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LAA@KC: Hunter homers to put the Angels on the board

KANSAS CITY -- It might not have been a success on style points, but there was nothing wrong with the Angels' power game on Opening Day.

Torii Hunter and Jeff Mathis jolted the Royals with their bats and Jered Weaver handled them with his arm before the bullpen made it interesting, and ultimately satisfying, with a 4-2 decision on Thursday in front of 40,055, a Kauffman Stadium sellout.

It came down to Fernando Rodney against Alex Gordon with two on and two away in the ninth. Rodney reached back for premium gas and put away Gordon, the 10th Royals hitter to go down on strikes.

"At the end of the day, we got it done," said Michael Kohn, who delivered a pair of big outs with the bases loaded in the eighth to bail out Kevin Jepsen. "As long as you end up with a W, it's a good day."

Under threatening skies with the temperature at 45 degrees at game time, Weaver, the Majors' 2010 strikeout king, left an impression on Royals manager Ned Yost and his hitters.

"Weaver is as good of a pitcher as I've seen being able to disrupt a hitter's timing," Yost said. "That's what pitching is all about, keeping a hitter off balance."

Lifted with a shutout after 6 1/3 innings and 107 pitches, Weaver was in sync with catcher Mathis in delivering his second consecutive Opening Day win. He produced six strikeouts while allowing two hits and two walks.

"My fastball location was really good -- a lot better than I thought it would be," Weaver said. "I looked to keep people off the basepaths as much as possible.

"We made it interesting, but those [relievers] made pitches when they needed to and got the big outs they needed."

Royals starter Luke Hochevar rolled into the fourth in a scoreless duel when Hunter unloaded a 446-foot blast to dead center -- his third career Opening Day homer and second in Kansas City.

"Hochevar had great stuff -- he was dealing," said Hunter, who launched a two-seam fastball. "We just happened to get some timely hits."

Hunter jokingly called it "wind-aided," but the elements had nothing to do with the distance his drive carried.

"Torii Hunter, a 3-2 count, I'm going right after him, and a ball came back over the plate and into his nitro zone," Hochevar said.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia marveled at Hunter's stunning shot.

"I don't think I've ever seen one hit longer than that in this ballpark," Scioscia said. "Torii's a terrific athlete who plays the game with passion. He knows this is his time."

Doubles by Vernon Wells and Erick Aybar gave Weaver a two-run lead later in the fourth, and the right-hander worked out of a two-on jam in the bottom half of the inning by striking out Kila Ka'aihue with a changeup.

Mathis, celebrating his 28th birthday, homered to left in the sixth. He also homered on Opening Day last season.

"The curveball to Mathis," Hochevar said, "I want the ball down but it's early in the count and I'm being aggressive in the zone."

Another birthday celebrant, Peter Bourjos, marked No. 24 with a bunt single following Mathis.

Bourjos then showed his blinding speed, taking second and then third on throwing errors by Hochevar and second baseman Mike Aviles. Maicer Izturis' two-out single made it 4-0.

Replacing Weaver, new southpaw Hisanori Takahashi got one out before yielding a homer to Jeff Francoeur and singles to Alcides Escobar and Matt Treanor. Scioscia summoned Jordan Walden, who struck out pinch-hitter Wilson Betemit to leave two men stranded.

A strike to home by Francoeur in right field erased an Angels threat in the eighth. Francoeur shot down Mathis, who'd doubled, on Bourjos' single.

With Jepsen assuming Scot Shields' old setup role, Aviles homered leading off the eighth.

"It was just stupid, plain and simple," Jepsen said of the inside fastball he gave Aviles. "It was 0-1 and I threw it right into his zone. He's a pull hitter. It was elevated, inner half, and if you see the replay, he said, 'Thank you,' spun and drilled it."

A pair of walks around an out brought Kohn to the mound. The poised right-hander from South Carolina walked Ka'aihue on a full count before striking out Francoeur with a slider up in the zone and retiring Escobar on a lazy fly ball to Hunter.

"If we'd have lost, we would have imploded," Scioscia said, correcting a reporter's analysis of the bullpen. "It wasn't pretty, but we got it done.

"On the offensive end, we got a lot of guys in scoring position, even though we were only 3-for-13. We drove the ball, put a couple of balls out of the park.

"It wasn't as clean as we'd like in the bullpen, but it will get better."

The Angels' newly designed outfield was as good as advertised. Bourjos ran down a second-inning drive by Ka'aihue, and nine-time Gold Glover Hunter made a diving catch in right to rob Aviles in the sixth. Wells, with three Gold Gloves, was relatively quiet in left.

"We've got probably the best outfield in the league, I think," Weaver said. "Obviously, Torii showed that off in right, and Peter made a nice play in center on Ka'aihue. I haven't got one to Vernon yet, but I will. It's fun to watch those guys run around."

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