Light Up the Halo
Down 3-0 in the first inning, the Los Angeles Angels rallied to beat the Minnesota Twins, 6-5, in 10 innings last night at the Big A. It was the Halos MLB-leading 31st "come-from-behind" victory of the season.
The Angels, with the third-most wins in the majors and second-most in the American League, have opened up a 3 1/2 game lead over the Texas Rangers in the AL West. The team has won six in a row, 10 of its last 11, and is now 27-9 since June 11 when it was just 29-29 and tied for second place in the division.
The Comeback Kids tied yesterday's game by scoring twice in the ninth inning against Minnesota's closer Joe Nathan, who had converted his last 20 save opportunities and had not allowed a run in 24 appearances covering 22 2/3 IP.
Bobby Abreu drew a walk to open the bottom of the ninth, Mike Napoli was hit by a pitch, and Gary Matthews and Howie Kendrick singled with two outs to produce a couple of runs to send the contest into extra innings. With the score tied at 5, Mike Scioscia sent southpaw Brian Fuentes, his best reliever, to the mound in the top of the 10th — a move too few managers make — to face lefthanded batters Justin Morneau and Jason Kubel, and Michael Cuddyer, the opposing team's top righthanded hitter. Fuentes got Morneau, who is tied for the AL lead with 24 HR, to pop out; Kubel, who had homered and singled to drive in three runs earlier in the game, to ground out to second base; and Cuddyer to strike out looking in a ten-pitch, 1-2-3 inning.
With Jesse Crain working the home half of the tenth, Chone Figgins lined a single to left, Brandon Wood bunted him to second, Abreu was intentionally walked, Kendry Morales struck out ending his 20-game hitting streak, and Napoli doubled to right center, scoring Figgy with the game winner and his league-leading 75th run.
Call it clutch or call it luck (as Kendrick's game-tying hit in the ninth glanced off Nathan's glove and struck second base), but, either way, the events led to another "W". It's a cliche but the Angels are winning as a team with significant contributions by everyone ranging from veterans like Figgins to youngsters such as Morales, Jered Weaver, and Erick Aybar to newcomers Abreu and Fuentes to career minor leaguers (Matt Palmer), relative unknowns (Jason Bulger and Kevin Jepsen), and reserves (Maicer Izturis).
What's remarkable is that the Angels not only suffered the loss of Nick Adenhart, the club's No. 1 prospect, in a tragic death after his first start; as well as injuries to John Lackey, Ervin Santana, and Kelvim Escobar that have curtailed up to 30 starts from this trio; but setbacks, most recently, to Vladimir Guerrero, Torii Hunter, and Juan Rivera, arguably the three best hitters going into the season.
It's all starting to feel a bit like 2002.
(For more on the Angels, be sure to check out Rev Halofan's Halos Heaven and Rob McMillin's 6-4-2 blogs.)