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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Unexpected Heroes: Angels 7, Indians 6

Wow. This had elements of Monday's gruesome defeat, only with Mike Scioscia recognizing that his closer is having command issues earlier this time; but I get ahead of myself. The Angels tied the game in the third on an Erick Aybar RBI double, and almost took the lead as Chone Figgins tried to score from first. A good throw from Cleveland center fielder Ben Francisco nailed Figgins at the plate in a very close play.

Bobby Abreu then came up, and drove in the go-ahead run to cash in Aybar from third on an RBI single, but that was it. As it happened, Angels starter Jered Weaver didn't have a whole lot, and immediately gave up a walk to leadoff man Travis Hafner. A single and a sac fly later, the game was tied. The Tribe picked up another run in the sixth on a solo shot by Jhonny Peralta that just cleared the short fence in right field (the ball landed only one row back in the seats, but it was far enough away that LF Robb Quinlan couldn't get to it), and so it was no surprise when Mike Scioscia called on Matt Palmer.

Palmer did an excellent job, getting a double play when he needed it, working around a hit and a walk over three innings. And as seems to be the case when he's on the mound for the Angels, the bats mysteriously come to life; sure enough, in the eighth, with Cleveland rookie starter David Huff tiring, the Angels pounced. Relievers Joe Smith and a wild Tony Sipp (the latter walked the first two batters he faced) combined to allow all their inherited baserunners to score. Even more strangely, when Gary Matthews, Jr. came to the plate with the bases loaded and two out, he punished a pitch into the gap to clear the bases, putting the Angels ahead by a comfortable three-run lead, 7-4.

As it turned out, the Angels needed every one of those runs. Brian Fuentes was, once again, out of gas, managing to load the bases with nobody out, and even giving up a run before being pulled. Scioscia brought out Jason Bulger, who got Victor Martinez to ground into a tough 3-6-1 double play, and then got Peralta out 6-3 on a smash to Aybar, who made a brilliant throw from fairly deep in the hole. Bulger got his first major league save and looked smart while doing so in a tough situation to pick up a great win. That's doubly true with the Rangers' 7-3 win over Detroit; the AL West won't be won or lost anytime soon, that's for sure.

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