Home runs like the ones Justin Upton and Jefry Marte hit for the Angels on Monday night are great, and so are 112.6-mph line drives, like the one Mike Trout rocketed into center field for a run-scoring single in the sixth inning against the Kansas City Royals.
A few free passes and a little luck never hurt, either, as the Angels discovered during a quirky three-run eighth-inning rally that broke a tie score and gave them a 9-6 victory before 32,553 in Angel Stadium.
With the score tied 6-6, Royals left-hander Tim Hill walked No. 8 batter Martin Maldonado to open the eighth. Michael Hermosillo fouled off two sacrifice bunt attempts before drawing a walk, the No. 9 hitter reach- ing base when he was trying to make an out.
After Ian Kinsler struck out, Trout grounded a playable one-hopper that caromed off Hill’s glove and into center field for a single that scored pinch-runner Kaleb Cowart for a 7-6 lead. Upton and Albert Pujols followed with RBI singles to make the score 9-6, and Blake Parker pitched a scoreless ninth for the save.
“We haven’t had many seeing-eye hits, but that was one of them,” manager Mike Scioscia said of Trout’s single, one of the Angels’ 14 hits. “It was a great comeback. The eighth was a good inning for us. We had good at-bats all the way through, got some clutch hits. I thought we did a good job in the batter’s box all night.”
Philadelphia Phillies ace Jake Arrieta, who called his team “the worst in the league with shifts” after Sunday’s 6-1 loss to the San Francisco Giants, would not have liked two key Angels hits in the bottom of the sixth inning.
With the Angels trailing, 5-3, Marte drove a homer to left against Royals starter Danny Duffy, part of the second four-hit game of Marte’s career. Pinch-hitter Shohei Ohtani, with one out, hit what would often be a routine ground ball to second. Instead, because of a shift, the ball slipped between two defenders for a single.
Kinsler walked and Trout rifled an RBI single to center to tie the score at 5-5. Upton grounded into a fielder’s choice for the second out, and Pujols squibbed a grounder to the right of the mound.
An easy out for Kansas City? Nope. Second baseman Whit Merrifield was shifted behind the second-base bag, and the grounder reached the outfield grass for an RBI single and a 6-5 Angels lead.
The advantage lasted all of one pitch when Royals catcher Salvador Perez blasted reliever Noe Ramirez’s first pitch of the seventh over the wall in left for his 10th homer, tying the score.
The Angels overcame a rare rocky start from right-hander Nick Tropeano, who gave up five runs and nine hits in 42/3 innings, striking out five and walking one.
Angels starting pitchers held opponents to three runs or fewer in 28 of the previous 32 games, with Tropeano giving up three or fewer in four of his previous five starts.
It took the Royals only two innings to reach that threshold.
John Jay opened the game with a single, took second on Merrifield’s fly to the wall in left and scored on Mike Moustakas’ single to right. Singles by Trout and Upton, a walk to Pujols and Andrelton Simmons’ sacrifice fly to center pulled the Angels even 1-1 in the bottom of the first.
Kansas City took a 3-1 lead in the second when Hunter Dozier doubled to left and scored on Alcides Escobar’s single to center. Escobar stole second and scored on Jay’s single to left-center.
The Angels pulled to within 3-2 in the second when Marte singled to left and scored when Maldonado’s bloop single to shallow left-center skipped past left fielder Alex Gordon for an error that allowed Maldonado to take second.
Trout’s two-out intentional walk and another walk to Upton loaded the bases. Pujols flied out to the warning track in left.
Tropeano escaped a jam in the third with the help of third baseman Zack Cozart, who back-handed Jorge Soler’s grounder down the line and, noticing that Moustakas hesitated at third, threw home. Moustakas was tagged out in a rundown.
The right-hander could not slip out of a similar jam in the fifth, when Merrifield’s leadoff double, a walk to Moustakas, a wild pitch and Soler’s two-run double to left gave the Royals a 5-2 lead.