The Angels ascended from the American League West division cellar after they beat Minnesota, 5-4, on Tuesday at Angel Stadium. Their stay alone at the bottom was short, lasting only one day, and it went unnoticed by the team, according to Manager Mike Scioscia.
“We are not looking at the standings,” Scioscia said Tuesday afternoon. “We are thinking about our process. We are thinking about making sure our rotation gets where it needs to be and has a cascading, positive effect on our bullpen. If we control the defensive end, I think we’re gonna score runs. These guys have shown we can pressure other clubs.
“That’s all we’re focusing on right now. That’s it.”
The Angels’ starting rotation did not get where it needed to be on Tuesday night. Jhoulys Chacin lasted five substandard innings, yielding seven hits and four runs. He admitted he was lacking his best stuff.
“I was battling most of the game,” Chacin said.
Meanwhile, the offense continued to perform well enough to win ballgames, producing 15 baserunners and five extra-base hits. The difference from most other recent nights was the bullpen, which allowed only four baserunners in four smooth innings. Huston Street pitched a perfect ninth.
“The biggest thing was on the pitching side and the defensive end,” Scioscia said.
The two teams, the American League’s worst entering the game, traded early runs. Yunel Escobar singled, Mike Trout doubled, and Albert Pujols singled in the Angels’ half of the first inning. Escobar scored before Trout was thrown out at home.
In the Twins’ second, two singles produced a run. Johnny Giavotella popped a home run after Jefry Marte, starting at left field for the first time in his professional career, singled to lead off the Angels’ second. Giavotella had also launched a home run in his previous at-bat in Monday’s ninth inning.
After two more Twin singles in the third netted another run, Kole Calhoun hit a solo home run, the eighth of 2016 for the steady right fielder.
In the fifth, Marte misjudged a well-struck fly ball Joe Mauer hit to left. He zigged and zagged and reached out for it, several feet from where it actually landed. Instead of an inning-ending flyout, it was a run-scoring triple. Scioscia pulled Marte not long afterward and replaced him with the more experienced Shane Robinson.
“He looked comfortable out there,” Scioscia said of Marte. “That ball from Mauer was hit really hard.”
After an unseemly performance in Monday night’s loss to Minnesota that Scioscia assured was out of character from his team, there were more mistakes in Tuesday’s winning effort. Giavotella botched an early double-play chance by giving up on a rundown between first and second base, and C.J. Cron got caught too far from first base on a Marte liner. Twins second baseman Brian Dozier deked Cron and their right fielder, rookie Max Kepler, doubled him up.
Scioscia said he was pleased with his team’s effort. He was content to speak about the process of general improvement. Asked if his evaluation was at all dependent on the fact that his roster had played to the worst record in the division until Tuesday night, he acknowledged that it was — but only a bit.
“That’s your report card, obviously: your won-loss record,” Scioscia said. “We’re not even in midterms yet, though. The process is what you need to focus on. We have a number of things that are pressing that we need to get a better handle of, and that’s what we’re going to focus on.”
The Angels are 28-37, still 12 games behind in their division and seven games back of wild-card contention. Their stadium played host to pop star Flo Rida after Tuesday’s game. He sang vaguely about good feelings, working hard and having fun, and holding court at one’s home, and the Angels simultaneously spoke with the same sense of positivity.
“We’re not looking at the standings, man,” Calhoun said. “It’s June. I know it’s as cliche as it can possibly get, but it’s reality. Hopefully, this is the start of an up.”