Angels keep the good feelings going
SEP 07, 2012 11:13p ET
A strong pitching performance. Solid defense. A walk-off hit.
The Angels had all of them Friday night. And as each day passes, they gain a bit more momentum and a bit more ground in the American League wild-card race.
They are now two games out – two games behind the Baltimore Orioles for the second wild-card spot and 2½ behind the wild-card leading Oakland A’s.
When they win games like they did Friday night – with a two-out single in the bottom of the ninth by pinch-hitter Alberto Callaspo that drove in Peter Bourjos from second base for a 3-2 victory over the Detroit Tigers – anything seems possible.
“Everybody’s relaxed,” Kendrys Morales said through a translator. “Nobody’s really preoccupied with scores, with looking at the scoreboard or how the other ballclubs did. We’re playing relaxed and loose and having a good time playing the game.”
It’s showing. After slumping through part of July and most of August, the Angels are suddenly rejuvenated. Just when it appeared they were falling hopelessly out of the AL West and wild-card races, they are now contenders, going 13-3 the past 18 days and moving a season-high 12 games over .500.
“It’s going to be a grind the whole way,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “You can talk about momentum, but you have to build it every night, from the first pitch of the game. We need to control the game like we are with our pitchers and with our bullpen doing the job. That’s something we missed for a long stretch.”
But they have it back. Right-hander Ervin Santana, who at one point seemed on the verge of a demotion to the bullpen, matched Tigers starter Max Scherzer pitch for pitch, striking out 10 batters into the seventh but also giving up home runs to Prince Fielder and Alex Avila.
Santana was helped by some exceptional defense from Mike Trout in center field and Morales at first base, but the game was still tied 2-2 going into the bottom of the ninth.
Morales’ one-out single off Detroit reliever Octavio Dotel gave the Angels their chance. Bourjos came in to pinch run, and after Howie Kendrick lined out to right, Erick Aybar hit an infield topper that he beat out for a hit, sending Bourjos to second.
Scioscia opted not to let a slumping Mark Trumbo bat, instead sending up Callaspo. It was really a no-brainer: Trumbo had struck out twice already and was hitting .173 (23 for 133) over a 34-game stretch.
“It’s a tough decision,” Scioscia said, “but right there we need a guy that’s going to put the ball in play. Dotel’s real tough on righties and Mark’s struggling a bit right now. We know (Alberto’s) going to put the ball in play and hopefully find a hole, and he did.”
Callaspo did his job, making contact and scooting a fastball past shortstop Jhonny Peralta and into left field. Bourjos sprinted home without a play and Callaspo tried to sprint away from his teammates, who finally caught him in the outfield to celebrate.
“It feels great for the team, for me, for everybody,” he said.
Now the Angels have to hope they can keep that feeling going.