Reporting from Baltimore — The Angels expect a lot of things from shortstop Erick Aybar.
A good glove, strong arm. At bat he can spray the ball around the field from both sides of the plate. And he's one of the best baserunners on the team.
But at 5 feet 10 and 180 pounds, what he doesn't do is hit the ball out of the ballpark.
"When you're a little guy," Manager Mike Scioscia said, "you're not expected to hit home runs."
Well in that case, Aybar certainly picked a good time to defy expectations, going four for four with two home runs Sunday and tying a franchise record by scoring five runs as the Angels routed the Baltimore Orioles, 11-2.
The victory not only snapped a two-game Angels losing streak, it also helped open another avenue to the playoffs. With Texas beating Seattle, the Angels' deficit in the American League West race remained at 4½ games. But they gained ground in the wild-card race, moving to within four games of slumping Boston with 10 games to play.
None of which matters, right-hander Jered Weaver warned, if the Angels don't take care of their own business first.
"We're just focusing on trying to win games," he said. "That's all we can control, how we play. We can't control how the other teams play."
Sunday the Angel played very well, banging out 15 hits for the first time in nearly two months. Nine of those hits went for extra bases — four by Aybar, who added two doubles to his two homers to tie another club record with 12 total bases, a career best for him.
Aybar said everyone in the clubhouse is feeling the pressure of the pennant races.
"We have to win games," he said in Spanish. "It's not just me. It was a team effort. I hope we can keep it going through the last games."
Recently, however, the Angels have had trouble doing that against teams below them in the standings. Before Sunday they had lost three of their previous five to teams that began the day a combined 40 games under .500.
"This game is not about getting up for a team or taking a team for granted," Scioscia said. "It's about coming here and playing with consistency."
Yet with time running out Scioscia opted to roll the dice Sunday by starting Weaver on three days' rest. Aybar and the offense made the gamble pay off, staking Weaver to a 6-1 lead by the fourth inning behind Aybar's two homers and one from Vernon Wells.
The two homers gave Aybar a career-high 10 for the season, matching his total for the two previous seasons combined. His four runs batted in gave him 59 for the season — both also career bests.
He's batting a team-high .434 in September and .281 for the season, with much of the switch-hitter's production coming from the left side, where he's hitting .313, more than 100 points better than his average right-handed.
Asked where all that power is coming from, Aybar smiled and shrugged.
"I don't know," he said. "It's just coming. I'm doing the same thing. I'm coming in early, taking early batting practice in the cage with [hitting coach] Mickey Hatcher.
"I'm just trying to make contact, like always."
Said Weaver, who left after six innings with an 8-2 lead: "I think it worked out as planned."