The Angels almost let one get away from them this evening. It was set to be a low key, ho-hum loss and a shameful one, too. Shameful because Hector Santiago pitched great yet was about to get dinged for a loss; shameful because the lineup was doing little to pick him up. And it's not like Oakland was putting up too much of a fight, yet there they were, on the edge of yet another stale outcome. We forget, though, that the future is unwritten. Tonight, you were reminded.
Santiago's night really was good. His final line was 7.2 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB and 3 Ks. That isn't bad at first glance, but upon further inspection you learn that two of those runs came when the Angels were in the shift and the Athletics just plain old hit through it, making the Angels looks rather silly in the process. That would get pegged on Santiago's stat line, but we can forgive him for that, especially since he was otherwise very sharp with his change and slider, and confounded most batters throughout the evening. I say "most", because he definitely wasn't confounding Marcus Semien, who was all over Hector tonight, hitting two homers and accounting for two runs all by himself.
Still, a couple solo homers and some bad timing with a defensive shift shouldn't equal an inescapable loss for that game. But the Angels, ever the shy ones at the dish so far this season, make the pitchers commit to being perfect, or take the L. They just aren't going to score a lot of runs, and sometimes, like tonight, they'll score runs but it'll be when you think it's too late and have lost almost all hope. Or perhaps they just have a flair for the dramatic.
Whie Andrelton Simmons hit into his league-leading fourth GIDP in the second off starter Kendall Graveman, it allowed for a run to score. For awhile, it seemed like that would be all they'd muster against Oakland's pitching, but fans just had to be patient. It was coming.
The Angels got something going a little later in the game, and that's when the baseball party really started. With the Score already 4-1 A's in the top of the eighth, top-o'-the-order maestros Yunel Escobar and Daniel Nava got on base and were subsequently driven home by an Albert Pujols double into left field. A 4-3 score, just one run behind...but they were all but out of time. They'd need some late inning bragadoccio if they wanted to win three in a row.
Geovany Soto came into this season billed as an aging vet, a catcher with the yips that was in the twilight of his career, and a guy that was standing in the way of young bucks like Jett Bandy. I have, at one point or another, said one or all of those things. Tonight, I am eating the largest plate of charbroiled crow you can ever imagine. In the top of the ninth, with the Angels down 4-3, C.J. Cron drew a walk and took his base and Craig Gentry was called in to pinch run. The stage was set.
Soto came to the plate, and with an 0-1 count, the wily backstop CRUSHED a Sean Doolittle fastball into the center field bleachers. It was a two run blast that catapulted the Angels from the loss column to the win with a 5-4 lead and a visitor dugout that was screaming and shouting like they'd won a pennant. If you weren't smiling ear to ear, then you must not have been watching, because it was an ebullient release of joy that this team needed.
So, nobody saw that coming but now I want to watch it again and again, on a loop. Geovany Soto, two run bomb in the ninth, giving the Angels their third win in a row and making me forget anything lackluster i've ever said about the guy. This is why you watch the whole game, because sometimes the impossible becomes a reality. The mojo train is rolling for this team, and they have one more game against the A's to get it going full speed.