For the first six weeks of 2017, the Angels pieced together an effective bullpen from the unlikeliest of sources. With their established relievers injured, they turned a lifelong starter into their closer, watched a waiver-wire veteran literally strike everyone out for a while, and plucked a diminished pitcher from Atlanta’s triple-A affiliate and, somehow, rode him successfully.
On Tuesday night at Angel Stadium, their luck ran out. But no matter: Albert Pujols saved the day. He supplied a walk-off single in the 11th inning to deliver the Angels back to .500 with a 7-6 victory over the Chicago White Sox.
Andrelton Simmons started the rally with a single and took second on a passed ball. Danny Espinosa tried to bunt him over but failed. Ben Revere looped a single into center, and Cameron Maybin lucked into a bloop double to tie the score. The White Sox shortstop, Tim Anderson, slipped while running to it.
After Mike Trout was intentionally walked, Pujols drove a baseball deep enough to center to end it via the sacrifice fly. For good measure, Chicago’s center fielder could not catch it.
It was a poorly played game all around.
With starter-turned-closer Bud Norris unavailable after pitching on three consecutive days for the first time, manager Mike Scioscia turned to David Hernandez, the triple-A castoff. He blew a three-run ninth-inning lead, unable to retire a batter. Melky Cabrera and Jose Abreu singled, Avisail Garcia doubled to the wall, and Todd Frazier tied it with the most peculiar of infield singles, the ball seeming demagnetized from any Angels defender.
In so doing, Hernandez squandered right-hander JC Ramirez’s seventh start of 2017. He lasted seven innings, didn’t walk anyone, and limited the White Sox to five hits.
Ramirez permitted a first-inning single and then nothing until the fifth, when everything began to veer toward Simmons, the shortstop. First was a grounder he turned into an out, then a Garcia blooper that tipped off his glove. The next inning, Leury Garcia blooped another baseball past Simmons’ glove just before Yolmer Sanchez deposited a two-run homer into the bleachers.
Next, Cabrera drilled another ball in between second and third. Simmons corralled it, finally, and exhaled twice.
Pujols missed the 597th homer of his career by a few feet in the first inning and again in the ninth, when it would have meant a walk-off. In the third, he took a shorter route to success, punishing a ball down the left-field line to score runners from first and second.
Because of its carom and because of his 37-year-old legs, it went only as a single. Still, the hit carried him into 11th place on MLB’s all-time RBI list, in between Carl Yastrzemski and Mel Ott.
The Angels added a run in the fourth, on two singles and a walk, and two more in the seventh, on a double and three walks, one of them intentional.
Pinch-hitter Luis Valbuena walked on four pitches to force in a run, and Jefry Marte ripped a single into center for another. Running from second, Pujols was thrown out at home by 10 feet.
After Ramirez departed, Blake Parker handled the eighth inning easily, and Yusmeiro Petit the 10th and 11th, yielding a solo home run in the latter inning. In between, there was Hernandez’s blip.