In a very important game They're all important now, aren't they? Well, anyway, Hector Santiago started out this very important game by giving up a single and followed that up by grazing Mark Canha's shirt. After Brett Lawrie grounded into a force-out that left men on first and third, up stepped Danny Valencia, who is 5-for-11 in his career against Santiago. Uh oh. So what did Hector do? He walked Danny V, only to have certified Angel Killer Billy Butler step in. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Uh oh. Butler flied out to Mike Trout in shallow center and Billy Burns got caught in a rundown. Sweet, easy third out, right? Wrong. Chris Iannetta showed that awesome defense he's known for, as did David Freese and C.J. Cron, and Billy Burns ended up scoring after a whole bunch of double-clutching and bad throws. Hector responded to this comedy tragedy of errors by walking the next batter and loading the bases. Shocker. Never fear, though, Mike Butcher came out for a visit and those always produce great results. And had this been a day game, the story would have unfolded in the usual fashion, but luckily, Marcus Semien + Marine Layer = Warning-Track Power.
The bottom of the first was garbage. A's starter Felix Doubront sat down Erick Aybar (why is he leading off again?) and Kole Calhoun before he walked Mike Trout. Then, on a 3-0 count, Albert Pujols hit a weak grounder right back to the pitcher's mound. I was left hoping that Hector got enough rest after throwing 400 pitches in the top of the first. Apparently he did, because he threw a nice 1-2-3 against the bottom-then-top of the A's lineup. Nice is kind of an understatement, actually, considering the diving snag Johnny G #1 in Da Hood made for the first out. Does anyone else love that kid?
After the Angels stunk up the joint in the bottom of the second, Hector had a nice 1-2-3 inning against Oakland's 2-3-4. I like when numbers work out like that. It's just kind of cool-looking. Sorry for the digression. In the bottom of the third, the offense pounced on Felix Doubront. Thanks to a questionable strike zone from the home plate umpire, Iannetta worked a walk and Johnny Giavotella hit him home with a triple off the wall. Use those breaks, boys! Aybar then hit a ringing double to left-center and Johnny G scored to put the Halos up 2-1. Calhoun and Trout followed up those fireworks by striking out, though, and Aybar was stranded when Pujols hit a screaming grounder to the right side of the field and Brett Lawrie made a nice diving play to retire the old man.
Hector did a nice job of retiring the first two batters he faced in the top of the fourth, but he hung a change-piece to human error Marcus Semien and the embattled shortstop made Santiago pay. 2-2. What was I saying about warning-track power? After Hector threw his 76th pitch, the camera panned to new Angel Mat Latos, and Victor Rojas made a comment about the recently dumped Dodger being ready to pitch if needed. Yeah, that's the kind of inning it was. Shortly after that televised aside, David Freese tried to backhand a weak grounder and booped it off his glove. Luckily, Craig Gentry tried to steal and slid past the bag. The replay made it look like he got back in time, but more bad umpiring allowed the Angels to retreat to their own dugout.
The Angels took the lead back on a sacrifice fly by Chris Iannetta in the bottom of the fourth. C.J. Cron got home safely, but the throw from center was cut off and David Freese was nailed at third after trying to tag up from second. 3-2. Johnny G started off the fifth with another dive-snag-and-putout, this time nabbing Modern Cro-Magnon Fabio, Bryan Anderson. Four pitches later and Hector had himself a nice shutdown inning in the books. A weak bottom of the fifth ensued. I don't even remember who came up to bat, and I just watched the darn thing.
With Santiago pushing 90 pitches, the top of the sixth looked to be a deadly one. After hitting Brett Lawrie on the shoulder, Hector got Danny Valencia to fly out to center. Then came Billy Butler, and huge surprise, he rocketed a ball off the center-field wall. Butler probably should have been gunned at second, but the carom, throw and relay were all handled pretty poorly. Jake Smolinski then ran Hector from the game with a sacrifice fly. 3-3. Bullpen time, folks! Hold on to your butts. Cory Rasmus came in and promptly walked Marcus Semien. Rasmus was replaced by Jose Alvarez, and Coco Crisp hit a bloop single to right to score the run from third. Semien tried to go first to third but was gunned by Kole Calhoun to end the inning. Damage done, though. 4-3.
So Albert thought he'd do some damage of his own. In the bottom half of the inning he rocketed the baseball into the left-field grass. C.J. Cron followed that up with an almost-but-not-really dinger or the second out, and David Freese worked a walk immediately thereafter. Could the Flyin' Hawaiian be a savior and earn his first real Angel moment? No. The Flyin' Hawaiian was flyin' out.
And of course, the A's being the A's, they led off the seventh with a hit, and then C.J. Cron being C.J. Cron, he threw wildly on what should have been a very easy double-play to give reliever Jose Alvarez some breathing room. With one out and a man on second, Mark Canha struck out on a pitch clearly inside. Did I mention how bad the umpiring was during this game? In came Cam Bedrosian. Did I mention you all should hold on to your butts? Never mind, Cam had our butts covered. He struck out Brett Lawrie with a nasty bender on the outside corner. Phew. The offense went down really quickly in the bottom of the inning, and Cam was back out in the top of the eighth. He struck out the first two batters with some nasty stuff. Then came Josh Reddick, who hooked a single to right. Can't say that was a big surprise, as lefties have hammered Bedrosian to the tune of .390 this year. Perhaps Cesar Ramos would have been the smarter choice against a batter who stinks against lefties? Well, with Semien coming up to bat, Scioscia called on Trevor Gott to close out the eighth, and both Angels' announcers openly questioned the decision, having just seen Bedrosian's stuff fool three righties in a row. Interesting. However, Gott got it done and got Semien to hit a grounder to Aybar. Phew.
Calhoun, Trout and Pujols went down weakly in the bottom of the eighth and the ninth inning loomed large. Who would get the call from the pen? Would he be able to do the job against Oakland's 8-9-1? Will we ever have world peace? The answer to the first question is Trevor Gott. The second question's answer is yes. And I'm not even going to get into the third question. This column is already way too long.
C.J. Cron led off the bottom of the night with a nice two-strike single up the middle, and Collin Cowgill replaced him as a pinch-runner. David Freese continued to clutch up in September by hitting a weak dribbler that A's reliever Edward Mujica threw off of Freese's back and into the dugout, which allowed Cowgill to get to third and David to advance to second. After Mujica walked Shane Victorino to load the bases, David Murphy was called on to pinch-hit for Chris Iannetta. Bob Melvin called on Fernando Abad to face the lefty. Would he have a bad time? Oh yeah, baby! Murphy punched a single to left and foiled Melvin's matchup game.
With the win, the Angels keep their streak alive and gain a game on the Texas Rangers. Too bad the Mariners can't be counted on to do anything correctly (except for hiring Jerry Dipoto), as the Astros beat them and stay a half-game ahead of the Angels. Let's keep it going!