ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Miguel Gonzalez wore Nick Adenhart’s glove onto the mound at Angel Stadium, honoring the memory of his fellow former Angels minor leaguer on the occasion of his first major league start.
The 28-year-old Baltimore rookie then gave a performance that would have made his late friend proud.
Gonzalez pitched seven stellar innings for his first career victory, Steve Pearce hit a three-run homer, and the Orioles hung on to beat the Los Angeles Angels 3-2 Friday night.
Gonzalez (1-0) yielded three hits and a run while striking out six and outdueling All-Star C.J. Wilson for Baltimore’s third victory in four games during its West Coast road swing. Gonzalez’s fellow Orioles realized the well-traveled local kid overcame injury and tragedy to reach this night, and they ambushed him with shaving cream and a shower of cold beverages in the locker room.
“With the things Miguel has been through and the road he has traveled in his life, I don’t think there’s any question he deserved this,” Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said.
Gonzalez was recuperating from Tommy John surgery in 2009 when Adenhart was killed by a drunk driver just a few hours after the Maryland native made his first start of the season for the Angels. Adenhart had given the glove to Gonzalez when they were both in Angels camp in 2007, dreaming of someday making the big leagues.
Gonzalez has kept the glove with him ever since, even taking it on the road in the minors with two organizations. When he finally got a callup with the Orioles and then a spot start — in Anaheim, no less, just a short drive from his home — he knew what to wear to the biggest game of his life.
“I thought it was a good time to do it,” said Gonzalez, emotions swelling behind his eyes. “I’ve been taking it with me every time on the road. I used it once in a while. … I’m with him in my heart, and his family, I’m with them, too.”
His own family also was close at hand. Gonzalez, who is from the nearby San Fernando Valley, thrilled the 200 or so family members watching the culmination of his determination.
“I’m a fighter, and I’ve been doing well all around,” Gonzalez said. “Family and friends were all there for me. After all the ups and downs I’ve had, I was just glad to help out the team.”
Gonzalez allowed just one runner to reach second base for the Angels, who signed the right-hander as a rookie free agent in December 2004 before losing him to Boston four years later in the Rule 5 draft. Gonzalez sat out two full seasons with a knee problem and his shoulder surgery. The Red Sox released him, but he signed with Baltimore last March.
“Guys come and go in the Rule 5 draft, and certainly there’s only so many guys you can protect,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “He was a guy who actually was injured when Boston drafted him, but he certainly has gotten healthy and taken some steps forward. He pitched a terrific game tonight for those guys.”
After Troy Patton escaped an eighth-inning jam, Jim Johnson pitched the ninth for his major league-leading 26th save for Baltimore.
Wilson (9-5) allowed just four hits and three walks over seven innings in his final start before his All-Star game appearance, but the Angels lost with the left-hander on the mound for the first time in nine starts since May 17.
“We’re trying to get the momentum going in these last few games before the All-Star break, and when I’m on the mound, I expect a better result than I gave tonight,” Wilson said. “It doesn’t really matter why you lose, but any time you give up three runs or a three-run homer, it’s not a good game.”
Mark Trumbo hit his 50th career homer for the Angels, who have lost three of four while missing chances to gain ground on the slumping Texas Rangers in the AL West. Mike Trout also homered in the eighth for Los Angeles.
Gonzalez made his only mistake to Trumbo, who connected in the fourth inning for his 21st homer of the season. The slugger hit his first 50 homers in a club-record 232 games, faster than Tim Salmon’s 245.
But Pearce’s homer into the short left-field porch ruined another solid start for Wilson, who allowed only Adam Jones’ single and two walks in the first four innings — and he picked off both of the runners he walked as they attempted to steal.
After Wilson Betemit singled and Mark Reynolds walked to open the fifth, Pearce hit just his third homer of the season on a full-count inside pitch. Wilson has allowed just two homers in his last 10 starts — and Pearce hit both of them, also connecting off Wilson in Baltimore on June 26 during the Angels’ 7-3 win.
After Trout homered against Darren O’Day, Torii Hunter followed with a triple, but Patton got Kendrys Morales on a popup.
NOTES: Pearce never hit more than four homers in a season during his previous five years spent with Pittsburgh. … Gonzalez lists his hometown as Pacoima, Calif., a district of Los Angeles best known as the home of rocker Ritchie Valens and actor Danny Trejo.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)