The Angels finished their homestand tonight, facing the Rays, and also finished their grueling stretch of 20 games in 20 days. On the mound for the Halos was Hector Santiago, who in his last five games has looked brilliant. His last start, against the Tigers, featured him giving up no runs on three hits. For those who had Hector in their Regression Pool, tonight’s start was sign of worse things to come. He had strong moments in this game, make no mistake, but he fell victim to the dreaded Big Inning that blew the game wide open, and took a win off of his scorecard.
Hector got of to a very peculiar start that saw him having to throw over 30 pitches just to get out of the first inning, and then he inexplicably used just as many pitches to get through the next three. For Hector, it had to have been a nerve racking way to come out of the gate, as he’s already had enough concerns about getting high up in pitch counts before, not to mention his last two starts had him throwing 124 and 112 pitches. But he abruptly settled down in the subsequent sides and got some much needed pitch relief.
In the meantime, Mike Trout hit his 14th homer of the season, an extremely hard it ball on the meat of the bat that landed a ways up the batter’s eye in centerfield. Some people risked life and limb by jumping onto the forbidden green surface to grab the bouncing souvenir, but it IS Mike Trout after all, so can you blame them? Albert Pujols also contributed to the offensive output again by hitting an RBI single in the third, making the game 2-0. Considering how shaky Hector was looking on the hill, even though he had settled down somewhat, you could sense that they’d probably want some insurance runs; such a novel concept, I know. Who of all people to deliver on such an obvious need for a quick strike but Johnny Giavotella, who hit a two-run shot to left center, his second of the year, in the fourth inning. Some buffer zone in the scoreboard department was just what they wanted and they got it; the Angels took a 4-0 lead and looked to their pitching staff to lead the way home.
Hector Santiago had different ideas in the sixth inning, however, when he reverted back to his first inning ways and let the game slide away. From the get go, with Brandon Guyer on base, he gave up a two-run shot to Joey Butler. He remained in the game, and Scioscia’s lack of yanking him seemed to surprise even Hector. The inning progressed into the bases filling up more and more until Steven Souza Jr. hit a three run home run that proved to be the coup de grace for Santiago, exiting the game with the Angels down 5-4.
Some good news is that Cam Bedrosian looked pretty solid again, as Mike Scioscia called on him to pitch a couple innings in place of Hector. Cam got out of that rough sixth, and had a one-two-three seventh, looking like a big leauge middle reliever in the process. The Angels would try to mount some sort of comeback, the first being when they got a leadoff double from David Freese. Freese would then go on to be waived home on a shallow Carlos Perez single, and he was thrown out by a mile. There was no chance he was going to make that play, so the fact that he was sent home was stupifying at best.
The ninth saw them threatening again, as Efren Navarro drew a walk, and Johnny Giavotella singled to put runners at first and third, with one out. Brad Boxberger was on the mound for the Rays, and with the tying run at first base, Erick Aybar came to the plate and picked up a huge, clutch RBI via a sac fly. Game tied, 5-5. The Halos were back in it. Up next was Trout, but he was predictably intentionally walked in order to get to Albert Pujols, who grounded out on the first pitch. Inning over, but they climbed out of a hole and sent the game to extras. A little victory, I guess.
But little victories are just a salve on the sting from taking the loss. Ultimately, Huston Street would come in for the 10th and give up a solo home run to Kevin Kiermaier. There would be no answer from the Halos in the bottom of the inning, and they lost to the Rays 6-5, as well as losing the series.
They are done with the homestand and done with the 20 game stretch. The fire in this team ebbed and flowed during that time, eventually reaching it’s peak in these last two series. It would have been great to get this win, finish the homestand strong, but now the Angels can rest, exhale. They head to New York for a weekend series in New York’s largest outdoor theater of consumption and SNL cast member sightings; yes, the Angels are playing the Yankees. To quote the poet Bart Scott, "Can’t wait!!".