ANAHEIM, Calif. — One win isn’t going to turn around a season, but let’s just say this right now: The Angels needed this one.
Zack Greinke needed it, the struggling offense needed it, the team’s uncertain hopes needed it. The season was beginning to fill with frustration, but now the Angels can regroup and maybe start to rebuild.
They got everything they haven’t been getting lately: strong starting pitching and a robust offense. After losing three games in a row and nine of 12, they brushed past the Cleveland Indians 9-6 at Angel Stadium and actually gained a game in the American League West.
So all is not lost. Not now, not yet.
“If you’re talking about frustration, there’s always going to be frustration if you’re not where you want to be and what your record is,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “But it’s just one game. You want to carry it over.
“I think the confidence is going to build in our team when we start to roll out there every night with a chance to win, no matter who we’re playing.”
That’s the next step. The Angels had expected to slice away at the Texas Rangers’ lead in the AL West with a strong home stand, but they lost two of three to the Seattle Mariners and dropped the opener Monday night to the woeful Indians.
Scioscia tried to emphasize that his team’s focus was still on winning the division, but it didn’t look or feel that way in recent days.
“We feel bad about this too,” outfielder Torii Hunter said of the losing stretch. “We shouldn’t be losing the way we’re losing. We’re a better team than that. But we’re not down; we’re just disappointed. We’re still coming out ready to play every day.”
They’ll have to show it on a more consistent basis. Greinke followed a promising start by CJ Wilson on Monday with his first win since joining the Angels from the Milwaukee Brewers on July 27.
In his previous start, last Wednesday at Oakland, Greinke gave up four runs and walked five batters in five innings. This was much better.
“It was nice to put up a decent performance,” he said. “Oakland, there was nothing there. That was as bad as I’ve ever pitched in my life probably. Today was more of a normal game. I did a job to keep battling, keep grinding.”
His offense put up eight runs in the first four innings, including Albert Pujols’ 26th home run of the season, and Greinke went seven before needing bullpen help. Pujols also drove in four.
“Command, there’s absolutely no doubt about it,” Scioscia said of Greinke’s start. “It was his ability to command his two-seamer and his four-seamer. He had good breaking ball command, changed speeds well and pitched ahead. That was a strong game for Zack.”
It was the kind of game the Angels need to see from their other starters over the final weeks of the season. Pitching is what the Angels are all about; without it, they’re going to struggle.
“What we need to get is two, three, four times around the rotation with these guys giving us a chance to win,” Scioscia said. “Every guy. Hopefully, we’re off to a decent start now. We’re starting to get a little better production from our starters, but we need it every night.”