Sweep of Detroit wraps up May

Four-game se­ries puts An­gels in sec­ond place and on a pos­i­tive roll.

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Bill Shaikin


Are th­ese the An­gels, fi­nally? Or was the week­end a big tease?

The An­gels have been in first place in the Amer­i­can League West for two days this sea­son. They have been in third place as re­cently as Wed­nes­day.

On the other hand, they just swept a four-game se­ries from the mighty Detroit Tigers. They are back in sec­ond place, and they have crept within four games of the Hous­ton Astros. They closed May on a 16-9 rush, and they are three games above .500 for the first time this sea­son.

So, af­ter the An­gels won 4-2 on Sun­day and outscored the Tigers 26-10 in the se­ries, would the An­gels say this was just a good week­end, or a sneak pre­view of an ex­cit­ing sum­mer?

“I don’t want to say, ‘This is the de­fin­i­tive mo­ment.

Here we go,’ ” closer Hus­ton Street said. “I think, as a group, we can def­i­nitely start to feel some­thing start to gal­va­nize.”

The An­gels scored 12 runs on Thurs­day. They hit five home runs in two innings on Satur­day. They gave up two runs or fewer on Thurs­day, Fri­day and Sun­day.

And ace Gar­rett Richards did not pitch in the se­ries, setup man Joe Smith had a stiff neck, short­stop Erick Ay­bar sat out two games be­cause of a tight ham­string, and first base­man Al­bert Pu­jols was limited to des­ig­nated hit­ter for two games be­cause of a sore groin.

Street said the Tigers se­ries put on dis­play the ca­pa­bil­i­ties the An­gels al­ready know they have — a team that can not only win the di­vi­sion and go be­yond sim­ply get­ting into the play­offs.

“We have a team that can con­tend with any other team in base­ball,” Street said.

Manager Mike Scios­cia went with the “it is what it is” mean­ing of the sweep.

“We don’t have a crys­tal ball,” Scios­cia said. “There’s no doubt we played a re­ally good club this week­end and played good base­ball. That’s the im­por­tant thing.

“We don’t have to over­think this.”

Scios­cia man­aged Sun­day as if the game were more than just an­other reg­u­larsea­son game. He jug­gled five pitch­ers, used his backup catcher as a pinch-hit­ter in the eighth in­ning and would have had one man — out­fielder Matt Joyce — on the bench had the game gone into ex­tra innings.

The An­gels’ luck had to turn. In the sixth in­ning, with two on and two out in a 2-2 tie, Johnny Gi­avotella hit a line drive that Tigers ace David Price caught as he turned his head.

“It’s the most frus­trat­ing thing in the sport,” Gi­avotella said. “You do ev­ery­thing right, but you still fail.”

In the sev­enth, Mike Trout hit a line drive right at Price — and the Tigers’ ace caught that one too. Re­plays caught Trout laugh­ing at the ab­sur­dity of it all.

In the eighth, with the score still tied 2-2, the An­gels loaded the bases with two out. Price left af­ter 121 pitches — his high­est to­tal in two years — and Gi­avotella grounded a two-run sin­gle be­hind sec­ond base. No line drive, but the game-win­ning runs nonethe­less.

Trout and Pu­jols might have the mar­quee names, but Gi­avotella has driven in the win­ning run in seven of the An­gels’ 27 vic­to­ries.

“Late in the game, we want Johnny up,” pitcher Matt Shoe­maker said.

In his 29 at-bats in so­called “late and close” sit­u­a­tions — sev­enth in­ning or later, with a one-run lead at best and the po­ten­tial ty­ing run on deck at worst — Gi­avotella is bat­ting .517.

“It seems like he gets big hit af­ter big hit for us,” Scios­cia said.

The An­gels could get on a roll now. They play their next 19 games against teams no bet­ter than one game over .500.

The recipe for suc­cess, catcher Chris Ian­netta said, is to main­tain this level — three games over .500 — and throw in a few mod­est win­ning streaks along the way. A four-game win­ning streak here, a five-game streak there, he said, and the An­gels could fin­ish 20 games over .500.

That would trans­late to a 91-71 record. The Astros are on pace to win 98.

“It’s a race to 90 wins,” Ian­netta said. “That is what is go­ing to win the di­vi­sion.”

Harry How Getty Images

KIRK NIEUWEN­HUIS, left, and Chris Ian­netta cel­e­brate af­ter they scored on a sin­gle by Johnny Gi­avotella in the eighth in­ning. The An­gels’ 4-2 victory gave them a sweep of their four-game se­ries against Detroit.

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