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Giavotella has been surprisingly invaluable to Angels

MLB.com @Alden_Gonzalez

ANAHEIM -- Johnny Giavotella stayed back on a 1-0 sinker from Mariners reliever Carson Smith, dumped it near the right-field line, motored around second and watched Erick Aybar race home in Wednesday's ninth inning, sending the Angels to the 4-3 win that gave them back-to-back walk-off victories.

That prompted a question few would've ever imagined pondering at the start of this season: Where would the Angels be without Johnny Giavotella?

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ANAHEIM -- Johnny Giavotella stayed back on a 1-0 sinker from Mariners reliever Carson Smith, dumped it near the right-field line, motored around second and watched Erick Aybar race home in Wednesday's ninth inning, sending the Angels to the 4-3 win that gave them back-to-back walk-off victories.

That prompted a question few would've ever imagined pondering at the start of this season: Where would the Angels be without Johnny Giavotella?

Full Game Coverage

Video: SEA@LAA: Angels walk off on Giavotella's double

He was a 27-year-old with a .238 batting average in 437 career at-bats, spread out over four Major League seasons. He was acquired for a reliever the Angels had just picked up from the Mexican League. And he was entrenched into a second-base competition with two other guys with equally mediocre track records.

Four-and-a-half weeks in, Giavotella -- all 68 inches of him -- is the No. 6 hitter for an offense that led the Majors in runs last season.

Four-and-a-half weeks in, he has the second-most game-winning RBIs in the American League.

"You have to treat them like any other situation," Giavotella said after his first career walk-off hit. "You just go up there, stay within yourself, have confidence in your approach and try not to do too much. When you put too much pressure on yourself and try too hard, that's when you fail."

Giavotella's double came 24 hours after Carlos Perez's walk-off homer in his Major League debut, giving the Angels back-to-back walk-off wins for the first time since May 29-30, 2010, also against the Mariners. It came with one out in the bottom of the ninth, after Dustin Ackley's sacrifice fly in the top half tied the game and gave Angels closer Huston Street his first blown save in 10 chances.

Aybar tried to bunt the winning run into scoring position for Giavotella, but instead got pinch-runner Taylor Featherston thrown out at second. Angels manager Mike Scioscia then called for a hit-and-run with Giavotella batting -- against a dominant right-hander who had given up five hits in 45 career at-bats against right-handed hitters.

That's how good the Angels feel about Giavotella.

"He's fun to watch, and he stays within himself," Angels center fielder Mike Trout said. "He doesn't try to hit home runs. He tries to square up the baseball, hit line drives. Even in BP, you don't see him try to hit line drives. He just keeps the same approach. And he brings energy to the dugout. He's an exciting player to watch."

The Angels got Giavotella from the Royals on Dec. 19, for journeyman Brian Broderick, with hopes that some of his .305/.378/.438 Minor League slash line could translate to the big leagues. They watched him beat out Josh Rutledge and Grant Green for the starting second base job in Spring Training -- partly because he was out of options -- but were under no impression that he'd replace the production of Howie Kendrick.

They just wanted Giavotella to hold his own defensively and give them some on-base ability in the bottom of the order.

Twenty-eight games in, he's batting .286 with five game-winning RBIs, one of few productive members of an offense that still ranks 23rd in the Majors in runs scored.

"He's just a tough out," Scioscia said. "He's been a tough out his whole life, at every level in the Minor Leagues. Now he's getting an opportunity in the big leagues, and he's shown that he gives a tough at-bat every time. It's important to our club. We talk about the guys that we need to get into their game, but Johnny Giavotella has been one of the bright spots."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Los Angeles Angels, Johnny Giavotella