Erick Aybar stepped to the plate in the eighth inning Wednesday night looking for a first-pitch fastball and got it, ripping Tommy Hunter’s 96-mph offering into the gap in left-center field for a score-tying double.
Five batters later, Kole Calhoun went to the plate looking for a slider and never got it. Instead, the Angels leadoff man took five straight Brian Matusz fastballs, four of which were balls, resulting in a tie-breaking bases-loaded walk and a 3-2 come-from-behind victory over the Baltimore Orioles.
“I don’t know if it was me laying off good pitches,” Calhoun, who bats left-handed, said of his first-ever plate appearance against Matusz, the Orioles’ tough left-handed reliever. “I was looking for a pitch and never really got it.”
That seemed to be the theme of the night for the Angels, who never really got what they were looking for. The Angels, who went 22 for 52 (.431) with runners in scoring position in the five games before the All-Star break, were hitless in 12 at-bats with runners in scoring position Wednesday night and three for 25 in those situations in the series.
They failed to score after putting two on with no outs in the sixth. Howie Kendrick struck out after Aybar’s eighth-inning double, failing to advance the runner with a grounder to the right side. After Aybar stole third, David Freese, who could score Aybar with a fly ball or grounder through a drawn-in infield, struck out.
“We did not execute well in the situational component in this series,” Manager Mike Scioscia said. “We didn’t get our bunts down, we didn’t get guys over when we had a chance. Those things are going to happen. These guys are not perfect. You’re not going to fire on all cylinders all the time, but they’re better than that.”
Aybar’s big hit and stolen base in the eighth inning helped salvage the night and the series for the Angels, who lost the first two games.
Trailing, 2-1, Josh Hamilton led off the eighth with a broken-bat single to right, and Aybar smoked his RBI double into the gap for a 2-2 tie. After Kendrick and Freese struck out and Aybar stole third, Hunter walked Efren Navarro intentionally to put runners on first and third.
Chris Iannetta drew a walk to load the bases, and Orioles Manager Buck Showalter summoned Matusz, who has held left-handers to a .215 average (14 for 65) this season. But Calhoun took a ball, a strike and three balls to force in the winning run.
“Calhoun has a good eye -- that was a great at-bat for him,” Aybar said. “Everybody was trying to do the job. You know, sometimes you struggle, but that’s it, it’s over. We start a new series against Detroit. Leave the past behind.”