Efren Navarro/Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Angels
Efren Navarro isn’t playing much these days. But the outfielder/first baseman out of Lynwood High made his presence felt in a big way in the ninth inning of the Angels’ 3-2 victory over the Houston Astros on Saturday night at Angel Stadium.
Having been on the bench all game, Navarro was inserted at first base as a defensive replacement for C.J. Cron, who has been starting there in place of Albert Pujols; Pujols has a sore right foot and has been relegated to designated hitter duty.
The first batter in the inning was Jed Lowrie, who faced off against closer Huston Street. Lowrie hit a rocket of a ground ball to Navarro, who deftly made the grab and took it to the bag for the first out.
It was a huge play because if that leadoff guy gets on, the complexity of the inning changes dramatically. Navarro gave credit to coaches Alfredo Griffin, Dino Ebel and Gary DiSarcina for keeping the players ready.
“Just the preparation we’ve been doing before BP (batting practice),” Navarro said. “We’ve been really focusing on defense. It’s a lot of work, but it’s work that we need. Thanks to Griffin and Dino and DiSar helping us prepare for when our number is called, so it’s not really being cold.
“In the fifth or sixth inning, we still get loose, we still ride the bike. That’s normally when we get ready and that’s what helps us.”
Albert Pujols/Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Angels
Albert Pujols was back at designated hitter for the sixth consecutive game Friday as he is trying to stay off his sore right foot. Pujols also expressed concern about how the foot is affecting his right knee, which was surgically repaired in 2012.
“If this was the National League, I would do it,” he said of playing in the field at first base. “But I’m more worried about my knee. I don’t want it to irritate my knee. I don’t know how long it’s going to be. Hopefully, the next couple of days here it gets settled. But who knows?”
Pujols won Gold Glove awards for his play at first base in 2006 and 2010.
Kole Calhoun/Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Angels
– This was the third game in a row Kole Calhoun did something significant. He hit home runs off Zack Greinke on Monday and Clayton Kershaw on Tuesday. Then in this one he doubled to open the bottom of the eighth inning with the game tied 2-2. Calhoun went to third on the play on an error by Dodgers right-fielder Andre Ethier, then scored what proved to be the winning run on a single by Albert Pujols. Calhoun had seven home runs and 11 RBIs in August, but batted just .205. Calhoun is batting .400 with three home runs and six RBIs so far in September.
– Pujols’ big hit was significant because he is playing hurt right now – sore foot and sore knee – and because he is hitting just .235 with runners in scoring position this season, and that average includes a recent resurgence in that regard.
– Huge, huge performance by starter Garrett Richards. His team needed a victory about as badly as they have all season, and he came through with 7 2/3 innings of four-hit ball. He allowed just two runs and struck out 11.
– Huston Street’s 33rd save kept him one behind American League leader Brad Boxberger of Tampa Bay. The Major League Baseball leader is Mark Melancon of the Pittsburgh Pirates. He has 44.
– The third-place Angels (70-69) remained 5 1/2 games behind first-place Houston in the AL West. But they did pick up a game on Texas, which is holding down the second wild-card spot. The Angels are now within 3 1/2 games of the Rangers. However, the Angels also must contend with Minnesota, which is 1 1/2 games behind Texas and two games up on the Angels. The Angels have 23 games remaining, the Rangers 24 and the Twins 23.
Mike Scioscia/Photo courtesy of Los Angels Anges
Angels manager Mike Scioscia was a catcher for 13 years in the big leagues, all with the Dodgers. Though his loyalty these days rests with the Angels, he has fond memories of his days with the team down the 5 Freeway.
“I’m always thankful for the opportunity to play with an organization like the Dodgers,” Scioscia said. “And not just to play at Dodger Stadium, but coming up through it and having access to the best coaches and mentors in the world, guys like Roy Campanella and Del Crandall and Johnny Roseboro from the catching perspective.
“And just getting to grow as a young baseball player, I got a great education there and so I’m very, very thankful for that. And you always have those memories. But right now it’s what our team is doing, what the Angels are doing and that’s what we want to focus on.”