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DET@OAK: Hunter hits first home run for Tigers

After five seasons during which he became one of Orange County's most beloved ballplayers, Torii Hunter will take his familiar place in the Angel Stadium outfield on Friday night.

Only this time, he'll do so sporting his road grays and a Detroit Tigers cap.

Hunter's past and his present meet this weekend at Angel Stadium as the Tigers host the Angels for three games beginning Friday, when the Halos' Tommy Hanson takes the hill against Anibal Sanchez.

Throughout the 2012 season, Hunter reiterated his desire to return to the Angels organization for '13. But the club, with its plethora of outfielders, opted not to re-sign him and instead, he inked a two-year, $26 million contract with Detroit.

"There's not that many people in the league like Torii Hunter, man," Angels right-hander Jered Weaver said. "He's bright-eyed and bushy-tailed every single day. He comes in with a great attitude and a great mindset."

The start to Hunter's season and the start to the Angels' season have been polar opposites. Hunter is off to a torrid start with a .413 average and a league-leading 26 hits as of Thursday afternoon.

Meanwhile, the Halos are struggling. Their four wins are tied for the fewest in the American League. Some have suggested the club has missed Hunter's leadership.

"He was a big piece of our team, but at the same time, we have a lot of guys that step up and play the game, too," second baseman Howie Kendrick said. "He was a very vocal leader, he was a very passionate guy about the game, but we have a lot of guys in this locker room that are very passionate and play with a lot of vigor.

"Like I said, he'll be missed, but you have other veteran guys around that definitely step up. When things need to be done, they'll do it."

Friday also marks this season's first meeting between Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout, who finished first and second, respectively, in last year's hotly-contested American League Most Valuable Player voting.

Angels: Rotation woes
• The Angels will need more production out of their starting pitchers if they want to meet the high expectations they set at the beginning of the season. The 6.07 rotation ERA is the highest in the Majors and only one starter has recorded an out in the seventh inning all year.

"You want to see them get deeper in games, but you have to make pitches to get deeper in the game," Angels pitching coach Mike Butcher said. "We're making too many pitches early in the game. At some point, you have to stop the bleeding. And at some point, hopefully the ball will kick the right way, and we'll get an out. But right now, it's just not rolling in the right direction for us."

In two starts this season, Hanson is 1-1 with a 6.55 ERA.

Tigers: Sanchez looks to stay hot
• In each of his last two starts, Sanchez has posted seven-inning, eight-strikeout victories, and he'll get the ball against the Angels on Friday.

"He's a guy who doesn't fall into patterns," catcher Alex Avila said after Sanchez held the A's to one run on three hits in seven innings Sunday. "He isn't afraid to throw anything at any time."

Sanchez's 1.42 ERA this season leads the team.

• Tigers starters have recorded a quality start in each of the last seven games, going 4-2 with a 1.72 ERA.

• Hunter is two home runs shy of 300 for his career. He would become the 17th active player to reach the milestone.

Worth noting
• Despite their rich histories and similar solid performances over the past decade, the Tigers and Angels have never made the playoffs in the same season.

• Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder is hitting .313 against Hanson with a homer and a double in 18 plate appearances.

• The two clubs split the season series last season, 5-5, as the Angels closed with a three-game sweep in early September.

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