The Angels were down two runs to Texas on Tuesday night at Angel Stadium, and Mike Trout was down two strikes to the Rangers’ closer, right-hander Sam Dyson. One more and the Angels would lose.
Dyson fired a sinking two-seam fastball toward the outer edge of the plate. It was clocked at 96 mph, but Trout did not so much as flirt with it, and plate umpire Scott Barry called it a ball. Dyson fired another fastball. Same speed, same location, same result.
The 2-and-2 pitch was a few more inches inside, and Trout pounced, turning his hands and driving the ball to right field for a run-scoring double.
“I took some tough sinkers down and away, and I kind of put it in the back of my mind, ‘He might come back with it. Don’t give up on the ball away,’” Trout said. “He’s got good stuff. I just got a pitch I could do a little damage with.”
Soon, he scored the tying run on an Albert Pujols single. Not long later, the Angels came all the way back from a five-run deficit to topple Texas, 6-5, in 10 innings, on a Carlos Perez squeeze bunt.
It was their second such comeback in as many games. They trailed Seattle by as many as seven runs Sunday and six in the ninth inning before winning by one.
“When you start to get closer and closer, you start to think, we’re gonna do it again,” said outfielder Cameron Maybin, who scored Tuesday’s winning run. “The chatter in the dugout was just that. We came back from seven. We can get three.”
In his first start of the 2017 season last week in Oakland, Angels left-hander Tyler Skaggs worked into the sixth inning but logged a poor overall line because of a big third inning. In his second start of the season, Tuesday against Texas, Skaggs did the same thing. He worked into the sixth again, but struggled, too, because of a big third inning highlighted by a three-run home run. This time, it was Jonathan Lucroy who hurt him.
“Identical to last time,” Skaggs said.
Skaggs began OK, striking out Carlos Gomez before Elvis Andrus lofted a double into left field. Nomar Mazara grounded Andrus to third, and ex-Angel catcher Mike Napoli flared a single a few feet beyond Andrelton Simmons’ glove to score a run. In the second, Skaggs put the first two Ranger hitters on base, but struck out the side: Ryan Rua, Joey Gallo, and Gomez again.
Andrus saw another fastball he liked in the third, with the count 2-and-1, and sent it into the left-field seats. After Mazara singled and Odor was hit by a pitch, Lucroy launched a home run to the same spot Andrus hit his.
Texas took a commanding lead. Skaggs escaped the inning mercifully, when Rua smashed a baseball to Maybin in left field. The left-hander benefitted from an adept double-play turn Simmons and Espinosa executed to end the fourth, and finished the fifth easily. In the sixth, Manager Mike Scioscia came for him when Shin-soo Choo singled to begin the sixth.
Right-hander Bud Norris entered in relief and handled the next three innings with ease. He faced 10 batters, retired nine of them, and allowed one single. Right-hander Yusmeiro Petit pitched the ninth, and Cam Bedrosian the 10th.
Trout aided the 10th-inning effort by hopping at the center-field wall to secure Napoli’s leadoff drive that may or may not have become a home run. Trout thought it was a homer off the bat, but he gave chase, and found it within his reach without much effort.
“He made it look easy,” Scioscia said. “That was not an easy catch.”
The Angels faced Texas left-hander Cole Hamels, who walked leadoff batter Yunel Escobar. When Trout reached on a 100-mph liner Andrus could not handle, the Angels tried a failed double steal and Escobar was thrown out easily at third. Pujols extended the inning with a walk, but Simmons flew out to right.
Hamels retired the side in the third, even as Trout and Pujols both appealed to home-plate umpire Scott Barry about called third strikes. Two Angels reached base in the fourth, but Maybin’s double-play groundout hampered their chances at a rally.
The Angels’ first run crossed home on a Jefry Marte seventh-inning solo home run. They soon scored another, when Trout lined a double down the left-field line to begin the eighth and Maybin blooped a double the opposite direction. In between, Pujols lined a ball up the middle that Andrus caught. When Pujols returned to the Angels’ dugout, he shrugged his shoulders at Scioscia. Pujols broke out of a 1-for-20 slump Saturday, but he has already been beset by poor luck to start the season.
Danny Espinosa led off the ninth with a home run to left-center, his second homer of the season, both times in the ninth inning. Pinch-hitter Ben Revere struck out. Escobar doubled, reaching base for the fourth time. Calhoun skied a flyout to center, Trout worked his magic, and Pujols stepped to the plate needing a hit to push the Angels into a tie.
He shot a single into left field. Trout scored easily. Into extra innings they went, where Maybin walked, Espinosa singled, and Scioscia told Perez to try a safety squeeze. The catcher dropped his bat and put down an idyllic bunt, 30 feet down the first-base line, too far from home and too far from first for Texas to do anything.
The 2016 Angels did not win a game in extra innings. The 2016 Angels have, and they are 6-2, tied for their best eight-game start in franchise history. Their players are feeling the winning spirit.
When asked if he was surprised by the bunt call that scored him, Maybin said he was never startled by events on the field in front of him.
“It’s baseball,” he said, and then corrected himself. “It’s Angels baseball.”