ANAHEIM, Calif. — Vladimir Guerrero left the plate with a spring in his trot, pumping his fist and swiftly circling the bases to meet his three Texas teammates back at home.
Guerrero rarely looked this light on his feet last season with the Los Angeles Angels. They let him walk away as a free agent — and Guerrero is stomping all over his former team’s pitching this week.
Guerrero hit a grand slam and another homer during a four-hit performance, leading the Rangers to a 6-4 victory over the Angels on Wednesday night.
Guerrero also had a long double and a single during the 42nd multihomer game of his career. The slugger has three homers and six hits in his first two games back at Angel Stadium since Los Angeles decided not to re-sign him last winter — but he claims it’s absolutely nothing personal.
“I just really try to do my job,” Guerrero said through a translator. “I’m swinging the bat well and hitting it hard.”
Guerrero’s fourth-inning grand slam and eighth-inning solo shot sent Texas to its 14th win in 16 games despite a shaky major league debut for starter Omar Beltre, who made it through just four innings after giving up a leadoff homer to Erick Aybar.
The AL West-leading Rangers earned their 21st win in June, setting a club record for wins in a month. After Tuesday’s 6-5 loss in the series opener, Texas won for the ninth time in 10 road games to avoid losing back-to-back games for the first time in nearly four weeks.
“We played a solid ballgame,” said Josh Hamilton, who stretched his hitting streak to 23 games with an eighth-inning double. “Beltre did good to get us through those early innings, and then Vladdy took it from there.”
But Anaheim’s envious eyes were on Guerrero, who tied his career high with four hits for the 24th time during the third multihomer game of his first season with Texas. The 2004 AL MVP connected for the seventh grand slam of his career in his second game back in Orange County, where he played the past six seasons for the Angels.
“He’s as dangerous as any hitter in the game right now,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “He’s obviously at a level we haven’t seen in a couple of years, but it just goes back to his health and how he’s feeling. … That’s what he can do. Vlad was swinging it tonight. We obviously didn’t pitch him the way we were trying to. You make a mistake on Vlad and you’re going to pay a price.”
Kazmir faced the minimum nine batters through three innings until falling apart in the fourth. After hitting leadoff hitter Elvis Andrus, he gave up Michael Young‘s double and walked Ian Kinsler before Guerrero hammered a changeup into the trees behind the center field fence for his 17th homer.
“We tried to work both sides of the plate, but anything that you left right down the middle or anywhere in the zone, he was going to hit it hard,” Kazmir said. “That was one of the things we couldn’t control too much.”
Kazmir left after Kinsler’s RBI single in the fifth, giving up six hits and five runs. Guerrero then hit Sean O’Sullivan‘s first pitch into the left-center gap for a double, but O’Sullivan got Nelson Cruz on a fly to right with the bases loaded.
Beltre, a 28-year-old right-hander, allowed Aybar’s homer to right on his fourth major league pitch. He needed 85 pitches to get through four innings, allowing five hits and four walks while striking out six.
“I was a little nervous, but I’m just glad we won the game,” Beltre said through a translator. “After the first inning, I was feeling like it was coming together, and I was able to make a couple of good pitches. I can’t make that many mistakes. When you make mistakes, you pay for it right away.”
General manager Jon Daniels wouldn’t confirm the Rangers had acquired catcher Bengie Molina from the San Francisco Giants in a deal for reliever Chris Ray, saying he had “nothing to report at this time.” Texas is interested in acquiring a catcher after opening day catchers Taylor Teagarden and Jarrod Saltalamacchia both struggled before getting sent to the minors.
Ray showered and dressed with the Rangers after the game, but declined to talk about the seemingly imminent trade.
“It hasn’t been official,” Texas manager Ron Washington said. “I just don’t have any comment right now.”
Hamilton connected after going hitless in his first three plate appearances, extending the majors’ longest streak this season. … While Guerrero is rejuvenated and healthy with the Rangers, his Angels replacement, Hideki Matsui, is in a 2 for 23 slump after going 0 for 3 with a walk.