Chris Sale’s full-count changeup to Angels slugger Mike Trout with the bases loaded in the eighth inning Saturday night was shin-high and several inches off the plate, a pitch Chicago White Sox Manager Robin Ventura said was “probably ball four, close to being in the dirt.”
The Angels trailed by four runs, but they had Sale, one of baseball’s best pitchers, on the ropes. Erick Aybar had doubled to open the inning and scored on Chris Iannetta’s single. Collin Cowgill reached on an error, and Howie Kendrick capped a nine-pitch at-bat with a single to right to load the bases with no outs.
Trout opened his at-bat by fouling off two fastballs but fought back by taking two balls, fouling off another pitch and taking ball three.
“I think the first two pitches I fouled off, I was thinking home run, and that’s why I fouled them off,” Trout said. “You get big in situations and lose your mechanics in the swing. On the 3-2 pitch, I just told myself to stay up the middle and put the ball in play.”
He stayed up the middle, all right, but he didn’t put the ball in play. He put it out of play, crushing a grand slam over the center-field fence to tie the score, 5-5.
Josh Hamilton, C.J. Cron and Aybar then hit consecutive two-out singles off reliever Jake Petricka to give the Angels a stunning 6-5 victory, the first time they have won at home after trailing, 5-0, in the seventh inning or later since Game 6 of the 2002 World Series, a 6-5 win over the San Francisco Giants.
“We just battled that whole inning — we had great at-bats,” Trout said. “That at-bat before me, when Howie hits that ball to right field, very impressive. We never quit. Down 5-0, we could have easily put our heads down and stopped playing, but you never know. It was big. Everyone contributed. It was a team win, for sure.”
It was the 16th come-from-behind victory of the season for the Angels, who moved to within 4 1/2 games of Oakland in the American League West, but this one came with a considerable degree of difficulty.
Sale, the 6-foot-6, 180-pound left-hander with the funky delivery, 95-mph fastball and nasty changeup, entered with a 5-0 record and 1.59 earned run average on the season, a 3-0 record and 0.38 ERA in six career games against the Angels, and he blanked the Angels on three hits through seven innings Saturday night.
“The guy is tough,” Kendrick said of Sale. “He’s got an unorthodox delivery, and he comes right at you, but tonight, we were able to battle. I don’t know if it was being more familiar with him because we’ve seen him a few times, but I think we got a couple of mistakes to hit.
“I don’t know if that was because he was tired or what. We were able to get some guys on base, and guys came up with some really good at-bats, and that amounted to some hits for us. There’s no better feeling when you go out as a team and put up runs like that in one inning to give yourself a chance to win.”