Alberto Callaspo hits grand slam in Angels’ 5-3 win over Seattle
SEATTLE — He’s the other Alberto, the one who makes a fraction of what slugger Albert Pujols does and whose presence in the batter’s box does not cause the heart rate of opposing pitchers to rise.
While Pujols has been on fire for a week and a half, Alberto Callaspo has also stoked the offense, capping a productive week with a pinch-hit grand slam off Seattle ace Felix Hernandez in the sixth inning Saturday to lift the Angels to a 5-3 come-from-behind win over the Mariners in Safeco Field.
Pujols also hit a solo homer to left-center in the fourth, giving him six homers in 11 games and 21 runs batted in in 20 games, as the Angels extended their winning streak to five and moved into second place in the American League West, 61/2 games behind Texas.
“Our starting pitching has been a constant — they’re giving us a chance to win every night,” Manager Mike Scioscia said. “Now, we’re combining that with a bullpen that is forming and some guys swinging the bats closer to their capabilities. The equation is adding up to wins, and we’ve been on a roll.”
Jerome Williams (5-2) allowed three runs and five hits in six innings, striking out five and walking two, the Angels’ 27th quality start in 34 games.
Jordan Walden (2/3 inning), Scott Downs (one inning) and Ernesto Frieri (11/3 innings) blanked the Mariners over the final three innings, another fine relief effort by a bullpen that has allowed three earned runs in 371/3 innings over the last 12 games.
Frieri, acquired from San Diego on May 3, has been dominant, allowing no hits and striking out 22 in 10 innings. Downs has not allowed a run in 15 innings this season, and Walden has limited opponents to a .100 (three for 30) average since losing his closer job in late April.
The hits aren’t coming in bunches, but they’re coming at the right time. After Seattle scored twice in the fifth to take a 2-1 lead, the Angels loaded the bases in the sixth on Mark Trumbo’s infield single, Howie Kendrick’s single to left-center and Erick Aybar’s bunt single.
Hernandez struck out Kole Calhoun, but Callaspo, hitting for catcher Bobby Wilson, lofted the second grand slam of his career into the right-field seats for a 5-2 Angels lead.
It was the sixth pinch-hit grand slam in franchise history and the first since Shane Halter’s on May 8, 2004, against Kansas City.
“I was trying to hit a sacrifice fly — I don’t know how I hit the ball that hard,” Callaspo said. “He’s a really good pitcher. Maybe I just got lucky.”
Callaspo led the Angels in average (.288) and on-base percentage (.366) in 2011 but like most teammates has struggled this season, with a .239 average and .289 OBP.
But in addition to his game-winner Saturday, Callaspo hit a two-run double in the 11th inning to give the Angels a 3-1 win over Oakland on Wednesday and drew a key walk during a three-run ninth inning that gave the Angels a 6-4 win over the Mariners on Friday night.
“I’m starting to get my swing back,” Callaspo said. “I’m starting to feel comfortable at the plate.”
So is Pujols — whose full name is Jose Alberto Pujols. With his shot off Hernandez on Saturday, the slugger homered in three straight games for the 20th time in his career. His 452nd career homer tied him with Carl Yastrzemski for 34th place on baseball’s all-time list.
“We know what kind of club we have, and we just try to go out there and win,” said Pujols, who had no homers and four RBIs in April. “It didn’t happen too many times in April, but here we go.”
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