Halos extend streak to stay on Astros' heels
ANAHEIM -- David Murphy's pinch-hit, ninth-inning single snuck past a drawn-in A's infield and sent the Angels to another victory on Monday night, a 5-4 win that pushed them two games behind the Rangers for first place in the American League West and kept them a half-game behind the Astros for the second Wild Card spot.
The Angels have won six in a row, have gone 17-8 in a month of September that immediately followed a 19-loss August and have continually persevered amid a trying, injury-riddled season.
They look like they're on the verge of something special.
"It seems like it, right?" Angels starter Hector Santiago said, smiling after the Angels' 11th walk-off win this season.
"We had that happen last year, when [Garrett Richards] went down," Mike Trout said of fighting through injuries, the latest of which has affected closer Huston Street. "We came together. It gives us a little chip on our shoulder. We're trying to win. Obviously the Wild Card's there, but we play Texas four games at the end. All we can do is win. That's it."
Albert Pujols tied the game at 4 with his 38th home run in the sixth and the Angels rallied in the bottom of the ninth. C.J. Cron led off with a single, David Freese reached on a slow roller -- putting runners on second and third after Edward Mujica's throw went awry -- and Shane Victorino was intentionally walked to load the bases.
Murphy's ninth-inning plate appearance against Fernando Abad was his 380th of the season, but only his 23rd against a lefty. He stayed back on a 2-2 fastball out over the plate and lined it for his seventh hit against a same-side pitcher all year.
"I think if anything, it makes it easier," the left-handed hitter said. "If left-on-left is not what I've done, the expectations are probably not there. I know what I'm capable of. I don't play against lefties frequently, but I feel like I can still go out there and put up a good, professional at-bat."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Bullpen game: Street (left groin) and setup man Joe Smith (left ankle) are hurt, and high-leverage relievers Mike Morin and Fernando Salas were unavailable because they had appeared in three straight games. But the Angels' shorthanded bullpen got it done again. Cory Rasmus, Jose Alvarez, Cam Bedrosian and Trevor Gott combined to give up no runs while recording 10 outs. Gott, the closer with Street out, recorded the final four outs. More >
"The bullpen's been throwing well without Joe and Huston," Gott said. "It's a struggle down there; we're just grinding. We've got six more -- at least."
"This is the time you've got to step up," Bedrosian added. "We're here for a reason. We're not just here to fill spots."
Baserunning blunders: The A's caught a break in the first inning, when Billy Burns attempted to dash home on Billy Butler's shallow fly ball to center field but retreated back to third before making it home, anyway, courtesy of a dropped ball. In the sixth, though, the A's couldn't add on to a two-run inning after Marcus Semien was thrown out at third base running from first on Crisp's pinch-hit RBI single to end the frame.
"I felt like that was a routine first-to-third on my part, and he has one of the best arms in the league," Semien said of Kole Calhoun. "The way things went tonight, we could've got an extra run there if I don't run, but I feel like I'm going every time on that. I feel like I gotta just run harder and faster with that kind of arm."
Doubront delivers: During a month in which A's starters have posted an 8.29 ERA and completed five innings or fewer 14 times, Doubront's six-inning outing was much needed. Though the lefty surrendered a game-tying home run to Pujols in his final frame, he kept the A's in the game throughout and limited the number of relievers summoned from a beleaguered bullpen.
"That was big, because there were a few guys I wasn't going to use," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "I thought that's as well as he's thrown the ball in quite some time. The velocity looked better, it looked like he was sharper, more life on the ball. I thought he threw the ball really well, and he comes out of the game we're tied."
In glove: The Angels kept the game close with three impressive defensive plays, two of which were made by second baseman Johnny Giavotella. Giavotella dove to his right to cleanly field grounders from Craig Gentry and Bryan Anderson in the second and fifth inning, respectively, and record outs. With two outs in the sixth, right fielder Calhoun charged an RBI bloop single by Coco Crisp and gunned out Semien at third, recording his 11th assist and preventing further damage.
"Johnny has had some spurts where he's made some terrific plays," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "What he might lack in physical range, he makes up for with his effort, and he made two terrific plays tonight. Our defense is a big reason why we're hanging in there."
"A lot of character in here. I think just the way that we've played the last week or so -- the way that we've grinded through injuries to our bullpen, we've had different guys come up big, and I just think the never-say-die attitude, there's so much that goes into that. I think the results truly reveal the character of this team." -- Murphy, on the Angels' perseverance
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Pujols' sixth-inning homer to left-center field -- which landed a projected 426 feet away, according to Statcast™ -- made him the first player in Major League history to record 90 RBIs in 14 of his first 15 seasons. Pujols now has 38 home runs, his highest total since hitting 42 in 2010.
A's: The A's will send right-hander Chris Bassitt (1-7, 3.07 ERA) to the mound for Tuesday's middle matchup of a three-game road series with the Angels, which is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. PT. Bassitt has faced the Angels just once in his career, a two-inning relief outing in which he recorded three strikeouts.
Angels: Nick Tropeano (2-2, 4.35 ERA) starts in place of Matt Shoemaker, who's still nursing stiffness in his right forearm. Tropeano, making his seventh start this season, gave up two unearned runs in 4 1/3 innings against the Astros on Wednesday. The 25-year-old right-hander pitched six scoreless innings against the A's on April 23.
Watch every out-of-market regular season game live on MLB.TV.