The Los Angeles Angels haven’t missed a beat without Vladimir Guerrero and Torii Hunter. Players once at the bottom of the order or buried on the bench have filled the gaps left by their injured teammates, keeping the Angels atop the AL West.
No one has been better at it than Erick Aybar.
Aybar broke open a close game with a three-run triple and had seven hits in two games Tuesday, helping the Los Angeles Angels complete a doubleheader sweep with a 10-2 win over the hapless Kansas City Royals.
Aybar used his bat and legs to lift the Angels to an 8-5 win in the opener, with three hits, three runs and an RBI. He did all the damage with his bat in the nightcap, as his bases-loaded triple off Juan Cruz started the Angels‘ seven-run seventh inning.
Aybar went 7-for-9 in the doubleheader and has eight RBIs the past four games.
“The ceiling everybody saw is there and it’s great to see a young player get comfortable and show the talent he’s shown in the minor leagues,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “He’s getting comfortable and hopefully we’ll see that talent continue to progress.”
Aybar bounced between the majors and minors his first three seasons before getting a shot at being the Angels‘ fulltime shortstop after Orlando Cabrera was traded. He’s flourished in the role, using early work in the batting cages to hone his talent, lifting his average to .315 this season – 53 points higher than his career average.
Aybar has been at his best with Guerrero and Hunter on the DL and Juan Cruz nursing a tight hamstring, hitting .490 this month, including 24-for-43 the past 11 games.
“The chance to play every day was there, even though it wasn’t a guarantee, but I knew that coming out early, taking care of what I needed to would give me a better chance at success,” Aybar said through a translator.
The Angels had 25 combined hits, winning for the ninth time in 10 games.
Bobby Abreu had three doubles and drove in three runs in the second game, and Robb Quinlan hit first homer since May 4, 2008, against Baltimore. Gary Matthews Jr. and Reggie Willits drove in two runs each in the opener and Kendry Morales had two hits to extend his hitting streak to a career-high 19 games.
Kansas City got a shaky start from Sidney Ponson (1-6), a decent one from Bruce Chen (0-5) and another disastrous night from its bullpen to push its losing streak to eight games. The Royals blew three straight leads in a sweep by Tampa Bay over the weekend, then let two close games get away against the Angels by allowing nine runs in eight innings.
The Royals tied a team record by using nine pitchers in the doubleheader – Jamey Wright pitched twice – and have dropped a season-worst 19 games under .500 after their second eight-game losing streak of the season.
“It’s not fun,” Royals catcher John Buck said. “It’s not from a lack of trying and not wanting to. That’s why it hurts so much.”
Ervin Santana (3-5) scuffled through six innings to get the win in the first game, allowing six runs and eight hits with seven strikeouts. Brian Fuentes pitched the ninth for his majors-best 29th save in 32 chances.
Sean O’Sullivan (3-0) had some shaky moments in the second game, needing 49 pitches to get through the first two innings. The rookie right-hander settled down after that, though, and finished with two runs and six hits in 5 2-3 innings. The Angels are 5-0 in games he starts.
“The one resounding theme with Sean is that this guy just wins,” Scioscia said. “He’s done it in the minor leagues and he’s doing it up here.”
Ponson allowed eight hits and six runs in the first game, including one a wild pitch in the third inning that hit the backstop in the air and caromed all the way back to his glove.
Chen at least gave the Royals a chance, giving up three runs on seven hits in five innings.
Kansas City trailed 3-2 when Chen left, but the bullpen imploded in the seventh inning, facing 11 hitters as the Angels pushed the lead to 10-2. The Royals bullpen has allowed 27 earned runs over its last 26 innings after posting a 2.78 ERA the previous 18 games.
The Angels‘ last doubleheader was Aug. 17, 2007, against Boston. … Kansas City’s Billy Butler hit his ninth homer in the first game, a two-run shot. … Abreu reached 20 stolen bases for the 11th straight season when he swiped second in the eighth inning of the first game. … The Angels have won 31 of their past 41 games against Kansas City.