Proclaiming that his team needed a change, Saunders decreed that the Angels switch to red uniforms for his start against the Atlanta Braves on Sunday night. Saunders pitched seven scoreless innings, and Casey Kotchman hit a two-run home run to lead Los Angeles to a 2-0 win.
The Angels avoided a sweep at home, despite scoring five runs or fewer for the 36th time in 40 games.
The Braves came to Anaheim for the first time and carried in a 7-24 road record, the worst mark in baseball. They won the first two games by a combined score of 14-7.
With the Angels struggling offensively, the team needed a strong bounce-back effort from Saunders, who gave up eight earned runs in 4 2/3 innings in his previous start -- a 13-4 loss to Tampa Bay on June 9.
Saunders (10-3) worked out of jams in the first and sixth innings before giving way to Scot Shields with one out in the eighth. Francisco Rodriguez closed out the ninth for his 28th save of the season, tops in the majors.
"My command was there tonight, maybe it wasn't there last outing," Saunders said. "I kept them off the bases as much as I could. They're a good hitting team, it was a battle."
Saunders, who will turn 27 on Monday, became the third AL pitcher to win 10 games. His return to form against the Braves may have been spurred by the pregame uniform change.
The Angels' team protocol has the starting pitcher select which uniform style they will wear that day, and Saunders elected to have his team switch from their normal home white shirts.
"I like to wear red, maybe just switch it up a bit and you never know," Saunders explained. "I just said, 'Let's go red today and see what happens.'"
After giving up leadoff singles to Yunel Escobar and Kelly Johnson in the first, Saunders struck out Chipper Jones. Mark Teixeira then hit into a double play to end the early threat.
"That was important, obviously we haven't been scoring a lot of runs and it figured to be a tight game," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.
Saunders then retired 13 of the next 15 batters before the Braves threatened again with two runners in scoring position in the sixth. Saunders induced Jeff Francoeur to fly out to left field to end the inning.
Braves starter Jorge Campillo (2-1) was equally sharp, limiting the Angels to seven hits in eight innings.
"You can't pitch any better than that," Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said. "Hardly any good swings against him all night long."
Campillo yielded a leadoff single to Chone Figgins in the first, but retired the next 12 batters before Vladimir Guerrero doubled to lead off the fifth, extending a season-best hitting streak to seven games.
Later in the inning, Kotchman hit his first home run since April 23 to give the Angels a 2-0 lead.
"It's nice to get one when we were pressed for some runs," Kotchman said. "We can't ask anything more from our pitching staff. They've kept games close and given us a chance. It's just a matter of us executing and getting some swings and putting some runs up there."
Braves left fielder Brandon Jones went 6-for-11 in the series after being recalled from Triple-A Richmond on Wednesday.
"He's picked it up," Cox said. "He was always our number one hitting prospect in the organization for the last three of four years. Everybody thought he would be a 25 home run guy, and hit in the .300s because he has that kind of swing."
- The Braves will play at Colorado on Monday, making up an April 10 game that was postponed due to snow.
- Angels infielder Erick Aybar played five innings and went 1-for-3 Sunday in his first rehab appearance with the team's Class A affiliate in Rancho Cucamonga.
- The Angels have not been swept in a three-game series at home since Kansas City did it June 25-27, 2007.
- Braves 3B Chipper Jones is 2-for-15 in four games since returning to the lineup Wednesday after sustaining a small tear in his right quadriceps muscle. He missed the series opener against the Angels on Friday after being injured in batting practice. A ball he hit caromed off the top of the batting cage and then struck him in the face. He went 0-for-7 in the final two games of the series and his major league-leading average fell to .402.
- Angels SS Maicer Izturis was 0-3, ending a 13-game hitting streak.