The Angels hitters finally gave the pitchers a little breathing room Saturday night, even if it was for only one inning of a 6-1 victory over the Baltimore Orioles in Camden Yards.
Closer Huston Street began warming up with a 3-1 lead in the top of the ninth but sat down after the Angels rallied for three runs and a 6-1 advantage, the first time since April 30 the Angels have held a lead of three runs or more.
Street could relax as Fernando Salas retired the side in order in the ninth, helping the Angels extend their win streak to five and preserve the victory for Matt Shoemaker, who gave up one run and three hits in seven innings, striking out seven and walking none.
"We broke it open late, but for most part, Shoe pitched with his back to the wall the whole game," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "He pitched a good game with no support until the seventh inning."
The Angels used three singles that touched the gloves of infielders to score twice in the seventh for a 2-1 lead. Mike Trout led off the eighth with a homer to right, and David Freese sparked the three-run ninth with a homer to right.
Struggling catcher Chris Iannetta, who was batting .099, knocked in the tying run with a single off third baseman Manny Machado's glove in the seventh, and he singled and scored in the ninth, raising his average to .123.
"Our pitching is really picking up our offense, and we need that," Iannetta said. "There's going to come a time when they're going to hit their ups and downs, and hopefully the offense will pick them up and score a bunch of runs to cover them."
A rotation that leads the American League with 22 quality starts and a bullpen that has thrown 18 consecutive scoreless innings, giving up just five hits, over the last six games have keep the Angels afloat.
The offense entered Saturday ranked 14th in the AL in average (.231) and runs (128) and last in on-base percentage (.290) and on-base plus slugging (.639). The Angels have been limited to three runs or fewer in 20 of 36 games but are 7-13 in those games because of their pitching.
It's a formula that has worked, but one the Angels can't count on all summer.
"We've been pitching well, and our bullpen has really settled in and is doing a great job," Scioscia said. "But I don't think we can keep this kind of pressure on our pitching staff and have long-term success. At some point, we need to open it up a little bit and start to get some early runs."
Scioscia shook up the lineup again Saturday in an effort to boost a cleanup spot that has knocked in one run this month and none in the last 12 games.
Entering Saturday, Angels cleanup batters ranked last in the major leagues in average (.173), OBP (.257) and OPS (.564) and 29th in slugging (.307).
The original plan was for Matt Joyce and Freese to share the cleanup spot, but Joyce is batting .137 with one homer and 10 runs batted in, and Freese is hitting .227, though he does have six homers and 20 RBIs.
Scioscia wants to keep Kole Calhoun in the leadoff spot, so batting fourth Saturday, for only the third time in his career, was shortstop Erick Aybar, who'd hit .425 (17 for 40) in his previous 11 games, raising his average from .200 to .269. Scioscia also moved clutch-hitting second baseman Johnny Giavotella to fifth.
"Right now, necessity is the mother of invention," Scioscia said. "We're trying to get some continuity through the middle of the order. We've struggled to find some guys who are going to hit behind Mike and Albert [Pujols].