Manager Brad Ausmus said the energy in the Angels dugout during a seven-run seventh inning Thursday night was “tremendous, probably the best it’s been all year,” which was remarkable considering the first six innings of an 11-10 loss to the Seattle Mariners, when his players seemed in dire need of a few Red Bulls.
Groggy from Wednesday night’s weather-related travel delays in Texas and short on sleep after their sunrise arrival in Southern California, the Angels fell behind 10-2 in the top of the seventh, digging a hole deep enough to require a franchise record comeback to climb out of.
Then, like a bolt of lightning that filled the skies above the Dallas/Fort Worth area Wednesday night, the Angels offense came alive with a seven-hit blast that pulled them to within 10-9 of the Mariners.
David Fletcher’s home run to lead off the eighth tied the score 10-10 before Seattle won it on pinch-hitter Jay Bruce’s two-out run-scoring single in the ninth.
“Yeah, I think being delirious is probably a part of it,” catcher Jonathan Lucroy said of team’s transition from sleepwalkers to mashers in the seventh. “A lot of guys had a lot of caffeine before the game; that was part of it.
No. 7 hitter Tommy La Stella, who entered with a .184 average, led off the seventh with a single to right-center off Seattle starter Felix Hernandez, who had allowed two runs and seven hits through six innings.
Peter Bourjos, who entered with an .037 average, doubled to left to score La Stella and knock Hernandez out of the game. Right-hander R.J. Alaniz replaced Hernandez and struck out Fletcher for the first out.
Kole Calhoun drove a two-run homer to right to cut the lead to 10-5. Mike Trout flared a single to right-center and scored on Andrelton Simmons’ double to left to make it 10-6. Albert Pujols followed with another double down the third-base line to make it 10-7.
Brandon Brennan replaced Alaniz and walked Brian Goodwin to put two on for pinch-hitter Justin Bour, who struck out on a 2-and-2 changeup. But La Stella lined an RBI single to right to make it 10-8. Goodwin, who took third on the hit, scored on Brennan’s wild pitch to make it 10-9 before Bourjos grounded out.
“It’s tough to predict those things,” Ausmus said of the uprising. “Most guys in here were working on six hours sleep and we scored 10 runs. I don’t know if you can give a reason, but when the ball kept rolling downhill, it picked up speed.”
The ball kept rolling — or, to be more accurate, flying — in the eighth when Fletcher, the No. 9 batter, lined his second career homer over the wall in left-center field for the tie. The Angels went on to put runners on second and third with two out, but the rally fizzled when Goodwin struck out.
“I was pretty impressed,” said Lucroy, who entered the game in the seventh inning. “I think it kind of speaks to the toughness of our team, the tenacity we have up and down the lineup. I’m really proud of the guys for the way they fought tonight and, going on very little sleep, faced a guy who was throwing really well.”
Also impressed was Angels closer Cody Allen, whose inability to preserve the tie in the ninth made the loss all the more frustrating. Mitch Haniger singled with one out in the ninth and stole second. Edwin Encarnacion walked with two outs.
The left-handed-hitting Bruce then shot a ground ball through the vacant shortstop hole of a shifted infield to score the winning run.
“It’s just as frustrating when a guy hits it over the fence,” Allen said. “It’s baseball. That stuff happens. Jay Bruce is a veteran hitter, a good hitter. You could tell on that swing he was hunting for an RBI. He saw a hole there, I made a bad pitch and he was able to put a good swing on it.”
Had the Angels won, it would have matched the franchise record for the largest deficit overcome in a victory, set on Aug. 29, 1986, when the Angels erased an 11-3 seventh-inning deficit with eight runs in the bottom of the ninth against the Detroit Tigers, winning on Dick Schofield’s walk-off grand slam.
“Every guy in our lineup tonight had to do the same travel and they threw us on their back tonight and tried to pull us out of a deep hole,” Allen said. “Then I didn’t do my job. But watching that seventh inning unfold, we definitely had the momentum there. Those guys didn’t give away any at-bats. That was impressive to watch.”