ANAHEIM, Calif. — Joe Saunders has made two starts against the Los Angeles Angels since they traded him in July 2010, and both of them have been absolute gems.
Unfortunately for Saunders, he's been on the wrong end of a shutout both times.
C.J. Wilson outdueled the Seattle left-hander with seven innings of two-hit ball and Mike Trout scored on Saunders' first wild pitch of the season, leading the Angels to a 1-0 victory over the Mariners on Wednesday night.
Saunders, a first-round pick by the Angels in 2002, returned to the “Big A” on June 16, 2012, with Arizona and dropped a 2-0 decision on a two-run homer in the first inning by Mark Trumbo. Ervin Santana went all the way that night on a one-hitter.
“There's nothing else you can say. It's one of those things where runs were hard to come by tonight,” Saunders said. “We didn't score any runs, so you've just got to hang with him. (Wilson) stepped up his game and I stepped up my game, and it was one of those pitchers' duels. I just picked the wrong day to pitch.”
Only five players on the current Angels roster were teammates of Saunders — Jered Weaver, Howie Kendrick, Erick Aybar, Kevin Jepsen and Alberto Callaspo. Callaspo's first game with the club following his acquisition from Kansas City was the same night Saunders threw a career-high 126 pitches in his final game with Los Angeles.
It was a 1-0 loss at Texas — and the opposing pitcher was C.J. Wilson.
“There's only a couple of guys that I still know over there, so you just tell yourself that it's just another team,” Saunders said. “I came up with Aybar in the minor leagues — and other than Weave and Howie, it's a whole different club. But I've always felt comfortable pitching here and this ballpark fits my game well.”
Saunders (5-7) allowed six hits over eight innings with three strikeouts and two walks while going the distance for the ninth time in 204 career starts.
He stranded Peter Bourjos at third base in the third by inducing a double-play grounder by Albert Pujols, and he got another inning-ending double-play grounder out of Trumbo in the eighth.
“That's what you're looking for, and he earned that opportunity to stay out there,” manager Eric Wedge said. “We weren't scoring runs, but I'm not going to penalize him for that. He was really good against a really tough lineup that's been scoring some runs. He did a great job with his fastball and changeup, started mixing his breaking ball a little bit later in the game and kept them off-balance. He put the ball on the ground when he needed to and got some big double plays.”
Saunders matched zeros with Wilson through five innings, scattering four hits before Trout legged out a leadoff double to left field in the sixth. He advanced after a flyball to right by Pujols and scored on a 2-2 pitch to Trumbo than bounced in the dirt and away from catcher Mike Zunino. Sanders had begun the season with 89 2-3 innings without a wild pitch.
“It was a tough one, but I'm more mad at myself for letting a run score on a wild pitch,” Saunders said. “It was a changeup down. I was trying to get him to hit it on the ground.”
Wilson (6-5) struck out three, walked two and allowed only two runners as far as second base en route to his fifth straight victory over the Mariners.
“I've faced these guys three times this year, and they pretty much have an idea of what my repertoire is. So it's about executing,” Wilson said. “I can't fool them on stuff right down the middle because they're not going to get surprised if I throw a slider or a changeup, so I have to hit the corners. That was my focus every at-bat.”
Kendrys Morales’ Baltimore-chop single toward third base leading off the second inning was Seattle's only hit until Kyle Seager's leadoff single in the seventh.
But Wilson froze Raul Ibanez on a called third strike in the seventh with runners at first and second, and escaped the inning unscathed when Trout caught up with Zunino's drive in front of the bullpen fence.
“We hit some balls hard tonight, but Trout and Bourjos were running everything down out there,” Wedge said. “We also hit some hard ground balls that were right at the infielders, so we put up better at-bats. We just didn't have anything to show for it.”
NOTES: Wilson is 8-1 against Seattle in 10 starts since the beginning of the 2011 season. ... Kendrick lined a single through the box in the sixth, knocking Saunders' glove right off his hand. ... Wilson, who spent his first five big league seasons as a reliever with the Rangers, reached the 1,000-inning mark when he retired Michael Saunders on a foul popup to end the second.