If at first you don’t succeed, try again. And if at second you again don’t succeed, attempt something entirely different.
The Angels broke through a scoreless tie with Detroit on Monday only after twice trying to bunt in a run off the Tigers’ Justin Verlander. The result of the altered approach propelled them to a 5-1 victory at Angel Stadium.
Verlander, the $220-million man, had been nearly perfect throughout the night, as had the Angels’ starter, journeyman Jhoulys Chacin, acquired at this month’s start for a pittance. The two men matched immaculate innings for half the game, until C.J. Cron led off the bottom of the fifth with a single to right.
Chacin did not capitulate to imperfection until there were two outs in the sixth inning. Neither team mobilized much of a chance to score until the eighth, when the Angels rallied off Verlander and reliever Buck Farmer for all five of their runs.
Leading off, Johnny Giavotella slapped a hit to right field. Then, in an 0-and-1 count, Angels third base coach Ron Roenicke signaled for a hit-and-run, and Rafael Ortega knocked the ball through to right field. Giavotella scampered around to third base as Verlander regretted his decision to throw Ortega a fastball within the strike zone.
“I probably shouldn’t have thrown that pitch if I thought he was swinging,” Verlander said. “Ortega kind of got me a little bit. That was a good job of managing and a good job of execution.”
On the next pitch Verlander threw, the Angels did not execute. They tried their second safety squeeze in as many days, but Cliff Pennington bunted Verlander’s fastball up, foul, beyond the reach of any Tigers infielder.
Verlander fired another fastball, and Pennington tried another bunt, again foul, again beyond anyone’s reach. On an 0-and-2 count, Verlander dialed up a 95-mph fastball. Swinging, finally, Pennington met the pitch above the zone and drove it to left field.
“I had a feeling he was,” Verlander said. “I just didn’t throw the pitch that I wanted. I’m kind of kicking myself in the butt for not.”
At that point, Chacin began to debate what to throw to begin the ninth inning with his Venezuelan countryman Carlos Perez, the Angels’ catcher. As soon as Chacin retired to the dugout after the top half of the eighth, Manager Mike Scioscia told him he’d begin the ninth. He had thrown 106 pitches, but he had struck out nine Tigers and placed sinker after sinker on the corners to amass groundball outs.
So, would Detroit’s J.D. Martinez be sitting fastball? After the Angels continued to notch hits against Verlander and the half-inning extended to half an hour, Chacin and Perez decided he would. They settled on a cutter.
Martinez swung and whacked a double to left. Chacin threw his hands up and laughed. But Scioscia left him in, and he retired the next three men he faced to finish off the first complete game by an Angel this season.
Calhoun fouled a ball off his foot and received a visit from trainer Rick Smith, only to wave him off. One pitch later, he drove a ball 395 feet to straightaway center field, where Cameron Maybin hopped to catch it at the wall.
Chacin’s first three-ball count came against former Angel Andrew Romine in the sixth inning. It led to the first hit he permitted, a groundball single through to left.
Scioscia called Chacin’s complete-game effort “huge on a number of fronts.” Normally, he would’ve exited after eight innings, but six Angels relievers had combined to throw eight innings in Sunday’s loss, and Scioscia decided to stretch him.
“He was really pitch-efficient through probably six or seven innings,” the manager said. “Everything he was throwing, he was throwing over the plate, and you could tell that his stuff was moving.”
Through 4 1/2 innings, the teams were four outs away from breaking the record for consecutive combined outs to begin a game, set 25 years ago during Dennis Martinez’s perfect game at Dodger Stadium.
Scioscia played in it.
Follow Pedro Moura on Twitter: @PedroMoura