Tonight started like most unimportant and forgettable Angels games have started out this year: they got behind early, and were struggling to score, let alone play catch-up. We have been conditioned to see these games coming from a mile away, yet we still watch every night...because baseball surprises you. This game didn’t go down like the normal 2015 Scioscia Productions script. This one had rewrites: A seventh inning comeback, Trout almost hitting for the cycle, Richards rebounding from his last start, Kyle Kubitza getting his first huge MLB hit, and Pujols going yard and moving up the record books once again.
Garrett Richards was the starter for the Halos, and looked brilliant throughout most of the game, except for the second inning, where he walked Logan Forsythe and then gave up a homer to Steven Souza Jr. Richards regained control of the game, however, and would hold the Rays to just those two runs in his seven innings pitched. He mostly cruised after the second inning, and it was a sight for sore eyes; hopefully this will be something Garrett can build on, and push that first inning fallout in New York out of his head for good. He managed to go on a tear after a similar situation in Oakland last year, and every Angels fan is pulling for him to do it again.
The Angels offense was nowhere to be found in the first five innings, and we looked to be in store for yet another rote, lackluster showing. It was with great exaltation, then, that Mike Trout broke the game open in the sixth with a missile to the seats in left field. The home run was Mike Trout’s 17th on the year, and his 12th solo shot, and it put the Angels on the board, 2-1. The inning actually could have erupted even more for the Halos hitters, but with one out, Johnny Giavotella hit a pop up to Kevin Kiermaier, and Albert Pujols would get gunned down at home for the long, disappointing double play. The Angels weren’t done, though.
In the seventh, the Angels got something going quickly with Matt Joyce getting a base on balls, and Efren Navarro following up with a single. Two batters later, it was Kyle Kubitza up to bat, in his second career MLB game, and still replaying his multiple missteps from last night in his head. The rookie was up to the task, though, and hit a single past the defense and out into shallow right, scoring Matt Joyce. Erick Aybar then hit into a fielder’s choice, which got Kubitza out at second but would score Navarro and give the Angels the 3-2 lead. With a man on, and Mike Trout up to bat, Tampa Bay made the mistake of pitching to Trout. Erick Aybar took off to steal second as Mike Trout would swing and knock a double into right field. Mike Trout making opponents pay the harsh price for pitching to him is one of the more satisfying feelings in life. At this point, the Angels had momentum, a 4-2 lead, and Mike Trout was a triple away from a cycle.
Richards would not come out for the eighth, and deferred to the go-to bullpen players to shut the game down, get the much-needed series win, and get on a flight back home. The Angels had one more blast in store for the Rays, though, as Albert Pujols hit a two-run dinger in the eighth to make the score 6-2. It was Pujols 17th of the year, and pushed him ahead of Mickey Mantle on the all time HR list. Huston Street couldn’t manage a 1-2-3 inning like Joe Smith pulled off in his side, but he would get through the inning without allowing a run, and put one in the W column for the Halos.
This is the last the Angels will see of the east coast, as they’re now done with their AL East road trips for the season. It’s the earliest they’ve ever been done with that yearly chore, and hopefully this will mean more rest in their own comfy beds in the future, and more home cooking; both at home, and the ballpark. Tonight, they were on the brink of losing their third series in a row, but turned things around in a triumphant fashion. They are back to .500 and will gain a half game on Houston tonight, as the Astros didn’t play. You have to start somewhere.