Angels come through in the clutch in 5-4 win over Twins

Angels come through in the clutch in 5-4 win over Twins
Pinch runner Tony Campana slides home to score the game-winning run on a sacrifice fly by Chris Iannetta in the ninth inning. The Angels beat the Twins, 5-4. (Jim Mone / Associated Press)

David Freese seemed a little perturbed Thursday when reporters started peppering him with questions about his slump.

"Guys, I didn't get a hit for three or four days," the Angels third baseman said. "Come on."


Actually, Freese went six games without a hit, an 0-for-20 skid that dropped his average from .261 to .247, but who's counting?

Freese's struggles fueled speculation the recently acquired Gordon Beckham would get more playing time at third, but Manager Mike Scioscia's decision to stick with Freese paid huge dividends Thursday night.

Freese doubled in a run during a four-run fourth inning and sparked the winning rally with a leadoff double in the ninth to help the Angels to a 5-4 victory over the Minnesota Twins at Target Field.

Cool-headed closer Huston Street pitched around a pair of singles and a 4-minute, 16-second instant replay review in the bottom of the ninth, as the Angels snapped a two-game losing streak and pushed their American League West lead over Oakland to five games.

"I know in the recent past, I haven't played my best baseball," said Freese, who won 2011 World Series and National League championship series most-valuable-player honors with the St. Louis Cardinals but is batting .250 with six homers and 42 runs batted in this season.

"But there are always moments when good things can happen. I just keep battling. We're in a good position to play in October, and that's what I'm looking at."

With the score tied, 4-4, Freese led off the ninth with a ground-rule double to left off Twins closer Glen Perkins.

That gave Scioscia a chance to use his new toy, speedy September call-up Tony Campana, as a pinch runner.

Pinch-hitter John McDonald fouled off two bunt attempts before dropping an 0-and-2 pitch for a sacrifice, advancing Campana to third.

Chris Iannetta, batting for Hank Conger, sent a fly ball to medium left. The strong-armed Aaron Hicks made the catch and a firm throw home, but Campana beat it with a head-first slide for a 5-4 lead.

"David did the hard part, hitting a double, Johnny Mac did a good job getting the bunt down, and Chris hit a deep enough fly ball," said Campana, acquired from Arizona on July 5. "All I had to do was run fast."

While the Angels took the lead in a span of nine pitches, the bottom of the ninth seemed to take forever.

Danny Santana opened with a single to right, and a close play on Street's pick-off attempt prompted the lengthy review, which hardly fazed the veteran closer.

"I was fine with it," Street said. "I hadn't thrown in four days, so I got to throw some extra pitches. If anything, it probably helped me change the pace and momentum of the game."


Brian Dozier singled to center, but Joe Mauer flied to left on an up-and-in fastball. Street fell behind cleanup batter Kennys Vargas with a 3-1 count but got him to swing through a pair of changeups for the second out.

Eduardo Escobar then flied to left, as Street, acquired from San Diego on July 18, notched his 12th save with the Angels and showed why General Manager Jerry Dipoto said he "has the pulse" to pitch the ninth inning.

"To be honest, I don't really know what I feel out there," Street said. "You're so wrapped up in what pitch you're going to throw, where you're going to throw it, what you want to make the ball do.

"Your mind is racing in a positive way. I don't really have time for emotion. I don't step on the mound until I know what pitch I want to throw and why I want to throw it."

Street's savvy comes as no surprise to catcher Iannetta, a Colorado teammate of Street from 2009 to 2011.

"It doesn't matter what's going on around him; he does the same thing," Iannetta said. "He stays focused on executing the pitch and does a very good job of that."

Freese had a similar reputation as a clutch performer in St. Louis, and Scioscia hopes his double-double Thursday leads to bigger things this September and October.

"We know what David can do," Scioscia said. "Maybe he's not going to be as electric as he was three years ago in St. Louis, but he's a better player than what he's showed to this point this year. Today, he looked really comfortable in the box. That's good to see."

Follow Mike DiGiovanna on Twitter @MikeDiGiovanna