Tuesday, September 11, 2012
3 up, 3 down: Athletics 6, Angels 5
By Ramona Shelburne
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The Los Angels Angels got all they could've hoped for out of spot starter Jerome Williams and four relievers, another spectacular night from rookie sensation Mike Trout, clutch hits from Torii Hunter and Albert Pujols in the bottom of the ninth ... and they still lost.
The surprising Oakland Athletics continue to be a team of destiny, this time holding on for a hard-fought 6-5 win over the Angels to strengthen their grip in the American League wild-card race.
The Angels trailed 6-3 going into the final inning but seemed to be on the verge of a dramatic comeback as catcher Chris Ianetta and Trout drew walks, then came home to score on RBI singles from Hunter and Pujols. But Kendrys Morales struck out and Howie Kendrick hit into a inning-ending double play to end the threat and the game.
The Angels now trail the A's by 4 1/2 games in the AL wild-card chase and the Yankees and Orioles by 2 1/2 games.
The Hunter for a Playoff October: If this is the final month of Hunter's Angels career, he's making it memorable. Hunter hit a solo homer in the seventh inning and drove in a run in the bottom of the ninth to give him 27 RBIs in August and September.
Wells Bells: Don't look now, but Vernon Wells is about to take Mark Trumbo's job. The veteran outfielder has been on a bit of a power surge lately, blasting a two-run homer in the second inning Tuesday to give him five home runs in his last 15 games. Trumbo, who had been the Angels' most reliable slugger early in the season, remains mired in an awful second-half slump (he's hitting .182 in August and September). He sat for the third time in a week Tuesday.
Troutatious: It's getting to the point that you're surprised when he doesn't make the spectacular catch or drive in a critical run every night. Heck, it's even a little jarring when the kid records an out. Tuesday night Trout was his typically fantastic self, going 3-for-4, drawing a key walk and making a spectacular diving catch in the outfield to rob Yoenis Cespedes of a base hit.
Failure to capitalize: The Angels had runners at first and third with less than two outs in each of the first two innings against A's righty Dan Straily but couldn't plate any of them and ended up allowing Straily to settle in and grow stronger throughout the game. Pujols flied to right with runners on in both the first and second innings, Morales and Kendrick struck out swinging with Trout on third in the first inning and Hunter struck out to end a scoring threat in the second.
Bullpen holds, and then it doesn't: Angels manager Mike Scioscia wasn't expecting much out of starting pitcher Williams and he certainly wasn't going to leave him in too long. Not with as much riding on it as this game. Williams worked a solid three innings but ran into trouble in the fourth and Scioscia turned to the bullpen, which came through in a big way. Nick Maronde, Garrett Richards, Scott Downs and Jordan Walden combined to hold the A's to scoreless on one hit over the next four innings until Kevin Jepsen gave up two runs in the top of the ninth on an RBI-triple by Coco Crisp that played as an inside-the-park home run when Hunter couldn't field it cleanly. It proved to be the winning run.
Losing ground: The Angels came into this series on a tear, winning 11 of their past 12 games, but could barely gain any ground in the wild-card race. And now, like a classic yo-yo dieter, they've fallen 2 1/2 games back of the Baltimore Orioles, who beat the Rays 9-2, and the Yankees, who lost to the Red Sox, for the second wild-card berth.