ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — The Los Angeles Angels were two outs from falling another game behind in the AL wild-card race.
A stirring rally against Boston’s beleaguered closer showed the Angels aren’t giving up the chase just yet.
Mike Trout and Torii Hunter drove in runs in the ninth inning against Alfredo Aceves, and the Angels came back for a 6-5 victory over the Red Sox on Tuesday night.
Trout drove in the tying run with a broken-bat single and Hunter ended it with a long sacrifice fly to center, easily scoring Alberto Callaspo. The Angels ran onto the field to celebrate their first home victory over Boston in eight games since July 2010, making a bit more progress in a season that’s in danger of slipping away without a whole bunch of wins in a hurry.
“As long as we get in there, that’s fine, but we still want to win the division no matter what,” Hunter said. “That’s still the priority. We’ve got 30 more games, so we’re just going out there every day and grinding. We didn’t give up tonight. They got a lead early, but we kept grinding and got it done.”
The Angels appeared to be headed to their third straight loss until they jumped on Aceves (2-9) in his second inning of work following a three-game suspension for apparently arguing with manager Bobby Valentine, who had few options left in his overworked bullpen.
Aceves blew his eighth save after returning to the Red Sox following an apparent blowup at Valentine when he was passed over for a save opportunity in favor of Andrew Bailey, who was unavailable Tuesday after pitching in four of the previous five games. Aceves had no problems in the eighth after relieving Clay Buchholz, who outpitched Angels ace Jered Weaver over the first seven innings.
Erick Aybar stole second after getting hit with a one-out pitch in the ninth, and pinch-hitter Callaspo walked before Trout’s tying single.
“I was just trying to stay up the middle and shorten up my swing,” said Trout, who also opened the game with his 25th homer. “I knew my bat broke, but it just found a hole.”
Kevin Jepsen (3-2) pitched the ninth for Los Angeles.
Buchholz pitched seven resilient innings of six-hit ball, retiring 16 of 17 early on in the opener of Boston’s nine-game West Coast road swing. Jarrod Saltalamacchia homered and drove in two runs, and James Loney drove in a run in his third straight game with Boston since arriving in last week’s megatrade with the Dodgers.
“It’s tough. You never want to lose a game in the bottom of the ninth,” Buchholz said after Aceves’ loss erased what would have been his 12th win. “The pitch he made that tied the game was a pretty good pitch. You can’t ever second-guess him. He’s throwing the pitches he wants to throw.”
Aceves didn’t speak to reporters after the game, keeping his cellphone firmly to his ear while getting dressed and leaving the clubhouse.
Weaver yielded seven hits and five runs over seven innings, but his teammates’ ninth-inning rally spared him the first three-game home skid of his major league career. He gave up three runs in the fourth inning during a Boston rally that began with four singles and a walk.
“We’ll take any win right now,” Weaver said. “These guys battled back, and we were able to get some runs late. It was nice to come back like that. It’s great for momentum, especially when we’re only going to have three here at home before we go on the road.”
Trout hit his second career leadoff home run and Albert Pujols hit his 29th homer for the Angels, who kept pace with AL wild-card leaders Oakland and Baltimore. Howie Kendrick extended his hitting streak to 14 games with an RBI double in the sixth, and Los Angeles won its fourth straight over Boston after sweeping a series at Fenway Park last week.
After finishing the Angels’ road trip in a 1-for-13 slump, Trout hit Buchholz’s second pitch near the fake rock pile behind Angel Stadium’s center-field fence. The 21-year-old phenom became the youngest Angels player and first rookie to get 25 homers and 40 stolen bases in a season.
Pujols singled later in the first in his return to the lineup following a four-game absence to rest a sore right calf. Saltalamacchia replied in the second with his 22nd homer, putting a hanging curve into the elevated stands above right field.
Buchholz finally stumbled in the sixth when Pujols drove a homer off the rock pile and Mark Trumbo scored from first base on Kendrick’s two-out double in the gap.
NOTES: Los Angeles put reliever Scott Downs on the family medical emergency list and recalled Kole Calhoun from Triple-A Salt Lake. … Boston put LHP Franklin Morales on the 15-day disabled list. … Olympic gold medal-winning gymnast Kyla Ross threw out the first pitch. The 15-year-old Ross attends Aliso Niguel High School in Aliso Viejo, Calif., a short drive from Angel Stadium. She was part of the Fierce Five that won the U.S. team gold in London.