Hoping to avoid a start similar to 2012 when they were 6-14 and failed to make the playoffs, the Angels were treading water to begin this season, and with the powerful Detroit Tigers coming to the Southland this past weekend, the prospects were not favorable that the club would emerge from its funk.
But in the blink of an eye, the Angels’ bats awoke and the pitching came around as they swept the Tigers, who some have touted will represent the American League in the World Series.
Mark Trumbo’s leadoff homer to begin the 13th inning gave the Angels (7-10) a 4-3 victory on Sunday and moved them within four and a half games of the first-place Texas Rangers in the AL West.
Detroit’s Austin Jackson hit into a fielder’s choice in the second inning for a 1-0 lead.
Albert Pujols doubled in two runs in the third inning, and the Halos added another run to make it 3-1.
Prince Fielder’s two-run homer to right field in the fifth tied it at 3-3 before Trumbo’s late-inning heroics.
A 33-minute, nine-run, first inning on Saturday set the table for a 10-0 shellacking by the Angels of the Tigers.
In that frame, 13 batters came up and 10 reached base via a hit, and the biggest was Mike Trout’s booming grand slam to center field, which was the first of his career.
The beneficiary was Garrett Richards, who went seven innings, allowing two hits with no walks, and he retired the side in order in the first, third, fifth and sixth innings.
“We wanted him to pitch like it was a tie game,’’ said Angels Manager Mike Scioscia. “Sometimes that’s hard to do because you know you have a big lead. Go out there and get each hitter. Get into a rhythm and throw strikes.”
Richards (1-0) surrendered a single by Fielder to open the second inning, but was left stranded.
Fielder struck out in the fourth, but reached base on a wild pitch. When Richards fanned Victor Martinez, the inning was over.
Detroit’s other threat came in the seventh when Miguel Cabrera opened with a double off the right field wall, but Richards struck out Martinez, which tied his career best in that category with eight.
The Angels capped the rout with a run in the eighth inning on a scoring fly by Peter Bourjos.
In the series opener on Friday, Bourjos tripled and singled twice, drove in three runs and scored a run as the Angels romped to an 8-1 triumph.
Trout and Pujols (three hits) each drove in a pair of runs for the Angels, who led 2-0 after four innings, and then poured it on with a five-run eighth.
Torii Hunter, an Angel outfielder for five seasons, doubled, singled and scored Detroit’s only run in the ninth when Cabrera (three hits) singled.
As a sign of gratitude, Hunter, who was always popular with the fans and media, signed numerous autographs before the game, was given a sustained standing ovation before his first at-bat and was greeted by a sign that read “Thank U Torii’’ when he took his place in right field.
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a columnist for socalboxing.wordpress.com. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.