ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — It’d been a long time since Jerome Williams started a game in the major leagues, even longer since he’d won one.
Williams pitched seven stellar innings to get his first big league victory in almost six years, Peter Bourjos homered for the third straight game and Howie Kendrick also connected, leading the Los Angeles Angels over the Baltimore Orioles 7-1 Sunday for a three-game sweep.
“I feel like crying,” Williams said while his 2-year-old son, Ty, sat perched in a folding chair next to him with the game ball in his hands. “It’s been a long road. I’m just speechless. There was so much emotion out there. Being away from the game for a long time, I dedicated this to my mother and my family.”
Williams, a first-round draft pick by San Francisco in 1999, hadn’t started a game in the majors since May 15, 2007, with Washington. He began this season with the Lancaster Barnstormers of the independent Atlantic League before signing a free agent contract with the Angels on June 16. He spent last season playing in Taiwan after leaving the Oakland Athletics.
“When I was in Taiwan last year, I never thought I would be here right now playing here,” said Williams, who uses a pink glove to honor his late mother, who died of breat cancer. “I was thinking about quitting, but I forced myself not to. My family helped me out and told me to just keep on going and never give up. And it paid off.
“The difference was trusting myself and learning everything that I was supposed to learn back in the day,” he added. “I was the type of guy that would nitpick everywhere, but now I’m just going after hitters.”
Williams (1-0) posted his first victory in the majors since Sept. 25, 2005, with the Chicago Cubs, after losing his previous eight decisions. The 29-year-old Hawaiian-born righty allowed a run and six hits over seven innings, struck out six and walked none. He also escaped a bases-loaded, none-out jam in the fourth, and was staked to a 7-0 lead before giving up a leadoff homer by Matt Wieters in the seventh.
“Everything was working,” Williams said. “I was pounding the strike zone, and that’s what I do. I got some ground balls and some strikeouts and let my defense play. I’m just trying to do everything I can to help this team win and get to the playoffs.”
The Angels’ fourth straight victory, coupled with Texas’ 10-0 loss at Chicago, put them within four games of the Rangers in the AL West race.
Torii Hunter’s hitting streak ended at 18 games (0 for 5) after Baltimore center fielder Adam Jones robbed him of a home run in the fourth — two batters after Bourjos extended the Angels’ lead to 6-0 lead with a two-run shot. Bourjos became the second Angels player to homer in three straight games, along with Mark Trumbo, who did it in the final three before the All-Star break.
Brian Matusz (1-6) threw 84 pitches over four innings, giving up six runs — five earned — and eight hits against an all right-handed lineup that included switch-hitters Maicer Izturis and Erick Aybar.
“His command got him into trouble today, and we didn’t help matters defensively,” manager Buck Showalter said.
After watching rookie third baseman Josh Bell fail to execute two critical plays during the 12th inning of Saturday night’s 9-8 loss, Showalter gave rookie second baseman Blake Davis his first start at third in the big leagues. Davis, who took some ground balls about 2 house before gametime under the supervision of bench coach Willie Randolph, committed a fielding error on the first chance he had — a routine grounder toward the hole by Izturis leading off the first inning — and also made a throwing error in the eighth on an infield single by Bourjos.
“I felt bad for Blake because he’s a utility guy who plays all over,” Showalter said. “It was a tough day for him, but there’s been some really good players who have had days similar to that. So I have a little empathy for that. But at the same time, if you’re going to do the things that Blake’s going to have to do to play here, he’s going to have to do them.”
Davis wasn’t the only Orioles player to start at a new position for the first time in the majors. Wieters shifted from catcher to first base in place of Mark Reynolds, who was banged up in a collision with Hank Conger as the Angels rookie ran out a bunt that Bell threw wildly to first during a 12th-inning rally on Saturday.
The Orioles loaded the bases with none out in the fourth on singles by J.J. Hardy and Nick Markakis, followed by Jones’ infield hit, but Vladimir Guerrero struck out on a sinker. Williams then threw a changeup that Wieters hit on the ground to first baseman Trumbo, who fielded it in the hole before starting an inning-ending 3-6-1 double play with Williams taking the relay from shortstop Aybar.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)