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.
Kole Calhoun/Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Angels, MLB.com
Never put it past a manager to exaggerate the talents of one of his players. But Angels manager Mike Scioscia doesn’t seem to be dealing in hyperbole when he talks about his right-fielder, Kole Calhoun.
Calhoun on Saturday night made a spectacular fully laid-out diving catch of a line drive hit by the Texas Rangers’ Rougned Odor in the eighth inning of the Rangers’ 7-6 victory. Texas had just gone ahead and there were two runners on when Calhoun came through. It wasn’t the first time Calhoun did that, it probably won’t the the last.
With that ability as well as a terrific throwing arm, Scioscia calls Calhoun one of the best corner outfielders in the American League. Perhaps the best right-fielder.
“I think he’s as good as there is in right field, I think he’s gold-glove caliber,” Scioscia said. “I don’t think there’s a right-fielder that stops the first and third like he can, not in the way he charges the ball with his arm and his accuracy.
“And I think that when you have a guy like Mike Trout in center, I think it really enhances what guys can do on the wings and he takes advantage of that. I don’t know if there’s a better defensive right-fielder that we’ve seen than Kole.”
Hector Santiago/Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Angels
– First and foremost, Hector Santiago had another fine outing. He pitched seven innings and for the most part matched “King” Felix Hernandez pitch-for-pitch. Santiago allowed just one run on three hits and struck out six while walking two. Hernandez allowed no runs and just one hit and struck out eight while walking three in six innings; he came out with cramps caused by the heat in the daytime game. Santiago’s ERA dropped to 2.58, lowest among Angels starting pitchers, fourth in the American League. He’s only 4-4, but Santiago is nevertheless making a case for being selected to the AL All-Star team.
– Rookie Trevor Gott, just 22, earned his first big-league victory with a perfect 10th inning. Gott has now pitched seven innings and has allowed just three hits and no runs; he has an ERA of 0.00 and has not walked a batter. He is regularly clocked at 98 miles-per-hour.
– It figured Albert Pujols would cool off, if for no other reason than he had been so hot for a long spell. Pujols went 0-for-5 in this one and has gone just 1-for-15 in his past four games with no home runs and no RBIs. Pujols’ most recent home run came June 22 in a 4-3 victory over Houston. He hit two that night. That was also the last time he drove in a run; he had three RBIs in that one.
– The Angels, who continue to struggle to score runs, hit into three double plays. The most notable came in the bottom of the 10th inning when Pujols hit the first pitch from Tom Wilhelmsen and grounded into a shortstop-to-home-to-first double play with the bases loaded. Fortunately for the Angels, Wilhelmsen then uncorked a wild pitch that scored Kole Calhoun with the winning run.
– Speaking of Calhoun, he has had two clutch at-bats the past two games. And since he’s been struggling at the plate, that’s huge for the Angels. He smacked a two-run home run in the first inning of Saturday’s 4-2 victory over Seattle. Then he had an RBI single in the bottom of the eighth inning in this one that gave the Angels a 2-1 lead. It could have been the winning run, but Huston Street gave up a game-tying home run in the top of the ninth. However, the Angels were glad to take the victory on Wilhelmsen’s wild pitch. Calhoun was hitting .314 on May 13. He’s now at .262 and is hitting just .232 this month.
Huston Street/Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Angels
– This was a big victory in as much as had the Angels lost, they would have fallen under the .500 mark and would have been 5 1/2 games behind front-running Houston in the AL West. With the win, the Angels are 33-32 and still 4 1/2 games out ahead of Wednesday’s games.
– This was the first game with the new batting order that saw Albert Pujols bat cleanup for the first time since 2010. Mike Trout, typically a No. 2 hitter, was moved to third with previous cleanup hitter Kole Calhoun batting second. The results were mixed. The Angels did not get a leadoff batter on the entire game. Calhoun went 0-for-4, Trout 1-for-3 with a single and walk and Pujols 1-for-3 with a 2-run home run.
– Left-fielder Matt Joyce was back in the lineup after being benched for two days. He’s still struggling. Joyce went 0-for-2 and was replaced by Daniel Robertson, who went 1-for-2. Joyce is now batting .181.
– Perhaps the best news from this game was the second consecutive solid outing by starting and winning pitcher Garrett Richards. He tossed seven innings and allowed just four hits and one unearned run while striking out four and walking three. After having his ERA rise to 4.14 after getting ripped in New York for six earned runs in two-thirds of an inning on June 6, Richards’ ERA is down to 3.59. He’s 7-4 and leads the staff in wins.
– Huston Street picked up his 20th save in 22 opportunities. Street blew saves May 6 against Seattle and May 7 against Houston. In the latter game, he gave up three earned runs in two-thirds of an inning. His ERA was 3.86 at that point, not good for a closer. He since has converted 11 save opportunities in succession and lowered his ERA to 2.33.