Ibanez’s three-run double leads Angels over Nationals
In the first major league matchup featuring twentysomething stars Mike Trout and Bryce Harper, it was a guy born two decades earlier, Raul Ibanez, who came through with the biggest hit.
And after delivering a tiebreaking three-run double as a pinch hitter in the eighth inning to help Trout’s Los Angeles Angels beat Harper’s Washington Nationals 4-2 on Friday, the 41-year-old Ibanez was showered with a particular nickname when he returned to the dugout.
"After he got that hit, we were calling him `Viejo,’ — `Old’ in Spanish," Trout said with a smile.
Ibanez might be, um, much more experienced than many of his teammates, but he happens to be leading the Angels this season with 15 RBI.
"These guys make me feel young," he said about his teammates with the Angels, his fifth club in a 19-year career. "And I have five kids at home. They’re 12 and under, and I’m the biggest kid in the house, really. I feel right at home around these guys who are 22, 24, 25 years old. They definitely keep you young."
He came through on a night that Trout and Harper went a combined 2 for 8 with zero runs or RBI, and Albert Pujols went 0 for 5, staying on 498 homers.
The 22-year-old Trout, the 2012 AL Rookie of the Year and a two-time MVP runner-up, was 2 for 5 with a pair of singles. The 21-year-old Harper, the 2012 NL rookie honoree, was 0 for 3 with a walk. The two outfielders became pals while teammates in the Arizona Fall League in 2011 and chatted with each other before the game.
Neither recent first-round pick in the amateur draft — Trout was No. 25 overall in 2009, Harper was No. 1 a year later — was much of a factor once play began, though. Instead, all eyes were on Ibanez, taken in the 36th round in 1992.
"He’s been around the block," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.
Fernando Salas (1-0) won with a hitless seventh.
Joe Smith worked the eighth and Ernesto Frieri pitched the ninth to earn his second save, despite allowing Desmond’s leadoff homer. Frieri struck out Denard Span with a man on second to end it.
The Nationals led 1-0 entering the eighth, when they brought in reliever Tyler Clippard (1-2). Pujols led off and reached on the first of shortstop Ian Desmond’s two errors in the inning. Later, Erick Aybar’s third hit of the night scored Pujols to even it.
After Clippard walked Chris Iannetta to load the bases — "The biggest thing that hurt me," the reliever said — the lefty-hitting Ibanez came up.
"Everybody likes being up in that spot," said Ibanez, the second-oldest player in the majors, behind Cleveland’s Jason Giambi, 43. "That’s what you play for, that’s what you compete for — to try to be up in that spot — since you were a kid in the backyard playing."
Nationals manager Matt Williams did not have a lefty reliever ready to go, in anticipation of Ibanez being used there, because he wanted Clippard to get through that inning.
"Clip’s been the eighth-inning guy here for a long time," Williams said. "Certainly (his) track record indicates that he’s good against lefties. He’s just as effective against left-handers as he is right-handers. So I want to stay with him there."
Ibanez, without a hit in his previous 11 at-bats, connected on a changeup, Clippard’s specialty.
"It is a pitch I’m getting hurt on," Clippard said, and wondered aloud about whether he’s tipping his pitches to opponents.
NOTES: Angels 3B David Freese, who is hitting .143 with a .197 on-base percentage, was out of the starting lineup and struck out as a pinch hitter in the seventh. . . . The Angels recalled LHP Nick Maronde from Triple-A Salt Lake. He fills the roster spot opened up when the Angels optioned RHP Josh Wall to Salt Lake on Sunday.