Then came the 11th inning, and the matchup that Scioscia was helpless to stop. The
But playing the percentages simply increases your odds. It does not mean you win all the time. The Angels won this time, with
The Angels got 12 hits — none from
"I know I'm not a massive impact player," Murphy said. "At the same time, I feel I can contribute."
The Orioles dared him to do so.
When backup catcher Carlos Perez doubled to lead off the 11th inning, in his only at-bat of the game, the Angels had the winning run in scoring position. Scioscia asked
Giavotella took strike one, then bunted foul. Scioscia took the bunt off, but Giavotella bunted on his own. He bunted foul again for a strikeout.
"It was on me," Giavotella said. "I'm ecstatic Murphy got a big hit and bailed me out."
Matusz struck out Kole Calhoun, who bats left-handed. Murphy, who bats left-handed, saw no right-hander warming up in the Baltimore bullpen. He knew the Angels had no right-handed hitter to bat for him.
He told Wilson the Orioles probably would walk Trout intentionally, then walk Pujols intentionally, setting up the matchup between left-handers, but putting the potential winning run at third base.
That is exactly what Showalter did. Not that Murphy minded; he had five hits in 12 at-bats against Matusz. On the other hand, left-handers were batting .131 against Matusz this season.
Matusz threw his first four pitches to Murphy, three of them balls, all of them fastballs. Matusz was one ball away from walking home the winning run, so Murphy anticipated another fastball.
"He's got guts if he's going with his off-speed pitch there," Murphy said. "If he bounces it or throws it for a ball, he's probably going to be kicking himself."
The fifth pitch was a fastball, a called strike. The sixth pitch was a fastball, fouled off. The seventh pitch was a walk-off single, and the Angels were so excited that Pujols grabbed Murphy in a bear hug and very nearly squeezed the life out of him.
Scioscia still had two relievers left in the bullpen, not counting the injured
"There's still a long way to go," Scioscia said. "I don't think we were making moves like you'd do if it was the seventh game of the playoffs."
But the players were well aware of the ramifications of the game, not only in the AL West, but in the wild-card race, where the Orioles are the closest pursuers of the Angels. The Orioles trail the Angels by three games for the final AL wild-card spot.
"This is the nitty-gritty," pitcher Jered Weaver said. "We're in a battle, not only for our own division but for the wild card. We need to bear down."
The victory was extra special for Murphy, who improved his batting average since joining the Angels from .194 to .243. He had the game-winning single, and his 100th home run too.
"Look at a guy like Albert. He's got 500-plus," Murphy said. "It's not like I'm up there on any leaderboards.
"But I definitely see it as an accomplishment. It's a fun milestone to hit, especially as meaningful as it was today."