Sports

Angels are extra pleased with extra-inning walk-off win over Athletics

SportsLos Angeles AngelsMajor League BaseballBaseballChris IannettaTravelJered Weaver

A win is a win. And Mike Scioscia figures his Angels need at least 90 of them to have a shot at returning to the postseason for the first time since 2009.

But as Wednesday night stretched into Thursday morning, the giddy Angels were talking as if their last victory — a 5-4 win over the Oakland Athletics on Chris Iannetta's 12th-inning walk-off homer — might just be worth a little bit more.

"It's character building, it's team-identity building, it's chemistry building," Iannetta said. "Those are some of the overlooked things when it comes to a team.

"The more moments you have like this, where you can define yourself and build confidence as a unit, the better you're going to be down the stretch."

And the Angels have been stretched quite a bit lately, having played into extra innings four times in six games. The last time that happened on a six-game homestand was June 1975.

But their exhausted — and recently maligned — bullpen came up big on getaway day, with five relievers combining to hold Oakland to a hit over the final six innings, allowing the Angels to rally from a three-run deficit. That, too, can build character, confidence and chemistry in the clubhouse.

"We've really come together," said new Angels reliever Joe Smith, who pitched a scoreless inning to get the win a night after being pummeled for four runs without getting an out. "I don't know what it was like last year, but this year it's been great. As the season's gone from spring training to now — especially the late-inning games, extra-inning games, walk-off wins — that stuff really brings a team together.

"Keep that rolling for the rest of the year and good things are going to happen."

The first test of the Angels' newfound momentum comes Friday night in Detroit, where right-hander Jered Weaver goes for his first win of the season in the opener of a three-city, 10-day trip. From there the team goes to Washington, where Angels pitchers will hit for the first time, before ending the trip with a visit to Yankee Stadium.

As far as Scioscia is concerned, though, the team turned a corner Wednesday.

"There was a different feeling in the clubhouse," he said. "Coming back [against] a team that's playing well, has a good bullpen, gives us a great sense of confidence."

Joy too, with the Angels celebrating Iannetta's sixth career walk-off hit with a wild celebration at home plate.

"Those wins, those bring you together," Smith said. "Everybody has fun. You're like a little kid again, jumping around on the field with a bunch of grown men.

"It's awesome."

Up next

The Angels open a three-game series Friday in Detroit, where right-hander Weaver (0-2, 5.79) will start. The Tigers are expected to start left-hander Drew Smyly (1-0, 0.00), who hasn't given up a run in six innings split over two relief appearances.

kevin.baxter@latimes.com

Twitter: @kbaxter11

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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