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Angels’ Williams overwhelms the Twins

By Mike DiGiovanna, Los Angeles Times –

ANAHEIM, Calif. — It had been eight years, nine months and some change — 3,201 days, to be exact — since Jerome Williams threw a major league shutout, but the Angels right-hander recalled details about that game like it was last week.

“It was in 2003 and was my second win against Oakland,” said Williams, 30, who was pitching for San Francisco at the time. “I remember that game because (outfielder) Jose Cruz Jr. helped me by doubling off Miguel Tejada at first.”

So much has happened since that June 27, 2003, win — Williams was traded away from the Giants, released by two other organizations, ballooned to 270 pounds, injured his shoulder, pitched in Taiwan, Mexico and two independent leagues — but Tuesday night he finally authored a bookend to that gem.

Baffling a weak-hitting Minnesota lineup with his cut-fastball and power sinker, Williams threw a three-hitter with six strikeouts and one walk, retiring 18 batters in a row before a two-out walk in the ninth inning, to lead the Angels to a 4-0 victory in Angel Stadium.

Torii Hunter continued his torrid week with a solo home run, his fourth homer in five days, in the second inning and a run-scoring single in the third, giving the right fielder 12 hits in 30 at-bats and eight runs batted in in his last eight games, pushing his average from .263 to .310.

Howie Kendrick, mired in a 12-game slump in which he hit .178 (eight for 45), hit a solo home run in the second inning, a triple in the fourth and a single in the sixth, his bid to become the first Angel to hit for the cycle since Chone Figgins in 2006 coming up short when he lined out to first base in the eighth.

Although Albert Pujols was hitless in four at-bats, he drove in a run with a third-inning grounder, ending at 14 a string of games without a run batted in and giving him five RBIs this season.

And center fielder Mike Trout reached Mach 6 speed on a key bunt single in the third inning, his 3.53-second time from home to first the fastest third base coach Dino Ebel has seen since he joined the Angels eight years ago.

But the biggest reason the Angels won for the third time in four games was Williams, who recorded 15 ground-ball outs, allowed five balls to leave the infield, started 11 batters with 0-and-2 counts and threw only 109 pitches, 75 for strikes, to complete the 2-hour 10-minute game.

“Jerome was awesome,” Hunter said. “He was in and out of the zone with his sinker and cutter, he went hard, soft and worked fast. It was pretty impressive. He looks good, confident, polished.”

Pretty remarkable for a guy who, this time last year, was pitching for the Lancaster (Penn.) Barnstormers of the independent Atlantic League.

But Tory Hernandez, the Angels’ former manager of baseball operations, based on a recommendation from Southern California-area scout Bobby DeJardin, who knew Williams since he was an amateur, signed Williams to a minor league deal June 16.

Williams pitched well enough at triple-A Salt Lake to earn a promotion to the Angels on Aug. 17, and his 4-0 record and 3.68 earned-run average in 10 games earned him the fifth spot in one of baseball’s best rotations this spring.

“I’ve gone through the ropes, but I feel like I belong,” Williams (2-1) said. “And now that I’m here, I want to stay here for a while. I just have to keep doing what I’m doing, work hard and pitch well.”

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