And when the skies opened, the Angels could not be stopped.
For one night, everything that has plagued them this season became their strength. They amassed 22 hits and 21 runs in one of the biggest, most one-sided victories in franchise history. They toppled the Boston Red Sox by a 19-run margin, 21-2. In one particularly preposterous inning, the seventh, the Angels scored 11 runs on nine hits and elicited massive boos from Fenway Park fans.
“We just had it tonight,” Kole Calhoun said. “It was nice to come out with a win and do it big.”
Said Red Sox Manager John Farrell: “We’re embarrassed by tonight’s ballgame. There’s no other way to put it.”
Before Saturday, the Angels’ season high for runs in a game was 11. They were averaging 4.2 per game and had lost 10 of their last 11 to sink entirely out of playoff contention, 16 games below .500 and last in the American League West.
The season is now halfway completed, the Angels still possessing no practical chance of contending, on a 66-win pace. But, for a night, they had one wonderful time, at a time when pure clean fun has been hard to find.
“That’s a big thing for a team, you know,” said starting pitcher Hector Santiago, who went six innings for his fifth win. “Every day, you feel like you’re just down, down, down. So, it’s going to be a good night.”
Santiago had specially designed cleats shipped to him for the occasion, thinking they might help prevent more malaise. The image of the Angels’ erstwhile Rally Monkey is airbrushed on the left foot. The 28-year-old wore them throughout his solid start, and he believed they contributed to the extent of victory.
“He carried us through the whole game for sure,” Santiago said. “He was tired, man.”
Santiago, who has struggled for most of 2016, faced Boston’s David Ortiz with runners at the corners and one out in the first inning. Ortiz has been unfathomably good this season at age 40, eliciting even more support from the Boston faithful. They cheered when he emerged into the on-deck circle, and they booed Santiago as Ortiz called time and turned his back to the mound.
The only Boston pitcher the Angels did not score against is not a pitcher. The bullpen taxed, Red Sox reserve outfielder Ryan LaMarre handled the ninth without issue.
Santiago and Clay Buchholz, Boston’s Saturday starter, have had similar careers and seasons. They’ve both been All-Stars, but overall, they’ve been about average, entering the game a tenth of a run apart in career earned-run average.
And, this season, they’ve been bad, both with ERAs above 5.00. Buchholz could not complete five innings before the Angels chased him, with rampant suggestions his Red Sox career is over and six runs to his name. Santiago permitted only an unearned run in his six innings.
Third baseman Yunel Escobar returned to the Angels’ lineup after a seven-game absence and reached base twice in five tries. He will be on display for the next four weeks as the Angels attempt to attract trade offers from opposing ballclubs. Escobar’s eminent issue is his defense, and he didn’t help the cause by throwing away a grounder in the fifth inning to allow Boston’s first run.
In part because of platoons, in part because of injuries, the Angels employed their opening-day defensive lineup Saturday for the first time since opening day.
The Angels had scored 21 runs only three previous times in their history, and not since 2004. The 21-2 scoreline had been produced only six times in Major League Baseball history, and once in the National Football League.
No major league teammates had logged at least five hits and five RBIs in the same game in 80 years, a feat first baseman C.J. Cron and catcher Carlos Perez achieved Saturday.
Never in franchise history had a player logged six hits, five runs and five RBIs in a game, a feat Cron accomplished.
Cron hit two home runs, a double and three singles. His teammates — excited, incredulous, and perhaps a bit jealous — razzed him afterward.
“I mean, I like hitting,” Cron said. “It’s my favorite thing to do.”