Cron’s HR powers Angels past Rangers
ANAHEIM, Calif. — Truth be told, the Los Angeles Angels would not be in the middle of a playoff push if not for their bullpen.
Time and again, the relief corps has rescued a starting rotation that has struggled for much of the season. On Friday night against the Texas Rangers, the group came to the rescue once again.
Only this time, there was no starter to save. This time, the bullpen handled the entire game in a 7-6 victory at Angel Stadium.
C.J. Cron’s two-run homer capped a five-run sixth inning, and the Angels also got offensive help from Justin Upton, who doubled twice, drove in one run and scored twice. Andrelton Simmons had two singles and two RBIs.
A big night from the offense was something for which the Angels were particularly hopeful, considering they went into the game without a starting pitcher.
It was Andrew Heaney’s turn in the rotation, but Heaney is out with a shoulder impingement that forced him from his start last Saturday in Seattle. The Angels decided to go with a bullpen “relay,” beginning the game with closer Bud Norris, who went two-plus innings before passing the baton.
In all, the Angels used seven pitchers to get through the nine innings. Blake Parker pitched the final two innings for his sixth save. Yusmeiro Petit (5-0) worked two scoreless innings to get the win.
“I’ve been saying it all year, we’ve got a tight-knit group out there, out in the bullpen,” said Parker, who leads the club with 67 appearances. “We pal around, we mess around, and I think it helps us to want to pick each other up. Because you’re not always going to have it, and I think that’s what makes it so fun. We have a good time with it, we pitch for each other, not just for ourselves.”
The victory allowed the Angels to close the gap in the race for the second American League wild-card spot, moving within two games of the Minnesota Twins, who lost Friday to Toronto. The Rangers, still with an outside shot, remained five games out.
Nick Martinez (3-7) started for Texas and gave up four runs, six hits and one walk in 5 1/3 innings. Brett Nicholas had two hits and two RBIs for the Rangers from the No. 9 spot, and Will Middlebrooks had two hits. Shin-Soo Choo hit a two-run homer.
Cron’s homer in the sixth inning was his 15th of the season and gave the Angels a 7-4 lead, but that lead was threatened in the eighth.
Cam Bedrosian entered the game on the mound for the Angels and the Rangers loaded the bases with no outs on two singles and a walk. Parker replaced Bedrosian and gave up consecutive sacrifice flies to Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre — both runs charged to Bedrosian — as the Rangers got within 7-6.
In the ninth, Parker struck out the first two batters before he retired Rougned Odor on a fly ball to end it.
“That was amazing,” Simmons said of Parker’s performance. “He had a tough job to do the last two innings, but he did amazing. We needed somebody to step up tonight and help close out the game and he definitely did that.”
Though one might think the Rangers would have an edge in a game where the Angels didn’t have a pitcher that threw more than two innings, Rangers manager Jeff Banister said such a scenario presented challenges to his hitters.
“Lack of multiple looks, you can’t settle in on any one single pitcher,” Banister explained. “That’s the main challenge. It’s a situation where we’ve seen most of these pitchers already, but when you continue to change, it’s a different look.
“They’re all professional hitters, but they did a great job of really locking in. We hit some balls the other way, we hit some balls hard, Choo hit the home run, but they also made some nice plays on some hard-hit balls.”
Martinez held the Angels scoreless on one hit through three innings before Upton led off the fourth with a double. One out later, Kole Calhoun hit one off the top of the short wall down the line in left field for an RBI double.
Simmons followed with a single to right field, driving in Calhoun for a 2-0 Angels lead.
The Angels, meanwhile, were effective with their bullpen approach in the early innings. Norris, who leads the club with 19 saves, started and pitched two perfect innings before giving up a leadoff single in the third.
Jose Alvarez entered the game and retired all four batters he faced, handing the ball to Blake Wood with one out in the fourth. Wood retired both batters he faced to finish the inning.
Jesse Chavez started the fifth but gave up an infield single to Joey Gallo and a double to Middlebrooks with one out. With runners on second and third, Chavez struck out Odor, but Nicholas singled to left, driving in both runners to tie the score at 2.
Choo’s homer off Chavez in the top of the sixth gave the Rangers a brief 4-2 lead before the Angels rallied in the bottom of the inning, leaving the Rangers on the verge of falling out of the playoff picture.
“These guys continue to go out, there’s great energy in the dugout, they played well on the field,” Banister said of his club. “I thought we made some nice plays on defense, we ran the bases well, and we took some good at-bats. It just was a situation where we could not get outs when we needed to in the sixth.”
NOTES: Angels CF Mike Trout went 1-for-4 with a single, continuing his personal trend of struggling in the last month of the season. In 13 September games, Trout is hitting .244 (11-for-45) with one homer and two RBIs. For his career, Trout has a .278 batting average and .920 OPS in September/October — numbers that are worse for him than any other month of the season. ... Rangers 1B/DH Mike Napoli will be limited to pinch hitting and possibly an occasional start at DH because of stress reaction in his lower right leg. The injury flared up in the past few weeks but has reached a point where playing in the field is not an option. ... Rangers C Robinson Chirinos was not in the starting lineup, getting a day off for rest. He has reached base in 28 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the majors and sixth longest in the American League this season.