Until Tuesday, the Angels had played 425 road games since Mike Trout was called up to the majors for good on April 28, 2012. When the ballclub arrived in a city, it had long since become customary for fans and autograph seekers to crowd the team hotel. They tended to reappear when the team bus was due to depart for the ballpark.
Early Monday morning, the Angels arrived in a Detroit suburb to notably little fanfare. It was clear why: For the first time in more than five years, Trout is not accompanying them on a trip, relegated to the disabled list because of a ligament tear in his thumb.
“It’s like someone’s missing,” Kole Calhoun said.
As the challenge to stay afloat in the wild-card race without him continues, Day 1 of Week 2 without Trout was a success. Calhoun stepped into the starring role for the night as the Angels survived the Tigers, 5-3, at Comerica Park.
Five pitches into the game, Calhoun slammed a home run down the left-field line for his fourth home run in five games. Of the left-handed hitter’s 77 previous career homers, only one had traveled to the opposite field — two years ago in Toronto, which he quickly recalled afterward. Like Tuesday’s, it barely slipped over the wall.
“I thought it was a double, for sure,” Calhoun said.
The Angels’ next baserunner was Eric Young Jr., who walked in the third inning, stole second, and was picked off trying for third. Next, Andrelton Simmons walked, and he, too, stole second base. It was his 17th steal in 20 tries as an Angel, notable considering he stole 16 in more than twice as many games with Atlanta. After Calhoun walked, Albert Pujols tapped a grounder to third base, where Nick Castellanos bobbled it yet recovered in time to throw out the leaden designated hitter.
The Angels added two runs in the fourth when Yunel Escobar doubled and C.J. Cron homered, and another in the fifth, when Simmons and Calhoun singled and Detroit center fielder Alex Presley let Calhoun’s single pass by him. Calhoun then hit a sacrifice fly in the seventh after Young walked and Shane Robinson singled.
In the Tigers’ half of the first, Miguel Cabrera hit a two-out single against Angels starter Jesse Chavez before Cron, at first base, slid to stop a Victor Martinez grounder. The Tigers put two men on base in the third, on an Ian Kinsler double and Alex Avila walk, before Cabrera grounded into a double play.
Chavez didn’t allow another hit until Avila approached again, with one out in the sixth. In a 3-and-2 count, Avila drilled a fastball left over the middle of the plate for a solo home run to center. After Cabrera flied out to the right-field warning track, Martinez doubled to right. When J.D. Martinez rapped a single to put runners on the corners, Blake Parker began to warm in the Angels’ bullpen. And when Justin Upton blooped a run-scoring single into center field, Parker replaced Chavez and recorded an inning-ending ground out on his first pitch.
“I thought Blake Parker was really the most important guy that came in and settled that game down after Jesse had trouble getting out of the sixth,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.
Chavez’s outing jibed with the rest of his season. Entering Tuesday, he had held opponents to a .220 batting average the first two times through the lineup, but they hit .339 against him the third time through.
“That’s been the M.O.,” Chavez said. “Cruise until the sixth, and then get into a little rut.”
He believes he has uncovered the source of the problem, particularly Tuesday. Because of his success, he went nearly an hour without delivering a pitch out of the stretch. When circumstances dictated he do it again, he rushed through it.
Parker, the Angels’ surprise sensation in relief, required only seven pitches to finish the seventh. In the eighth, rookie right-hander Keynan Middleton allowed the first two men he faced to reach, then induced consecutive fly outs, the latter of which was a sacrifice fly that made it 5-3. Catcher Martin Maldonado soon let a pitch get away, but found the ball in time to throw out Cabrera trying for second, ending the inning.
The Angels (30-31) secured victory only after Bud Norris handled a tense ninth. He loaded the bases with two outs and threw up his hands in disbelief when he fell behind 3-and-0 to Avila. While Cabrera loomed on deck, Norris battled back to record a called strikeout on a backdoor slider.