Ku­b­itza makes amends

He gets a key RBI a night af­ter un­sure de­but. Pu­jols passes Man­tle on homer list.

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Mike DiGio­vanna

ST. PETERS­BURG, Fla. — As he tried to put Kyle Ku­b­itza’s shaky ma­jor league de­but in per­spec­tive, An­gels third-base coach Gary DiSarcina, the for­mer short­stop, re­called his own wob­bly baby steps as a big lea­guer, his first plate ap­pear­ance com­ing on May 21, 1990, in Cleve­land, and his first start the fol­low­ing night.

“My first at-bat, my legs were shak­ing,” DiSarcina said. “In the field, I didn’t want the ball hit to me. I was so young. It’s your first big league game. It’s what you dreamed of your whole life. I’m sure nerves were a fac­tor for Kyle [Wed­nes­day night]. He’ll be OK.”

Ku­b­itza was more than OK on Thurs­day night, the

third base­man re­deem­ing him­self with the big­gest hit of a three-run sev­enth in­ning that pro­pelled the An­gels to a 6-2, come-from-be­hind victory over the Tampa Bay Rays at Trop­i­cana Field.

Ku­b­itza’s run-scor­ing sin­gle off re­liever Kevin Jepsen tied the score, 2-2. Ku­b­itza also walked in the ninth and scored on Al­bert Pu­jols’ 537th ca­reer homer, which gave the An­gels a 6-2 lead and moved the slug­ger past Mickey Man­tle and into sole pos­ses­sion of 16th place on base­ball’s all-time list.

“That’s base­ball,” said Ku­b­itza, who was called up from triple A to re­place the in­jured David Freese on Wed­nes­day. “You can strike out three or four times one night and come back the next night and get three or four hits. You’ve got to turn the page once the new day starts.”

That was one heavy page to turn Wed­nes­day night. Ku­b­itza made a pair of men­tal er­rors, in the field and on the basepa­ths, that cost the An­gels one run and maybe two in a 4-2 loss to the Rays.

Asked if he got over the game quickly, Ku­b­itza looked to­ward the ceil­ing with a pained look on his face.

“Uh … I couldn’t watch too many re­plays, I can say that,” Ku­b­itza said. “My brother, my agent, my wife, they all told me to let it go. A lot of the guys in here helped.”

Manager Mike Scios­cia spoke to Ku­b­itza about his mis­takes Wed­nes­day night and tried to in­fuse some hu­mor into the sit­u­a­tion Thurs­day.

“We were talk­ing about it, al­most jok­ing, like, ‘It can’t be any worse than yes­ter­day, so go get ’em,’ ” Scios­cia said. “He seemed fine pregame.”

Ku­b­itza was robbed of a hit in his first at-bat when Rays first base­man Nick Franklin made a div­ing stop of his grounder in the third, and Ku­b­itza struck out swing­ing in the fifth.

The An­gels were trail­ing, 2-1, in the sev­enth when .183-hit­ting Matt Joyce led off with a walk off Jepsen, the for­mer An­gels re­liever who was traded to Tampa Bay for Joyce last win­ter.

Efren Navarro reached on an in- field sin­gle. Scios­cia could have brought Tay­lor Feather­ston off the bench to lay down a sac­ri­fice bunt, but he in­stead let .164-hit­ting Chris Ian­netta bat.

Ian­netta struck out look­ing at a pitch be­low his knees. On the plus side for the An­gels, he did not hit into a dou­ble play. Ku­b­itza then grounded a full-count pitch into right field to score Joyce for a 2-2 tie and ad­vance Navarro to third.

Erick Ay­bar fol­lowed with an RBI fielder’s-choice grounder to the right side off Brad Boxberger for a 3-2 lead. Ay­bar stole sec­ond and Mike Trout, who lined a solo homer to left in the sixth — his 17th of the sea­son — dou­bled to left to score Ay­bar for a 4-2 lead.

“I think it’s what we would ex­pect from that young man,” Scios­cia said of Ku­b­itza, who was ac­quired from At­lanta last win­ter and tabbed as Freese’s heir ap­par­ent in 2016. “He pre­sented him­self well in spring train­ing and was play­ing well at Salt Lake.

“You have a feel­ing that when he gets his feet on the ground, he’s go­ing to be a re­ally good player. He bounced back tonight and had some huge at-bats for us. … That’s what ex­pe­ri­ence does for you. He didn’t let [Wed­nes­day night’s game] af­fect him. That’s what has to hap­pen.”

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