Pennington, Angels slam A’s
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Mike Trout and Albert Pujols are the megastars, the big hitters in the Los Angeles Angels’ lineup.
They showed why on Wednesday night against the Oakland A‘s, Pujols hitting two home runs and Trout finishing a double short of the cycle.
However, the biggest star of the night was a journeyman utility player who entered the game with all of 35 home runs in 10 major league seasons.
Cliff Pennington, getting just his third start of the season at shortstop, hit his first career grand slam in the seventh inning, lifting the Angels to a 10-8 win and a three-game sweep of the hapless A‘s.
“I was joking with (Angels pitcher Andrew) Heaney on the bench,” said Pennington, who is playing with his fourth major league team since starting his career in 2008. “This is probably one of the games you can put in the top 10 in your career, you hit a go-ahead grand slam, and there’s two guys in this game that had better days today that do it all the time. That’s what they do.”
Trout, back from a two-game absence caused by a sore neck, enjoyed a big night while ending an 0-for-17 slide.
He came to the plate in the eighth inning having homered in the first inning, walked in the third, tripled in the fifth and singled in the seventh. With a chance for his second career cycle, Trout smoked a line drive, but directly in front of right fielder Matt Joyce for a single.
“It was definitely in the back of my mind, for sure,” Trout said of the cycle. “Just happy I hit it hard. I‘m happy I had good at-bats tonight.”
Trout hit for the cycle once in his career, on May 21, 2013 against Seattle.
The Angels (69-65) remain one game behind the Minnesota Twins in the race for the second American League wild card.
While the Angels certainly will take it, the win didn’t occur the way they would have drawn it up in spring training. They took an early lead on home runs by Pujols and Trout, but Oakland exploded for eight runs in the fourth inning against Angels starter Parker Bridwell and reliever Blake Wood to take an 8-3 lead.
The Angels got to within 8-5 in the fifth inning on Pujols’ second homer of the night. The two-run blast was No. 612 in his career, tying him with Jim Thome for No. 7 on the all-time list.
In the seventh, an RBI single by Kole Calhoun made it 8-6, and a couple of batters later, Pennington came to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs.
Former Dodger Chris Hatcher, the third of four Oakland relievers to follow starter Kendall Graveman, threw a 94 mph fastball down the middle on a 2-2 count, and Pennington got just enough of it for his third homer of the year.
It was close enough that A’s manager Bob Melvin called for a review, but the replay showed a young fan catching the ball right at the yellow line atop the right field fence.
”A lot of things leading up to (Pennington’s homer) though,“ Melvin said of the Angels’ five-run seventh. ”Hit by pitch, then a walk, you can’t keep putting guys on base.
“A game like that, we have an 8-3 lead, we have to find a way to close it out. Just couldn’t do it.”
Cam Bedrosian (4-3), one of five Angels relievers, got the victory over Hatcher (0-1). Blake Parker pitched the final 1 1/3 innings for Los Angeles to earn his fourth save.
Matt Olson’s three-run homer and Bruce Maxwell’s two-run shot were the key blows in Oakland’s eight-run fourth.
“That’s the positive part of it, we have to keep our spirits up,” Melvin said. “Our record isn’t great, but we’re getting a lot of guys experience and they’re doing well with it.”
Bridwell allowed seven runs on six hits in three-plus innings. Graveman gave up five runs on six hits in five innings.
Pujols had four RBIs, increasing his career total to 1,900. He became the 11th player to reach the milestone.
NOTES: Angels SS Andrelton Simmons did not play, getting a day off for rest. Simmons has played in 131 of the club’s 134 games, tops on the team, and he got his first day off since June 29. INF Cliff Pennington started in Simmons’ place. ... A’s C Josh Phegley, on the disabled list with a strained left oblique muscle since July 25, completed a rehab assignment and joined the club in Anaheim. He is expected to be activated on Friday, when rosters may be expanded. ... Angels RHP Garrett Richards (biceps) threw two scoreless innings in a rehab appearance for Triple-A Salt Lake on Wednesday. He gave up five hits and no walks while striking out two.