Angels erupt with Pujols-less lineup to earn split
Aybar, Trout, Cron tally three-hit games to back solid Shoemaker
SEATTLE -- They've done it for more than seven weeks without Josh Hamilton, and for one night, the Angels did it without Albert Pujols, getting multi-hit games from four different players, a monster homer from a light-hitting shortstop, a solid start from a long-time Minor Leaguer and two impressive catches from a raw left fielder in Thursday's 7-5 win at Safeco Field.
"There's a lot of weapons in here," right fielder Kole Calhoun said, "one through nine."
In the finale of a four-game series, they really only needed one through three.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia forced Pujols to take his first day off, then reworked the top of his batting order against the Mariners. Calhoun hit first for the first time since returning from a sprained right ankle a week ago, Erick Aybar settled in behind him and Mike Trout batted third.
The three combined to go 8-for-11, scoring four times, drawing three walks and bringing in five runs -- three of which came off Aybar's bat, on a home run that sailed over the 380-foot sign in right-center field.
"We had lots of opportunities and we cashed in on enough of them and held on," Scioscia said, just before boarding a flight to Oakland for a showdown against the first-place A's. "Those three guys had terrific nights, no doubt."
Calhoun entered with just one hit in 19 at-bats since coming off the disabled list, then went 2-for-4, scoring three runs and walking twice, and later said it was the best his timing has felt since going down on April 15.
"I had been swinging at a lot of their pitches," Calhoun said. "You have to pick your own and do damage with something over the middle of the plate. … If I'm going to be in that [leadoff] spot, that's got to be my game."
Aybar went 3-for-5 and already has 29 RBIs this season, just 30 shy of his career high.
"I just try to see the ball and forget there are people on base," he said in Spanish. "Do the job, and not put any pressure on myself."
Trout went 3-for-3, drawing a walk and driving in a couple of runs to put his batting average at .291.
But the contributions seeped outside of the top three, too.
There was C.J. Cron, hitting a triple -- one inning before Raul Ibanez did the very same -- and adding a single and a double to put his batting average at .323 since being called up four weeks ago.
There was Grant Green, still relatively fresh in left field, making a couple of key catches with runners on second and third and one out, allowing Kevin Jepsen to escape the sixth with a three-run lead. Green drifted to deep left-center to catch Michael Saunders' sac fly near the wall, then dove to his right to rob Justin Smoak of a run-scoring hit.
"If he misses that ball and it goes down the line, it's a [two]-run game with a man on second," Trout said. "That's a big play in the game."
And before that, there was Matt Shoemaker making the short drive from Tacoma, Wash., to reclaim his rotation spot in the big leagues and pitch 5 1/3 innings of three-run ball, giving up four hits, walking none and striking out six to put his ERA at 3.31 since filling in for Hector Santiago.
"He was throwing the off-speed pitches, keeping everybody off-balance," said Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager, who made it a two-run game with a ninth-inning homer off Fernando Salas, prompting Ernesto Frieri to come out of the bullpen and record the final two outs.
"It's definitely a confidence-builder, knowing I'm able to pitch at this level," Shoemaker said. "I just want to contribute to this team as much as I can to get us to the playoffs and World Series."
The latter is far too distant right now, but the Angels at the very least know they'll enter a three-game series against a first-place team playing good baseball, at seven games above .500 while getting contributions up and down the roster.
Their deficit of the A's, losers of six of their last eight, is now only 1 1/2 games. And the Angels have 30 wins before June for the first time since 2008.
"This whole team's been playing as a team, and that's what it's going to take," Calhoun said. "It's going to take 25 guys to go out and win a series there. It's a tough place to play, and they're a good team. But I love what we have going on in this locker room. The team is playing well. We gotta keep doing it."