Trash, all kinds of it, scattered across Globe Life Park on a blustery Sunday afternoon in North Texas. Hot dog wrappers, napkins and discarded chip bags were strewn about the infield for much of the series finale between the Angels and Texas Rangers.
At one point Yunel Escobar, bored during a mound visit, even picked up a few pieces. He walked them over to first-base coach Alfredo Griffin, who tried to discard them, only to find the same stuff flying back a few seconds later.
The Angels played through the trash, as they did through all the other obstacles that darted their way in April. And as they did for the month, they came out of it OK. They pitched pretty well, produced a couple of big hits and topped Texas, 5-2, to conclude the month a game above .500.
“Aprils have been our Achilles’ heel the last few years,” said right fielder Kole Calhoun, who starred Sunday. “So it’s nice to get out of here with a winning record.”
Angels starter JC Ramirez had averaged 97 mph with his fastball in his first three starts this season. His first four pitches Sunday were all low-grade fastballs off the plate, between 91 and 93. He walked Delino DeShields and soon let him steal second.
Ramirez later explained that home-plate umpire Bill Miller had prohibited him from throwing his normal allotment of warmup pitches. He threw four or five instead of the normal eight. He was unsure if Miller was exacting vengeance for his having discarded a new baseball when he first reached the mound.
“It kinda messed up my mind a little bit,” Ramirez said. “That’s why I walked that guy, I guess. But I told myself, ‘Hey this is not me. Just forget about it.’”
So, he struck out Nomar Mazara. But Carlos Gomez rapped a single that scored DeShields, and then he stole second. He broke for home on Rougned Odor’s subsequent single to right field.
Calhoun fielded it and rifled a perfect throw to the plate. Martin Maldonado adeptly applied the tag, and Ramirez had a key out. He earned the inning’s third out on a fly ball to right.
Ramirez’s fastball velocity increased as the afternoon continued, in lock-step with his effectiveness. He retired nine Rangers in a row, a run broken only by Shin-Soo Choo’s fifth-inning solo home run, around which Ramirez struck out the side.
He struck out the first batter of the sixth, then exited after walking Gomez. As Angels manager Mike Scioscia divvied up the remaining innings, left-hander Jose Alvarez replaced Ramirez and retired four consecutive men. Right-handers Blake Parker and Bud Norris split the rest of the game, Norris registering his fifth save in as many tries.
Calhoun homered to begin the third for the Angels’ first run. Maldonado led off the fifth with a single, and Yunel Escobar laced a double. With Maldonado running from third on contact, Calhoun grounded to first base, where the Rangers’ Ryan Rua picked up the ball and threw home. Though Maldonado could not score, he got in a rundown and managed to evade being tagged until Calhoun could reach second.
Rangers manager Jeff Banister ordered Mike Trout intentionally walked. Albert Pujols popped out to short right field, but Jefry Marte shot a single through to center field to score two runs. Marte carried a .152 average into play Sunday and a two-for-20 slump into that at-bat, but he said he remained encouraged.
“I feel good every day,” he said afterward through interpreter Diego Lopez, as Pujols excitedly shouted Marte’s name nearby.
Marte added the game’s last run on an eighth-inning solo shot, his second homer of 2017.
The Angels have 10 players on the disabled list, including their top starting pitcher and their top three relievers. Their leadoff and cleanup hitters are hitting .234 and .231. But they finished April with 14 wins in 27 tries, and they have not held a better record at this stage in a season since 2011.
“We feel good about some things that look like they’re moving in the right direction, and some things we have to get going,” Scioscia said. “We’re not in great shape coming out of April, as far as what our record is. But we’ve held our own enough to hopefully get settled and start and be that consistent team.”