better," manager Mike Scioscia said. "The vision problem was diagnosed quickly and acted on quickly. So I don't think it was a huge issue. He's fine now and he's seeing the ball well. Juan's very important to us. So hopefully, he's going to stay on this course. He usually picks it up in the second half, and he's off to a good start right now."Brian Sweeney (1-1), working his second inning of relief, retired his first two batters in the seventh before Rivera drove a 1-0 pitch to left-center for his 11th home run and 35th RBI.Angels left-hander Joe Saunders allowed five runs -- four earned -- and 10 hits over six innings and left with a 6-5 lead before Kevin Jepsen gave up a tying homer to Josh Bard leading off the seventh.Jepsen (2-1) pitched one inning for the win, and Brian Fuentes followed Fernando Rodney out of the bullpen with a hitless ninth for his 18th save in 22 attempts.Torii Hunter was 0 for 4 as the Angels' designated hitter. Reggie Willits started in center field in place of the nine-time Gold Glove winner and hit a two-run single with the bases loaded during a four-run second inning. He also threw out Jack Wilson trying to advance from first to third on Ichiro Suzuki's single with none out in the top of the inning."He was being real aggressive, which is something we do a lot," Willits said. "When I saw him coming into second, he was kind of holding up a little bit, so I was thinking that even if he did keep going, I was in a position where I could still get him. I've got a huge hole to fill when Torii's not in center field, so I just try to focus on my defensive game as much as possible."Ryan Rowland-Smith, who has a 1-9 record, was charged with six runs -- five earned -- and eight hits over 3 1/3 innings, raising his ERA to 6.18.In 17 starts this season, Rowland-Smith has left a game leading only three times -- and just once since April 17. But this time, his teammates got him off the hook after he departed with a 6-4 deficit.The Mariners got three in the fourth on an RBI double by Jose Lopez and run-scoring singles by Justin Smoak and Josh Bard. Smoak, who came to the Mariners in a multiplayer trade that sent 2008 AL Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee to Texas on July 9, homered in the seventh off Saunders for his third hit, cutting the Angels' lead to 6-5.On Friday night, Smoak broke up Jered Weaver's shutout bid with a two-run homer in Seattle's 3-2 loss."It was just a terrible pitch," Saunders said. "I had him 2-2 and tried to throw one down in the strike zone, but I threw one right down the middle to him and he hurt me. I still came out of the game with the lead, and I'm happy we won the game. That's all I care about."After falling behind 1-0 on an unearned run in the second inning, the Angels came back with four runs in the bottom half -- two of which also were unearned due to throwing errors by Rowland-Smith and shortstop Jack Wilson."It was huge to get some early runs up there and give me a cushion, but I'm mad at myself for giving some of it up," said Saunders, who came in 8-1 with a 2.93 ERA against the Mariners and had won his previous seven decisions against them. "I made some bad pitches. The ball was up a little bit and that's when they hurt me."Kevin Frandsen tied it with an RBI single, and Willits added a two-run single with the bases loaded after Rowland-Smith fielded Brandon Wood's sacrifice bunt and pulled first baseman Smoak off the bag with his high throw. Wood scored the fourth run when Wilson threw wildly to first, trying to complete an inning-ending double play on Howie Kendrick's grounder to second."The four runs in the second inning and the two runs in the third just put us behind too much. But we did a nice job of battling back and we had a chance to win it," manager Don Wakamatsu said. The Angels increased the margin to 6-1 in the third when Napoli hit his 15th homer, and Frandsen followed Rivera's double with one of his own.
The Angels (50-44) have reached the 50-win mark with less than 50 losses in each of Scioscia's 10 seasons as manager. The last time they failed to do that was 1999 under Terry Collins, when they needed 121 games to get their 50th victory. ... Suzuki's third-inning single was his 2,150th hit in the major leagues, tying Yogi Berra for 190th place. Only four players have had more career hits against the Angels than Suzuki's total of 239 -- Hall of Famers George Brett, Carl Yastrzemski, Cal Ripken Jr. and Paul Molitor.