The Angels on Friday celebrated their past, honoring Vladimir Guerrero with an on-field pregame ceremony.
Guerrero, one of baseball’s newest Hall of Famers and the first player to go in as an Angel, gave a thank-you speech in two languages and still finished in only 80 seconds.
The drama that followed lasted significantly longer, the Angels overcoming an early three-run deficit to beat Oakland 4-3 on a pair of homers and the scoreless effort of five relievers.
Kole Calhoun and Justin Upton hit the home runs and Jim Johnson, Cam Bedrosian, Justin Anderson, Jose Alvarez and Blake Parker provided the relief, each of the final three getting one out in the ninth.
Parker was credited with the save, the first for the Angels since July 8.
When these teams began the season against each other in late March, the Angels were considered playoff contenders while the Athletics were supposed to be embarking on a wandering journey.
The Angels won three of the four games in that opening series, further justifying the spring training forecasts and launching themselves on a start that would peak at 13-3.
Since then, a bunch of Angels got hurt and several others didn’t hit like they were expected to. Meanwhile, the Athletics proved that surprises in baseball aren’t limited to the ones found in boxes of Cracker Jack.
Despite winning Friday, the Angels still trail Oakland by 91/2 games for the American League’s second wild-card spot. A sweep of this series is a near must if they’re are going to make a late playoff push.
Staring at that deficit in the standings and just four batters into the game, the Angels trailed 3-0.
The rocky start represented a jolting development for Felix Pena, who no-hit Cleveland into the sixth in his previous outing.
This time, he allowed Matt Chapman and Khris Davis to homer in thespan of six pitches, Davis’ 398-foot shot also scoring Jed Lowrie, who had singled.
But, just as abruptly, Pena righted his night, giving up only two more hits while pitching into the sixth, buying all the time his teammates would need.
“He started to bring some secondary pitches into the game and throwing them for strikes,” manager Mike Scioscia said.
“Felix found himself.”
The Angels’ comeback began where so much offense has been originating lately: off the bat of Calhoun, whose resurrection continues to be epic.
He brought his team to within 3-2 in the third inning with a two-run homer off a Brett Anderson pitch so poorly executed that it deserved to be hit every inch of the 421 feet with which Calhoun was credited.
The homer was the 10th in 22 games for Calhoun and his 15th since returning from the disabled list June 18.
No one in the American League has hit more during that stretch.
That set up Upton’s game winner three innings later. David Fletcher led off the sixth with an infield single against reliever Lou Trivino, who had just entered.
Upton then followed by hitting Trivino’s next pitch into the visiting bullpen beyond the left-field fence, giving him homers in three straight games.
“Some of pitches he was missing, he’s just squaring up right now,” Scioscia said of Upton.
“His at-bats have been good.”
A night that began with a Hall of Famer also ended with one for the Angels. Immediately after Upton’s home run, Albert Pujols singled for his 1,000th hit as an Angel.