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Pujols Homers, Valbuena Bat Flips in Halos Comeback Victory

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That went from frustrating, to fun, back to frustrating, before being fun again.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim  v Kansas City Royals Photo by Brian Davidson/Getty Images

Some excitement in the air tonight as left-handed pitcher Andrew Heaney made his 2018 season debut after totaling 27.2 innings pitched since the start of the 2016 season. It was confirmed today that right-hander J.C. Ramirez is due to undergo Tommy John surgery on the back of the club receiving some ominous news on Matt Shoemaker. It’s important for the Angels to get guys like Nick Tropeano and Andrew Heaney back. Time to shake off the rust.

Pujols got things going early with a two run home run off of Hammel in the top of the third inning after Kinsler singled and stole second base. Pujols was cheating on an inside fastball after Hammel had been busting right-handed hitters inside and he guessed correctly, sending the pitch over an outstretched Paulo Orlando in left field. The Angels had strung together a few hits in the previous two innings, but a majority were on flares and jammed shots. Aside from seeing Heaney back on the mound, it was just as nice to see the Angels provide Heaney some run support early on.

Kansas City would respond in back-to-back innings, however. Whit Merrifield drove in a run with two outs in the bottom of the third, Orlando would tie things up in the bottom of the fourth with an RBI single of his own, and then, heartbreak. Third-string catcher, Cam Gallagher, popped up into left field and caused some miscommunication between Upton and Simmons. Not only would a run come into score on the “single” but Simmons would make an errant throw, getting past all of the cut-off men, allowing Orlando to score from first, and Gallagher to advance all the way to third. Most frustrating inning of the year so far? If not, it was close to it.

Overall, Heaney pitched a decent first game. His command deserted him in the third and fourth innings, but a double off of the bat from Jorge Soler was really the only ball hit well in his five innings of work. Aside from getting BABIP’d to death and his defense letting him down, Heaney gave the team a chance to win, and that’s all you can ask for. His final line on the night was a solid 5 IP, 7 H, 4 R (3 earned), 1 BB, and 7 K’s.

But just as things started looking “Grimm”, the Angels rallied. Rejoice, Angels fans! This is your 2018 Angels we’re talking about, after all, one where you feel like you’re in any game until the 27th out. Noe Ramirez, Jose Alvarez, and Blake Wood would come in to keep the game close, and the batters rewarded their bullpen by clawing back into this one. Pujols flicked a 1-2 breaking ball into right-center field scoring Kinsler and just like that, it was a one-run game.

The 8th is where the Angels finally capitalized on having some ducks on the pond. Cozart matched the Royals “death by a million paper cut” approach with another flare single of his own, Ohtani stroked a single to dead center afterward, Simmons laid down a bunt, and Luis Valbuena would come up clutch by hitting the game-tying RBI single. Kinsler would follow with a sacrifice fly to score Ohtani, and just like that, the Angels were leading 5-4 in the 8th!

The bullpen certainly made things more interesting than they needed to be. Cam Bedrosian was shaky in the eighth inning, as has been the case all year, and was bailed out by a sensational catch in center field by Trout. But he bridged the gap to Keynan Middleton for the ninth inning who was equal shaky. He allowed the pinch-hitter, Jon Jay, to lead-off with a single, got Abraham Almonte to hit into a clutch double play, walked Merrifield on four straight pitches only for him to get gunned down trying to steal second by Rene Rivera to end the game (who had entered as a defensive replacement for Maldonado who was pinch-hit for by Valbuena). It wasn’t pretty, but the Angels rallied and extended the win streak to a nice, even six games.

Ohtani hit his first career double, Pujols had a multi-hit game (including a two-run home run and clutch RBI single), Kinsler was 3-4 with two stolen bases as the leadoff man, and Valbuena came up clutch for the Halos. Garrett Richards takes the mound tomorrow against RHP Jakob Junis as the Angels attempt to go for another series win.

I think I can speak for us all when I say, “I love baseball”.