Torii Hunter finally found his power stroke and made it count. It was a shame his manager wasn't there to watch it in person.
Hunter ended a home run drought of 28 games with a go-ahead shot off Derek Lowe, rookie Tyler Chatwood pitched seven strong innings and the Los Angeles Angels beat the Atlanta Braves 4-1 on Sunday in the rubber game of their interleague series.
Hunter gave the Angels a 2-1 lead in the fourth with his fifth homer of the season and first in 99 at-bats since his two-run shot against Boston's Josh Beckett on April 21 at Anaheim. The four-time All-Star drove a 2-1 pitch to left field after a leadoff walk to Bobby Abreu, putting Hunter within seven RBIs of 1,000.
"I can't remember that far back," Hunter said when asked about his previous homer. "I hadn't seen one of those in a while. I've seen them on TV and in the movies, but it's a lot of fun to get one out of the way for this month."
The Angels, who had lost six of seven, got back to the .500 mark while manager Mike Scioscia was in South Bend, Ind., attending his son Matt's graduation from Notre Dame. Bench coach Rob Picciolo ran the club during Scioscia's absence.
Picciolo, in his first season as Angels bench coach after five seasons as their roving infield coordinator, managed the San Diego Padres' rookie-level team at Spokane, Wash., in the Northwest League from 1986-87.
"I thought he was going to come out as Sosh, but we couldn't find his jersey. I think he knew we were going to try to do something and he hid it," Hunter said with a grin. "It was a lot of fun. Peach was smiling and having fun with it, and it kind of rubbed off on us. We executed, and got guys over into scoring position and got the job done. That's the way we've got to play the game."
Hunter also had a double leading off the sixth, and scored on a groundout by rookie Alexi Amarista. Abreu drove in the Angels' final run in the seventh with his 534th double, tying Lou Gehrig for 32nd place on the career list.
Having played two-plus seasons in Yankees pinstripes before joining the Angels as a free agent in November 2009, the achievement was even more significant to the 16-year veteran and two-time All-Star.
"It's very emotional for me to be there with Lou Gehrig," Abreu said. "It's a dream. It's special to me, and I'm just going to enjoy it. Lou Gehrig was a special player and was one of the best in the game. I never checked out his monument (at Yankee Stadium), but now maybe I'll stop by."
Chatwood (3-2) allowed a run and five hits, struck out six and walked two. It was the third time in the right-hander's last four starts that he allowed only one run, including a pair of no-decisions at Angel Stadium against the Indians and White Sox. Last Tuesday, Chatwood lasted only 2 1-3 innings in a 14-0 loss at Oakland after giving up seven runs — five earned.
"It was definitely good to bounce back and give the team a chance to win," Chatwood said. "I felt good the whole game, but I really got into a good rhythm the last three innings, settled in a little more and started throwing all of my pitches for strikes."
Scott Downs pitched a perfect eighth and Jordan Walden got three outs for his eighth save in 11 chances.
Lowe (3-4) threw 108 pitches over six innings, allowing three runs, five hits and a season-high five walks while striking out five. It was the fifth time this season that the 37-year-old right-hander made 100 or more pitches without reaching the seventh.
"I had non-competitive stuff, so I was happy I was able to make it as far as I did," Lowe said. "It was one of those days where my body didn't feel too good, and I was throwing 85 mph trying to get those guys out. The pitch to Hunter on the home run was a hanging breaking ball. If you make that pitch down and away, you're going to have a lot more success. It was a tight game, and one pitch made the difference."
The game began inauspiciously for the Braves when leadoff hitter Nate McLouth checked his swing on a 1-2 pitch in the dirt and strained a muscle on his left side. Pinch-hitter Diory Hernandez had to finish the at-bat and grounded out before getting his glove and going to third base — forcing Martin Prado, right fielder Joe Mather and left fielder Eric Hinske to switch from their original defensive positions.
Mather, who helped rally the Braves from a 4-0 deficit Saturday night with a three-run homer and a go-ahead double in the 12th inning of a 5-4 victory, opened the scoring against Chatwood with a run-scoring single after a two-out double by Freddie Freeman.
NOTES: After the game, the Braves placed LF Jason Heyward on the 15-day disabled list because of stiffness in his right shoulder and recalled OF Wilkin Ramirez from Triple-A Gwinnett. ... Braves RHP Tim Hudson, who gave up eight runs over 3 2-3 innings and hit three batters during his 9-0 loss to the Angels on Friday night, returned to Atlanta to have his back examined is expected to miss his scheduled start Wednesday at Pittsburgh. LHP Mike Minor will be recalled from Triple-A to make his 10th big league start, and a corresponding move will be made Wednesday. ... Angels leading hitter Howie Kendrick missed his third straight game because of tightness in his right hamstring. ... Hall of Famer Don Sutton came out of the Braves' radio both to throw out a ceremonial first pitch on the same field where he recorded his 300th career victory on June 18, 1986, while pitching for the Angels.