Justin Anderson’s eyes did not deceive him. The Angels reliever was sure he had struck out Joey Gallo with a full-count fastball to end Sunday’s game against the Texas Rangers, and the replay he saw after surviving the harrowing ninth inning of a 3-1 victory in Angel Stadium confirmed that belief.
“I didn’t realize how bad I got squeezed until I came back inside and watched the video,” the rookie right-hander said. “But that’s all part of it. You’ve just got to step off, relax, take a deep breath … fill up the zone and make them hit your pitches.”
This was a gut-check moment for Anderson and a beleaguered bullpen. Noe Ramirez gave up a home run to Nomar Mazara in the eighth inning to cut the Angels’ lead to 3-1. Anderson got two outs in the ninth before walking Ronald Guzman, who checked his swing on a full-count inside fastball.
Gallo worked another full count. Anderson delivered a high-and-tight 97-mph fastball that was fully inside the K-zone box on the FS West telecast.
Rookie catcher Jose Briceno came up out of his crouch as he caught the pitch, either partially shielding or fooling umpire Chris Conroy, who called it a ball. Anderson couldn’t believe it.
“You can go back and look at it — the ball was right there in the zone,” Anderson said. “I’m not saying that’s on Briceno at all. There was no cross-up. That ump missed that call.”
Anderson walked Shin-Soo Choo on a full-count fastball that was slightly inside to load the bases. It was his 31st pitch. Anderson threw an inning Saturday night. If his tank wasn’t empty, the warning light was on.
“Just don’t quit,” Anderson said of his mindset. “It’s a dogfight no matter what.”
Manager Mike Scioscia, who allowed starter Tyler Skaggs to go an extra inning when the left-hander looked gassed after five innings, stuck with Anderson, who needed three pitches to retire Isiah Kiner-Falefa on a game-ending fly to right field.
“He wasn’t missing by much,” Scioscia said. “We felt he could get that last out, and he did. The last three pitches he threw were terrific sliders. He had to work hard to get out of that inning, but it says a lot about him. You can’t let things like that be a distraction out there, and I don’t think he did.”
Skaggs was effective if not efficient, needing 107 pitches to complete six bend-but-don’t-break innings in which he gave up four hits, struck out six batters and walked three to improve to 4-4 with a 3.27 earned-run average.
With two on and no outs in the third inning, Skaggs won a 10-pitch duel with Mazara, striking him out with a 94-mph fastball. He got Adrian Beltre to fly to right field and Profar to fly to left.
“I just told myself, this is the inning,” Skaggs said of the third. “If I win this inning, I think we win the game.”
After Choo’s one-out double in the fifth, Skaggs struck out Kiner-Falefa and Mazara looking, the latter with a looping 74-mph curve. Scioscia wanted to coax one more inning out of Skaggs, who breezed through a 10-pitch sixth.
“After the first two innings, we were sitting there mapping it out and hoping he could get us five,” Scioscia said. “He came off after the fifth and felt good, so we said, ‘This is one of those days, man, go out there and try to get us another three outs,’ and he did.”
The Angels managed only four hits against starter Doug Fister and Alex Claudio, but one was a two-run double to right field by Luis Valbuena in the second inning and one was a home run to right by Justin Upton in the sixth, the left fielder’s 12th home run and first in 16 games dating to May 15.
Center fielder Mike Trout gave the Angels a scare in the fifth inning when he slammed face-first into the wall after catching Delino DeShields’ drive. Trout walked gingerly to his position but remained in the game, rubbing and flexing his right knee for the rest of the inning.
“Yeah, it was pretty loud,” Upton said of the collision. “He was moving pretty fast. I tried to give him a heads-up that the wall was there, so he was able to brace himself. He’s not the most fragile person in the world, so I wasn’t too worried.”
Neither was Trout, who finished the game and expects to play Monday night.
“I just banged my knee on the wall,” Trout said. “It’s all good.”
Anderson, on the other hand, is not expected to be available for the series opener against Kansas City after throwing 18 pitches Saturday night and 34 on Sunday. Asked whether he had another 35 pitches in him Monday night, Anderson’s answer was far more succinct than Sunday’s outing: