Although Torii Hunter has nine Gold Gloves in his trophy case, he's flabbergasted by the plays Peter Bourjos is making on a near-nightly basis in center field at Angel Stadium.
So is Miguel Cabrera after Bourjos robbed the Detroit slugger in back-to-back at-bats during another win for the surging Angels.
Hunter and Vernon Wells homered, Joel Pineiro yielded five hits over seven solid innings, and Los Angeles beat the Detroit Tigers 5-1 Monday night for its ninth win in 11 games.
Erick Aybar and Mark Trumbo had RBI singles for the Angels, who have surged into first place in the AL West with 14 wins in 19 games overall, winning six straight series. But the holiday crowd was most impressed by Bourjos, the rookie speedster who stole two bases while warming up for his outfield theatrics.
Bourjos made a sprinting catch at his shoetops on Cabrera's sinking liner in the fourth inning, and he brought down the house on a leaping catch with two runners on in the sixth, hitting the wall on the fly while snaring another drive from the majors' 2010 RBI leader.
"I didn't think about it," Bourjos said of his daredevil catch. "I didn't have a choice. I was going to hit that wall. ... (Cabrera) can really hit. I might have to play on the track tomorrow."
Hunter missed the Angels' past two games against the Dodgers with a bruised left hand, but connected in the first inning for his ninth homer of the season, hitting the fake rock pile beyond center field at Angel Stadium. After a decade as maybe the majors' best defensive center fielder, Hunter has ceded the position to Bourjos — and he can't complain.
"I see it a little differently — some good steps, some good angles," Hunter said. "With his breaks on the ball, it's like, how is he even close to that? He's always there, man."
Pineiro (4-3) walked three and managed just one strikeout, but largely avoided trouble in his fifth consecutive start without a loss. He tired in the late innings of his longest start since May 16, but the Angels' infield ended the sixth and seventh innings with double plays — not to mention Bourjos' trouble-saving defense.
"I think that was the momentum-changer big-time in the ballgame," Pineiro said of Bourjos' leaping catch. "If you can keep it in the ballpark, they've got a good chance of making the play anywhere in our outfield."
Jhonny Peralta hit an RBI single in the fourth for the Tigers, who have lost five of seven. Furbush (1-2) didn't make it out of the fifth inning in his first career start for the Tigers, yielding five hits and three runs — including one run on a comical balk that allowed Bourjos to score from third.
And the Tigers' potent offense was no help this time: Cabrera and Victor Martinez, two of the AL's top four hitters, were a combined 0 for 7.
"They looked like they had somebody standing everywhere we hit it," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. "I thought we hit some balls pretty good. ... They played a perfect game. Steals, made some double plays, really good."
Furbush joined the rotation one day after the Tigers fired pitching coach Rick Knapp, replacing him with bullpen coach Jeff Jones after three blowout losses last week in which Detroit yielded a combined 45 runs. The Tigers' staff ERA ballooned to 4.39, third-worst in the AL, and Detroit fell out of first place in the AL Central during last week's embarrassments.
Furbush, a minor league starter before joining the Tigers' bullpen, replaced Phil Coke, who is 1-7 in his 14 starts this season. Coke pitched the eighth inning for Detroit, giving up Wells' 12th homer.
With Bourjos on third after easily stealing two bases against Furbush's deliberate delivery, Furbush nearly completed his throwing motion out of the stretch before scrapping it at the last moment when his spikes apparently caught on the rubber, causing a blatant balk.
Leyland still was fairly pleased with Furbush's effort, saying he'd make sure the young starter's confidence was strong before his next start. Furbush already bounced back mentally from giving up a homer to his second batter.
"You've just got to flush it away," Furbush said of Hunter's early drive. "That's what happens. I put a pitch right over the middle of the plate, and he put it away. ... I like knowing my role as a starter, knowing when I'm pitching, so it's great."
NOTES: Angels SS Maicer Izturis got a day off, with Aybar replacing him. ... Los Angeles passed the midway point of a season-long 13-game homestand, while Detroit opened a seven-game road trip heading into the All-Star break. ... Angels 2B Howie Kendrick, a first-time All-Star selection on Sunday, extended his hitting streak to 13 games with a fourth-inning double, matching the longest by a Los Angeles player this season. ... Detroit RHP Al Alburquerque played catch Monday for the first time since going on the DL with soreness in his right forearm.