ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Angels don’t seem to be in a rush, even though June is halfway over and first place seems an ocean away. But every day they get closer to where they want to be.
It’s a process, manager Mike Scioscia likes to say. Baby steps. One game at a time.
“We’re not going to wake up tomorrow and be in first place,” Scioscia said late Friday night. “But we have to wake up in the process tomorrow. Tonight was a great game.”
Great in so many ways. The Angels beat the New York Yankees 5-2 with some capable pitching from C.J. Wilson, strong defense when they needed it and just enough clutch hitting to score single runs in the first, fourth, sixth, seventh and eighth innings.
In other words, it wasn’t an explosion of offense. What the Angels did was small but meaningful.
Yes, they’re a team built for power, but until Albert Pujols gets fully untracked and Josh Hamilton finds a way out of his prolonged slump, they’ll have to find other ways to win. On Wednesday afternoon in Baltimore, it was a come-from-behind 9-5 win. Then on Friday, they pecked away at the Yankees and starter Andy Pettitte.
“We’re just happy to get the win,” second baseman Howie Kendrick said. “The big thing is there were a lot of contributing pieces. We pitched out of some jams, we minimized some damage and got some big hits. That’s huge for us.”
No one is doing more than Kendrick, who had two hits, drove in the Angels’ first run of the game and upped his batting average to .328, fourth best in the American League. He leads the AL in hits this month with 21 and has 21 hits in his past 42 at-bats.
Now if some of that would just rub off on Hamilton, whose 0-for-4 left him at .213.
“At times you’re going to have maybe three or four guys swinging the bats well,” Scioscia said. “You’re not going to have nine guys swinging the bats well. What we’re concerned about is getting Josh going. This guy is critical to some of the things we need to do on the offensive end, and as he’s trying to get into his game, we’re being carried by guys like Howie, Mark Trumbo and Mike Trout.”
The win gave the Angels a modest two-game streak, their first since they took two in row from the Dodgers on May 29-30. Wilson, who hadn’t won since May 22, endured one difficult inning, the fourth, when he got two quick outs before allowing five hitters in a row to reach base, including David Adams, whose two-run single gave the Yankees a 2-1 lead.
Wilson finally escaped, retiring Austin Romine on a fielder’s choice, but he needed more offense — and got it.
“I knew I was going to be able to get out of that inning,” Wilson said. “It was just a matter of which guy was going to hit the ball on the ground or which guy was going to pop it up. As a pitcher you always feel that way. I wasn’t really too worried about it. I was just upset that it started with two outs.”
Chris Iannetta’s sacrifice fly in the bottom of the fourth tied the game, and the Angels scored the go-ahead run in the sixth on an RBI single by Iannetta.
The Angels are still 11 games behind the Oakland A’s in the AL West and nine games out of a possible wild card spot, but at this point in the season, no one is measuring the team’s position by the standings.
They’re still taking small steps and trying to build from one game to the next.
“This team has the capabilities to flip it around if we can get into our game,” Scioscia said.
It will take a while. But maybe Friday’s win was a sign of progress.