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Kole Calhoun beats the odds, homers against a left-hander to lift Angels

Kole Calhoun beats the odds, homers against a left-hander to lift Angels
Angels' Kole Calhoun is congratulated by third base coach Mike Gallego after hitting a go-ahead two-run home off Seattle Mariners' Roenis Elias during the eighth inning on Saturday in Seattle. (John Froschauer / Associated Press)

This was not the kind of matchup that has generally favored the Angels this season.

First, they faced a left-hander on the mound. The Angels entered Saturday with a .228 average, ranked 26th in the major leagues, and a .703 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, ranked 22nd, against left-handers.

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Then, at the plate stood Kole Calhoun, a left-handed batter who was hitting .180 against left-handers this season and was two for 11 with two strikeouts and two walks lifetime against Seattle Mariners reliever Roenis Elias.

With one vicious swing at a full-count pitch, Calhoun stuffed those odds in a shredder. The Angels right fielder drove an up-and-away 94-mph fastball over the wall in right-center field for a tie-breaking two-run home run in the eighth inning of a 6-3 victory before 28,128 in T-Mobile Park.

“I’ve had some at-bats off him, and I guess that helps,” Calhoun said after the Angels won for the sixth time in eight games. “I’ve seen him before, and I know what he’s got. I battled back and forth, laid off some good pitches. I got a good pitch to hit and put a good swing on it.”

The score was tied 3-3 when Cesar Puello led off the eighth with an infield single and Tommy La Stella singled to right. Up stepped catcher Jonathan Lucroy, who was hitless in three at-bats but has dropped all of seven sacrifice bunts in 10 big-league seasons.

“It crossed my mind,” Angels manager Brad Ausmus said of bunting Lucroy, “but he hasn’t bunted much in his life. That’s usually a recipe for disaster.”

Lucroy grounded into a double play before Calhoun, who hit .299 with a .946 OPS in May after hitting .194 with a .716 OPS in March and April, came through.

Mike Trout added a solo homer in the ninth for a 6-3 lead, his team-leading 14th of the season and 22nd in T-Mobile Park, the most by a visiting player in stadium history. Cam Bedrosian, Ty Buttrey and Hansel Robles each threw an inning of scoreless relief behind Andrew Heaney, who delivered a second strong start after missing the first two months of the season because of elbow inflammation.

Heaney allowed three runs and five hits in six innings, striking out 10—eight with his curveball—and walking none. The left-hander got swinging strikes on 22 of the 92 pitches he threw, 15 on his 36 breaking balls and seven on his 53 sinking fastballs.

But Heaney made at least two glaring mistakes that were crushed by Edwin Encarnacion, who drove a 1-and-0 changeup 400 feet over the left-field wall for a solo homer in the fourth and a full-count curve 438 feet to center for a two-run shot in the sixth that tied the score 3-3.

The Angels scored twice in the first when David Fletcher walked and Albert Pujols hit a towering two-run homer to left, his 10th this season.

“Going down 1-and-0 and throwing a fastball to him is probably not a good idea,” Seattle starter Tommy Milone said.

The Angels pushed the lead to 3-0 in the third when Fletcher doubled to left, Pujols was intentionally walked with two out and Puello hit an RBI double to left.

“Getting a win—that’s all that matters,” said Heaney, who used the words “kind of mediocre” to describe his first two starts, in which he’s allowed five runs and 10 hits—four of them homers—struck out 18 and walked one in 11 innings.

“They spotted me some early runs and I kind of let them creep back into it. Not what I was trying to do, obviously. But that swing that Kole put on it … that was awesome. That was the fatal blow, so that was good.”

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