Without Aybar, Angels' infield gets creative - and it works
Thursday night's game between the Los Angeles Angels and host Kansas City Royals was wild. The Halos stormed back from a 5-1 deficit to win 7-6, blitzing the Royals' star relievers Wade Davis and Greg Holland in the process.
The Angels had to do all of this without shortstop Erick Aybar, who had stiffness in his back that kept him out of action all night.
In the ninth inning, manager Mike Scioscia pinch-hit C.J. Cron for fill-in shortstop Taylor Featherston, depleting his bench in an effort to tie the game. It worked, but in the bottom of the ninth the club had to get inventive. Scioscia and bench coach Dino Ebel put Albert Pujols at third base, second baseman Johnny Giavotella switched over to shortstop, Connor Gillaspie moved from third to second and right fielder Kole Calhoun manned first base (with Shane Victorino assuming right field).
This bizarre defensive alignment worked, as Ebel credited his players' excitement level when speaking with MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez: "They were fired up. Guys get fired up when games are on the line. You tie, you take the lead, and now all of a sudden it's go out and win a game, and that's what they did."
Pujols had a pragmatic and simple take on what transpired. As he told Gonzalez, "It's about winning, and whatever it takes to win."
Closer Huston Street, who found his way through the ninth for the save despite putting the winning run on first base with two outs, summed up the madness with a simple, "That's the beauty of a game like that."
For the Angels, it definitely was worth the effort.