3 up, 3 down: Angels 2, Dodgers 1
June, 13, 2012
By Mark Saxon | ESPNLosAngeles.com
LOS ANGELES -- The Angels got power from their two least-likely sources and some tightrope walking from their pitchers to beat the Dodgers 2-1 Wednesday night and win the Freeway Series at Dodger Stadium.
Shortstop Erick Aybar hit the winning blast off Kenley Jansen in the ninth inning. Alberto Callaspo hit one earlier in the game off Nathan Eovaldi.
The Dodgers put runners at the corners with nobody out against Angels closer Ernesto Frieri, but -- as he has done since they got him -- Frieri escaped. He got a fielder's-choice groundout and a key strikeout of pinch hitter Tony Gwynn Jr. to record his sixth save.
Slump punctured. How badly did Aybar need that first home run of his season? The shortstop is having a miserable season. His batting average was sinking rapidly toward the Mendoza line and he has made some crucial gaffes in the field. A poor decision in the sixth inning nearly led to trouble before Wilson pitched his way out of it. Aybar tried to fool umpire Sam Holbrook by intentionally dropping a sinking liner so he could turn a double play, but Holbrook signaled an infield fly and, eventually, the Dodgers loaded the bases. Aybar also swung at the first pitch in the fourth inning and wiped out a bases-loaded, nobody out rally with a double play.
Houdini. C.J. Wilson often pitches suspenseful innings because of his tendency to walk batters, but he usually walks back from the brink. Wilson walked six batters (one off his season high), but he managed to pitch seven strong innings, allowing a run and striking out three. Wilson has pitched into mid-June while pitching just one truly bad start. He looks like a good bet for his second straight All-Star team and he has done a nice job filling in for Jered Weaver as the de facto staff ace.
"Little" Alberto. Callaspo looks like he is gradually pulling away from Maicer Izturis in the third-base battle. Callaspo has started five straight games there largely because he is out-hitting Izturis. He was the Angels' only offense most of the game. He turned on a Nathan Eovaldi pitch and pulled it into the corner in right field for a home run that erased the Dodgers' 1-0 lead in the second inning and later got on base twice more.
The Strand. The Angels faced some good starting pitchers here and some very good relievers, but the way they had been swinging the bats, there was no reason they should have only scored seven runs in three games. Actually, there is a reason. They went 4-for-31 with runners in scoring position. They worked so hard to build rallies only to watch them dissolve like sand castles.
Bottom third. Manager Mike Scioscia said before the game, "We need more production, for sure," when asked about the bottom third of his lineup. Until Aybar's home run, he didn't get it. The bottom three hitters went 1-for-9 with two strikeouts and a double play. The Angels' surge has mostly been top-heavy, pulled along by some hot hitters in the upper one-third of the lineup.
Roll slows. While we're on that topic, the top of the Angels' lineup didn't exactly scald the ball. Mike Trout, Torii Hunter and Albert Pujols had combined to bat .436 in the previous five games, but things slowed down Wednesday. The threesome had two hits in 11 at-bats, didn't score a run and Pujols grounded into a deflating double play in the seventh.