There are plenty of baseball slang terms for the hit that pushed the Angels toward a 4-3 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies on Wednesday night at Angel Stadium, none of them very manly or flattering — dying quail, jam shot, blooper, lawn dart, duck snort.
The Angels don't care. Like most teams scuffling to score, they had their share of hard-hit outs over the previous 24 games, a stretch in which they averaged 3.3 runs and ranked 14th in the American League in batting and on-base percentage. In their eyes, maybe this was the baseball gods' way of evening the score.
With the Angels trailing, 2-1, in the sixth inning, Albert Pujols lined a one-out double to left field off Phillies starter A.J. Burnett, Josh Hamilton was hit on the front foot by a breaking ball, and Erick Aybar walked to load the bases.
Up stepped Howie Kendrick, who took a mighty cut at Burnett's first pitch, only to flare a ball that looped over first baseman Ryan Howard's head and traveled about 200 feet before bouncing an inch or two inside the right-field line for a two-run single and a 3-2 Angels lead.
Aybar took third on Kendrick's hit, and Brennan Boesch, who knocked in the team's first run with a second-inning sacrifice fly, drove in Aybar with a fielder's-choice grounder to give the Angels a 4-2 lead.
That insurance run allowed the Angels to absorb a Phillies run off Angels setup man Joe Smith in the eighth.
Huston Street retired the side in order in the ninth for his seventh save with the Angels, preserving the win for starter Jered Weaver, who gave up two runs and eight hits in six innings, striking out five and walking two to improve to 13-7 with a 3.66 earned-run average.
The Angels, who swept a two-game series from the Phillies and extended their win streak over them to nine, moved to within 2 1/2 games of the Oakland Athletics in the AL West.
"We didn't kill the ball tonight, but Weav kept us in the game, and we broke through and held the lead," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "Right now, we have to scratch and claw if we're not scoring runs — that's how you're going to beat good pitching."
Burnett didn't seem to pose too much of an obstacle. The right-hander gave up 17 runs — 13 earned — in 12 2/3 innings of his previous three starts, two losses to the New York Mets and one to Washington, and he entered with a 6-12 record and a 4.29 ERA.
But the Angels managed only six hits in the game, three of them in the sixth inning, and had only one hit in five at-bats with runners in scoring position.
"It's a fickle game, you know?" leadoff batter Kole Calhoun said. "You're gonna be on top of the world one day, the next day you're not going to get it done, and you have to learn how to come back from that and keep playing like you know how to play."
Calhoun sparked a seven-run outburst in the sixth inning Tuesday night with a leadoff homer, and he capped the rally with a two-out, run-scoring single.
"I think everybody was waiting for an inning like that," Calhoun said. "We haven't been getting big hits like we were earlier this season. Hopefully we can build on that and get that swagger back."
They didn't have much swagger Wednesday night. They did have a two-game win streak, but the offense needs to warm up.
"I don't know if we have to be as hot as we were the last 20 games before the All-Star break, but there has to be some middle ground from where we were there to where we are now," Scioscia said.
"Our pitching has been phenomenal, but at some point we have to start swinging the bats, get some early runs in games and give our pitchers some breathing room."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times