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Angels rely on long ball to rally past Athletics

Calhoun, Upton each homer as Halos win fourth straight
MLB.com @mi_guardado

ANAHEIM -- The night began somewhat ominously, with three of the first four A's batters scoring off right-hander Felix Pena to give the hottest team in baseball a quick lead over the Angels.

But Pena survived the rocky start and settled in to deliver 5 2/3 solid innings, and Kole Calhoun and Justin Upton launched a pair of two-run home runs to erase the early deficit, lifting the Angels to a 4-3 comeback win over the A's in Friday's series opener at Angel Stadium.

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ANAHEIM -- The night began somewhat ominously, with three of the first four A's batters scoring off right-hander Felix Pena to give the hottest team in baseball a quick lead over the Angels.

But Pena survived the rocky start and settled in to deliver 5 2/3 solid innings, and Kole Calhoun and Justin Upton launched a pair of two-run home runs to erase the early deficit, lifting the Angels to a 4-3 comeback win over the A's in Friday's series opener at Angel Stadium.

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The Angels (59-58) have now won four in a row to climb back over .500 for the first time since July 29.

"After the first inning, this game could go south in a hurry when you give up a three-spot in the first," manager Mike Scioscia said. "But Felix got his bearings and made some pitches, and the bullpen was exceptional."

Video: OAK@LAA: Scioscia on Pena's outing, Pujols' milestone

After Upton crushed the go-ahead home run off reliever Lou Trivino in the sixth, Angels relievers Cam Bedrosian, Justin Anderson, Jose Alvarez and Blake Parker combined to face the minimum across three scoreless innings. Parker recorded the final out of the game by coaxing a groundout from Stephen Piscotty, picking up the first save by an Angels reliever since July 8.

Video: OAK@LAA: Calhoun clubs a 2-run homer to right-center

Pena carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning of his last start against the Indians on Saturday, but he was hit hard by the A's in the first inning. Matt Chapman blasted Pena's eighth pitch of the game out to right-center field to put Oakland on the board. After Jed Lowrie lined a single to right field, Khris Davis deposited an 0-1 slider into the shrubs over the center-field fence for a two-run homer that put the A's ahead, 3-0.

Trout to DL with right wrist inflammation

Matt Olson and Piscotty then flied out to end the inning, but they also produced hard contact against Pena, as the balls they hit had exit velocities of 98 and 95 mph, respectively.

"In the first inning, I was a little bit over-amped," Pena said. "I came in and watched video of what I was doing, I made adjustments, and I recovered."

Video: OAK@LAA: Pena K's Olson to strand runners at corners

In the video room, Pena saw that he was rushing his delivery and resolved to stay back to better execute his pitches moving forward. He also decided to incorporate more of his two-seam fastball, which helped him limit the A's to just two hits over the remainder of his outing.

The A's threatened in the third, when Chapman doubled and advanced to third on a wild pitch. Pena then hit Davis to put runners on the corners with two outs, but he extricated himself from the jam by striking out Olson swinging on a slider in the dirt.

Video: OAK@LAA: Angels use 3 pitchers to get 3 outs in 9th

Pena faced little trouble the rest of the way, retiring nine in a row before yielding a two-out single to Olson in the sixth. With his pitch count at 86, Pena was lifted in favor of Jim Johnson, who retired Piscotty on a groundout to leave the runner stranded.

"That's what you need out of your pitchers," Upton said. "There's going to be times when you go out and teams attack you and jump on you early. He was able to settle himself in and give us a chance. He could have easily crumbled right there, but he didn't. He kept grinding and giving us an opportunity each inning to get on the board."

The Angels pulled within one after Calhoun hammered a two-run shot off left-hander Brett Anderson in the third. Following a leadoff single from Jose Briceno, Calhoun crushed a 1-0 knucklecurve to center field for his 16th home run of the season. The 30-year-old right fielder now has 15 homers since June 18, the most in the American League.

Video: OAK@LAA: Upton talks his home run streak, Calhoun

Calhoun hit just .145 with one home run over his first 50 games before landing on the disabled list with a right oblique strain. After using the time off to tweak his batting stance, Calhoun has enjoyed a remarkable turnaround at the plate, batting .291 with 15 homers in 44 games since returning to the Angels.

"Just going out and competing every day," Calhoun said. "From where it started to where it is now, the numbers may not be what I wanted them to be, but I'm just putting one foot in front of the other every single day. Really not trying to think about it. Just go out and win."

Upton delivered the decisive blow in the sixth, blasting another two-run home run off Trivino to give the Angels a 4-3 lead. After David Fletcher beat out an infield single, Upton sent a first-pitch cutter into the bullpen in left field for his third home run in as many days, giving him 24 on the season. It was only the fourth home run given up by Trivino, who entered Friday with a 1.29 ERA over 56 innings this season.

Video: OAK@LAA: Fletcher completes terrific throw on the run

"Just trying to get a ball over the plate," Upton said. "He's had good command all year. He's got a good fastball, good cutter, good curveball. You don't want to get into a position where he can put you away. I jumped on the first strike I saw."

Pujols followed with a single to left field, giving him 1,000 career hits with the Angels. He is the ninth player to record at least 1,000 hits in each league. The first 2,073 hits of his career came in the National League with the Cardinals.

Video: OAK@LAA: Pujols singles for 1,000th hit with Angels

"We're seeing a living legend," Scioscia said. "We're seeing a guy do things that not many people in this game have ever done. It's fun to be part of it."

MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
In the third, Upton was initially called out by first-base umpire Eric Cooper after bouncing a groundball to shortstop Marcus Semien. The Angels issued a challenge, and the call was overturned after replay showed that Upton beat Semien's throw to Olson.

Video: OAK@LAA: Upton awarded single after overturned call

UP NEXT
Left-hander Tyler Skaggs (8-7, 3.34 ERA) is expected to come off the disabled list on Saturday and face the A's at 6:07 p.m. PT at Angel Stadium. He will be opposed by right-hander Edwin Jackson (3-2, 2.87 ERA). Skaggs hasn't pitched since July 31 because of a left adductor strain. He is 2-4 with a 4.20 ERA in seven career starts against the A's.

Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Los Angeles Angels