It was not a hit. It did not snap a slump that has dragged on for five weeks now. This mattered little to Kole Calhoun, the Angels right fielder who did something with the bat that, for a change, he could feel good about.
Calhoun’s sacrifice fly snapped a tie score in the sixth inning and pushed the Angels toward a 7-4 victory over the Minnesota Twins before 30,127 in Angel Stadium on Thursday night.
Ian Kinsler (three hits, including a two-run homer in the second), Andrelton Simmons (three hits, two runs), Justin Upton (solo homer) and Shohei Ohtani (solo homer) did the heavy lifting for the Angels, who have won seven of nine and snapped Minnesota’s five-game win streak.
Calhoun, who has a .161 average, a .390 on-base-plus-slugging percentage and two extra-base hits, both coming in the March 29 season opener at Oakland, was at least able to lend a hand.
“Helping this team win is definitely a good feeling,” Calhoun said. “It’s hard, but it’s still early in the season, we’re still 100-something at-bats in. It would be nice to have a hot streak in front of that, but you can’t change the past. I’ve got to keep working and get to the future.”
With the score tied 4-4 in the sixth, Simmons singled with one out off Twins starter Jose Berrios. Kinsler, dropped from the leadoff spot to seventh, singled to left. Both runners advanced on a wild pitch by reliever Ryan Pressly. Calhoun lined a fly to the wall in right for a sacrifice fly and a 5-4 lead.
Martin Maldonado followed with an RBI double to left to make it 6-4, and Ohtani crushed a 414-foot solo homer to center, his fifth of the season, for a 7-4 lead in the seventh.
Calhoun was essentially benched for the previous four games, limited to one pinch-hit appearance, a strategy manager Mike Scioscia often employs to give struggling hitters a chance to “clear their heads.”
Calhoun returned to the lineup Thursday with 10 RBIs, 33 strikeouts and four walks in 115 at-bats. The only number that improved was his RBI total. He was hitless in three at-bats, but he did line out to right in the second and drive a fly to the warning track in center in the eighth.
“He knows he’s more talented than what those numbers show every night. ”
For half the game, it did not appear Calhoun would have a chance to knock in a winning run. Angels starter Garrett Richards cruised through five scoreless, two-hit innings, and the Angels staked him to a 4-0 lead with two-run rallies in the second and third innings.
But Ehire Adrianzareached on an infield single in the sixth, and Joe Mauer lined a hit-and-run single to left, advancing Adrianza to third. Mauer took second on a wild pitch.
Richards hung an 89-mph slider to Brian Dozier, who hammered it over the wall in left-center for his sixth homer, pulling the Twins to within 4-3.
Scioscia pulled Richards in favor of left-hander Jose Alvarez, who grooved an 89-mph fastball to left-handed-hitting Max Kepler, who sent a 107-mph screamer over the right-field wall for a solo homer and a 4-4 tie.
Kinsler’s homer off Berrios gave the Angels a 2-0 lead in the second. Upton continued his torrid eight-game streak with a two-out, 413-foot solo homer to left in the third. Back-to-back doubles by Albert Pujols and Ohtani (111.4 mph off the bat) made it 4-0.
Since his walk-off homer against the Baltimore Orioles on May 2, Upton has hit 12 for 30 with five homers, two doubles, 12 RBIs and 11 runs in eight games. The Angels are 6-2 during the run.
“He’s not missing pitches,” Scioscia said. “He’s real comfortable in the box. He’s seeing the ball, squaring the ball up … all the things that add up to a good at-bat, he’s doing.”