Hector Santiago, Mike Morin, Trevor Gott and Huston Street were on a leather couch in the Angels’ clubhouse at Globe Life Park on Saturday when Erick Aybar and Kole Calhoun hit home runs to lead off the ninth inning, cutting a four-run deficit to two.
“Stuff started going our way, so we were like, ‘Nobody move!’ ” Santiago said. “We stayed on the couch, watching TV.”
Fill-in closer Joe Smith started warming up when Albert Pujols blooped a one-out double to shallow right, the ball dropping when Texas Rangers first baseman Mike Napoli and second baseman Rougned Odor clanged gloves.
David Murphy struck out, and then it started raining two-out hits. Four straight singles by C.J. Cron, David Freese, Carlos Perez and Johnny Giavotella pushed the Angels toward one of the most stunning comebacks in franchise history, an 11-10 victory that would keep their playoff hopes alive and prevent the Rangers from clinching the American League West title.
Except for one minor detail. After the Angels rallied for five runs and seven hits off closer Shawn Tolleson and right-hander Ross Ohlendorf to erase a 10-6 deficit, shocking a crowd of 37,277 into silence, Smith still had to pitch the bottom of the ninth.
“That was nuts, just nuts,” Smith said, shaking his head. “I don’t know how to explain it. I was in awe, like everyone else. I was just trying to get loose.”
Smith, who two weeks ago sprained his left ankle when he tripped and fell on a flight of stairs, did not slip Saturday. He retired Napoli and Will Venable before Elvis Andrus singled.
But when Andrus slid past the second on a stolen-base attempt and was tagged out by Aybar, the Angels secured their biggest ninth-inning comeback win since they scored seven runs to beat Detroit, 13-12, on Dick Schofield’s grand slam on Aug. 29, 1986.
The victory assured that these resilient Angels, who have gone 12-1 in one-run games since Sept. 9, remained in the hunt for the second AL wild-card spot entering Sunday’s regular-season final.
If Houston loses to Arizona on Saturday night, the Angels would tie the Astros. If Houston wins, the Angels would need to win Sunday, with Garrett Richards starting on three days’ rest, and hope the Astros lose, forcing a one-game tiebreaker in Houston on Monday for the final playoff spot.
“It was incredible — that’s the only way I can describe it,” Giavotella said. “Being down four in the ninth with their closer on the mound … it’s almost surreal to come back in that situation.”
Said Santiago, who pitched the first four innings: “I have no words. Honestly, this is one of the best games I’ve been a part of. It’s crazy.”
The Angels won despite using two pitchers who were pulled off the scrap heap last week, Dodgers castoff Mat Latos and former Korean and Mexican League left-hander Jo-Jo Reyes, who threw one pitch — his first in the big leagues since 2011 — and got the win.
They won despite blowing a 5-1 lead, committing two errors during the Rangers’ four-run fifth inning, giving up three more runs in the sixth and Latos serving up solo homers to Josh Hamilton, his second of the game, and Odor in the seventh.
“We did not play a good game this afternoon,” Manager Mike Scioscia said, “but we managed to come back and get it done, and that’s huge.”
Aybar smoked a 2-and-2 Tolleson changeup over the right-field wall for his third homer to start the ninth, and Calhoun drove Tolleson’s next pitch, another changeup, to right for his 26th homer.
After Pujols’ double, Cron grounded his RBI single to center, and Freese roped his single to left-center. Ohlendorf shattered Perez’s bat with the 2-2 pitch, but Perez muscled it into center for an RBI single to tie the score.
Up stepped Giavotella, who hit an RBI single in the fifth, an RBI double in the sixth and suffered scrapes on his left shin when Odor spiked him with a late and questionable slide in the fifth.
Giavotella barely fouled off a 1-2 pitch and complained to umpire Eric Cooper that Ohlendorf quick-pitched him.
“I was hoping for a balk,” Giavotella said. “I wasn’t ready for that. I was surprised I fouled it off. It was pretty far outside. I was able to keep the at-bat alive.”
Giavotella reached out for the next pitch and poked an RBI single to center for an 11-10 lead, as the Angels’ dugout erupted. Prior to Saturday, teams had lost 1,761 consecutive games when trailing by four in the ninth inning on the road.
“Nobody’s ready to go home,” Calhoun said. “We’re not quitting. We’re playing for each other and trusting one another. That’s how you put together a streak like that, I guess.”
Richards (15-11, 3.62 ERA) will oppose Texas left-hander Cole Hamels (6-1, 3.86 ERA) at Globe Life Park on Sunday at noon PDT. TV: TBS, FS West; Radio: 830, 1330.
Follow Mike DiGiovanna on Twitter @MikeDiGiovanna