Closer Huston Street and setup man Joe Smith were not available Monday night after pitching in three straight games at Texas, but there was no real concern, no sense of impending doom, in the Angels bullpen or dugout.
"The bullpen is so deep right now that if one guy is down, the next guy can step in," Smith said. "We can send anybody in there, and I feel confident they're going to do the job and we're going to roll."
Smith's less-heralded bullpen mates helped the Angels roll right into sole possession of first place in the American League West for the first time since May 15, 2011.
Mike Morin, Fernando Salas, Jason Grilli and Kevin Jepsen combined to give up one run and four hits in 3 2/3 innings of a 4-2 victory over the Boston Red Sox in Fenway Park, pushing the Angels half a game ahead of the idle Oakland Athletics.
"Whether it's the seventh, eighth or ninth, you have to execute pitches," said Jepsen, who gave up a run in the ninth but notched his first save since Sept. 16, 2012. "Make good pitches in big situations. That's something our bullpen has been doing all year."
Two pitches stood out above a series of big ones Monday night, a 1-and-2 fastball Morin threw to Dustin Pedroia in the sixth inning and a 2-2 changeup Jepsen threw to slugger David Ortiz in the ninth.
Morin, a rookie right-hander making his first Fenway appearance, replaced game-but-inefficient starter C.J. Wilson with one on, one out and the Angels leading, 2-1. Christian Vazquez singled, and Brock Holt walked.
"I came in with a runner on first, and now the bases were loaded," said Morin, who is 3-3 with a 2.68 earned-run average in 43 games. "I needed to calm down and get some people out."
Morin got ahead of Pedroia, the 2008 AL most valuable player, and threw a fastball on the outer half to induce a ground ball to shortstop Erick Aybar, who started an inning-ending double play.
"It was déjà vu," Jepsen said of Morin's escape act. "Honestly, he's been doing it all year. He's usually coming in to clean up one of our messes."
Salas, after giving up a leadoff single to Ortiz in the seventh, struck out Yoenis Cespedes, Mike Napoli and Will Middlebrooks. The Angels scored two unearned runs in the top of the eighth for a 4-1 lead, and Grilli retired the side in order in the bottom of the eighth.
But Jepsen got into trouble in the ninth when Holt led off with a single and took third on Pedroia's single. Up stepped the dangerous Ortiz, who entered with a .262 career average, 28 homers and 84 runs batted in against the Angels.
"You definitely know who's in the box," Jepsen said. "Ortiz is one of those guys who tends to come up and do damage in big situations."
Jepsen got ahead of Ortiz with two strikes, threw two balls and got Ortiz to swing through a changeup.
"That was a great pitch in a tough situation," said Manager Mike Scioscia. "David can beat you in any part of this park on a variety of pitches. You have to make your pitches. Jeppy really pulled the string on a changeup and got David out in front and got him to miss it."
Jepsen got Cespedes to ground into a fielder's choice, Holt scoring, and Napoli to fly to center to end a game in which Morin and Salas had no margin for error and Jepsen could have given up the tying run with one mistake.
"If you want to be in this race and make the playoffs, those are the situations you're going to see, and they're not always going to arise in the seventh, eighth or ninth inning," said catcher Chris Iannetta.
"Sometimes it's going to be the fourth, fifth or sixth inning, where you have those turning points early on, and we need to extinguish some fires. It's nice to know we have some guys who are experienced enough to do it."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times