Down to last strike, Angels strike back to beat Rangers in 10th inning

on Sep3

Over and over, C.J. Cron had swung, and over and over, he had missed. The Angels’ first baseman and No. 8 hitter was one more strikeout from a dreaded golden sombrero as he stepped to the plate with two outs in Saturday’s ninth inning at Globe Life Park.

What he did then was different. Cron swung again, made sharp contact, and sent a baseball booming down the left-field line.

As it disappeared over the tall left-field wall, tying the score, dozens of men in the Angels’ dugout jumped in delight.

“I tend to look pretty bad some at-bats,” Cron said. “Fortunately enough, I was able to put a pretty good swing on that last pitch.”

The Angels turned good fortune into another improbable comeback victory, 7-4, over Texas, in 10 innings. That kept them 11/2 games behind Minnesota for the second AL wild-card berth.

Just before Cron’s strike, the Angels had been down to their last strike. After two quick ninth-inning outs, Luis Valbuena fell behind 0-and-2, then punched a double to right.

Like the 10th-inning rally that followed it, the Angels’ hits benefited from lackluster pitching. Rangers rookie right-hander Ricardo Rodriguez, thrust into closing 19 days after debuting, threw a bevy of down-the-middle fastballs. Another rookie right-hander, Jose Leclerc, walked the bases loaded the next inning.

When a replacement entered, Kole Calhoun promptly delivered a two-run, opposite-field single. A subsequent sacrifice fly by Cron created a lead more than sufficient for closer Blake Parker in the bottom of the 10th.

Two games into the Angels’ 28-game dash to the finish with notable reinforcements, results have not been idyllic. There was no disputing both Justin Upton and Brandon Phillips would add offense to the Angels’ lineup, but both men may also represent defensive downgrades over the incumbents at left field and second base. That possibility has presented itself in the first two games they’ve played, in which they’ve been charged with two of the team’s five errors.

The Angels’ starter, Ricky Nolasco, worked around some errors and some walks to post 52/3 acceptable innings. He ceded three runs, one apiece in the first, second and fourth.

Facing soft-tossing Rangers right-hander A.J. Griffin, the Angels at first struggled to process the pitches in the mid-60s coming their way. They did not record their first hit until the fourth inning, when Mike Trout lashed a one-out double into the left-field corner. After Upton popped out, Albert Pujols followed with a run-scoring single into left.

The Angels repeated that inning in the sixth, as Trout ripped another one-out double and Pujols snuck another two-out single into the outfield to score him.

In the seventh, Jesse Chavez’s run of dominance in the Angels’ bullpen slowed. He surrendered two walks and a bunt single to let in a run.

Fernando Salas and Yusmeiro Petit pitched an inning of scoreless relief apiece, holding the score within reach. Then, the Angels’ new-look order performed as hoped.

“That’s one thing about our lineup,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “When you have a guy like C.J. Cron hitting eighth, with his power, hopefully we’ll be able to drive the ball a little better as a group.”

Richards feels ‘great,’

will start Tuesday

In the last step before his return from a five-month bout with biceps nerve irritation, Garrett Richards threw 40 pitches in a pregame bullpen session Saturday and deemed himself fit to pitch. The Angels later announced he will start Tuesday in Oakland.

“Everything feels great,” Richards said. “I notice nothing different. Right now, it’s just a matter of being consistently on time with my delivery, which is normal, something you’re gonna deal with during the year anyway.”

At first, Richards will be limited to 50 pitches. Because it’s September, the Angels can afford a short start. Come Monday in Oakland, they will be carrying at least 11 relievers.

The idea, the talented 29-year-old right-hander said, is to stretch his arm out over the next four weeks so he is ready to potentially throw 100 pitches in the Oct. 3 wild-card game.

“I don’t intend on just throwing 60 pitches every start the rest of the year,” he said. “I intend on building off that every start. I’ve done a good job of keeping myself in physically good shape, and I’ve mentally stayed strong through this whole thing. I’m just ready to start competing again. I’m just happy to be playing baseball again.

“When stuff’s taken away from you, you feel kind of empty. I’m thankful that everything’s good to go now.”

Follow Pedro Moura on Twitter @pedromoura

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