The Angels and the Oakland Athletics combined to throw 238 pitches through nine innings Tuesday night at Angel Stadium. At no point in all that time, over 60 plate appearances, did either team manage to send one runner as far from home as second base.
They carried a scoreless tie into extra innings. Then, the shared streak of futility snapped on the first post-regulation pitch. Athletics pinch-hitter Josh Phegley slammed a Jose Alvarez fastball into the right-center bleachers to push Oakland ahead. Mike Trout then sliced the third pitch of the bottom of the 10th into similar territory, near the right-field foul pole, for another home run.
Again, the score was tied. Only in the 11th inning did the Angels manage to move ahead and capture a walk-off win, 2-1. Danny Espinosa led off with a single, took second on a two-strike sacrifice bunt, and scored when the .205-hitting Kole Calhoun laced a single to center off ex-Angels reliever Ryan Madson.
"He's hitting the ball better than those numbers are showing," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of Calhoun. "Trust us."
After Trout's shot, Albert Pujols notched a single and pinch-runner Ben Revere stole second base, but the Angels couldn't get him any closer to home. That was the night's theme.
It was not until the fourth inning that the Athletics got their first hit against Angels starter JC Ramirez, a Jaff Decker single.
Catcher Martin Maldonado quickly threw him out stealing second. Oakland mustered another baserunner in the fifth, when leadoff batter Khris Davis worked a four-pitch walk but stayed stranded at second. Decker walked in the sixth and Jed Lowrie singled in the seventh, but neither man moved any further along.
Ramirez lucked out when facing Davis in the seventh, with one out and Lowrie aboard. He threw a low-and-away slider for the second strike of the at-bat, then tried to do the same thing to strike out Davis.
He missed up and in, just the kind of pitch Davis likes to wallop for home runs. But Davis missed the pitch too and struck out swinging. Ramirez smiled to acknowledge his luck and recorded two popouts to end the inning.
In his seven innings, he struck out seven, walked two, and yielded the two singles. It was his best start at any professional level in the third start of his major league career. "It's kinda hard," he said. "But I'm getting used to it."
The Angels (10-12) produced their first hit with one out in the fifth, an Andrelton Simmons single. Simmons, too, was quickly erased from the basepaths, picked off by Oakland starter Jesse Hahn. In the first inning, Trout took a harmless walk. Thereafter, Simmons was their only baserunner until Cameron Maybin walked with two outs in the eighth.
Calhoun did come five feet away from sneaking a home run over the tiny wall in left, leading off the seventh inning. It would've been his first to left field in this ballpark. "That's my nemesis," Calhoun said.
After Ramirez exited, Scioscia chose Blake Parker for the eighth inning, and David Hernandez for the ninth. The 31-year-old right-handers retired six of seven hitters, providing the Angels the chance to win it in the bottom of the ninth.
Oakland left-hander Sean Doolittle entered in relief of Hahn and set down the Angels in order.
After Alvarez's 10th-inning hiccup, rookie right-hander Brooks Pounders handled the 11th without issue.
Before the game, Scioscia said the Angels' bullpen was still recovering from their 13-inning loss to Toronto on Friday. "We're not quite where we need to be," he said. "But I think we have enough length in there to go tonight."
They did, but barely.