The Angels staged one of the most improbable comebacks in franchise history on Saturday, rallying for five runs with seven hits in the ninth inning for an 11-10 victory over the Texas Rangers that kept their slim playoff hopes alive.
With the Angels trailing, 10-6, Erick Aybar and Kole Calhoun opened the ninth with home runs to right field off Rangers closer Shawn Tolleson to cut the deficit to 10-8.
Right-hander Ross Ohlendorf replaced Tolleson and got Mike Trout to ground out to shortstop. Albert Pujols reached on a bloop double that dropped when the gloves of first baseman Mike Napoli and second baseman Rougned Odor collided in shallow right field.
With a Globe Life Park crowd of 37,277 on its feet in anticipation of the Rangers clinching their sixth American League West title, the Angels followed with four straight two-out singles to take the lead.
C.J. Cron grounded an RBI single to center to make it 10-9, David Freese lined a single to left-center to put runners on first and third, Carlos Perez hit an RBI single to center to tie the score, 10-10, and Johnny Giavotella capped a seven-pitch at-bat with an RBI single to center to make it 11-10.
Joe Smith got the first two outs in the bottom of the ninth before Elvis Andrus singled. Andrus had second base stolen but his head-first slide took him past the bag, and shortstop Erick Aybar tagged him out to end the game.
The Angels will still need help from the Arizona Diamondbacks to snag the second wild-card spot. If Houston loses to Arizona on Saturday night, the Angels would move into a tie with the Astros heading into Sunday’s regular-season finale.
If the Angels and Astros finish in a tie, they would play on Monday in Houston to determine the league’s final playoff entrant, with the winner of that game traveling to New York to play the Yankees in Tuesday night’s wild-card game.
The Rangers had erased a 6-5 deficit with three runs in the bottom of the sixth, an inning Andrus opened with an infield single off reliever Mike Morin. Odor popped out, but Robinson Chirinos stroked a hit-and-run single into center to put runners on first and third.
Left-hander Cesar Ramos came on to face pinch-hitter Mitch Moreland, who walked to load the bases, and Shin-Soo Choo followed with a grounder through the left side of an over-shifted Angels infield for two runs and a 7-6 lead.
Angels Manager Mike Scioscia pulled Ramos in favor of right-hander Trevor Gott, whose first pitch was smacked into center field by Adrian Beltre for an RBI single and an 8-6 Rangers lead.
The Angels threatened in the seventh when Trout and Pujols singled with two outs, but Rangers reliever Keone Kela got Murphy to bounce back to the mound, ending the inning.
Texas then tacked on two more runs in the bottom of the seventh on solo homers by Josh Hamilton, the former Angels left fielder who also hit a solo homer in the second, and Odor, off right-hander Mat Latos, the Dodgers castoff who was signed last Monday.
The Angels appeared to break the game open with a four-run fifth, an inning that featured Perez’s run-scoring double after he had failed to advance a runner with a bunt, Giavotella’s RBI single, a Colby Lewis wild pitch for a run and Trout’s sacrifice fly that made it 5-1.
But the Angels gave it all back in the bottom of the fifth, an inning that started ominiously when Hector Santiago walked Andrus on four pitches. Andrus stole second and scored on Odor’s single to make it 5-2.
Chirinos chopped a grounder to third that Freese back-handed, but his low throw to second bounced into right field for an error. Odor spiked Giavotella’s left shin with a late and questionable slide, got up and took third.
Delino DeShields hit a liner off the glove of a leaping Giavotella for an RBI single to cut the lead to 5-3. Choo followed with a grounder into the second-base hole.
Giavotella ranged far to his right to field the ball, but instead of getting the easy out at first, he went for an extremely difficult force at second. His throw and DeShields arrived at the same time, and Aybar, shielded by the runner, was unable to make the catch.
That loaded the bases for Beltre, who lined a two-run single to center off reliever Fernando Salas to tie the score, 5-5.
Angels left-hander Jose Alvarez kept the score even by entering with two on and no outs and striking out Prince Fielder, getting Napoli to fly out to left and striking out Hamilton to snuff out the rally.
The Angels took a 6-5 lead in the top of the sixth when Freese walked with one out and scored on Giavotella’s two-out double into the gap in left-center field. But Giavotella, who was already in scoring position for the top of the order, was thrown out trying to advance to third on the relay home to end the inning.