Albert Pujols hits a solo home run against the Chicago White Sox during the… (Nam Y. Huh / Associated Press )
CHICAGO — There was another bullpen glitch Saturday night, one that nearly led to another gut-wrenching loss, but what happened on the mound before and after LaTroy Hawkins' seventh-inning meltdown was enough for the Angels to eke out a 6-5, 10-inning victory over the Chicago White Sox inU.S. Cellular Field.
Alberto Callaspo hit a two-out double against Matt Thornton in the 10th inning, and Howie Kendrick, who grounded into rally-killing double plays in key spots Friday and Saturday night, stroked a single to right field for the winning hit, as the Angels ended a losing streak at three games.
Struggling right-hander Ervin Santana held the White Sox to three runs and five hits, including solo home runs by Kevin Youkilis andA.J. Pierzynski, in six innings before handing the ball and a 5-3 lead to a bullpen that had been torched for 15 runs in 82/3 innings of the team's last three losses.
Ten pitches into the seventh inning, that lead vanished. Hawkins gave up a leadoff single to Alejandro De Aza and a two-run home run to Youkilis, tying the score, 5-5, and giving the Angels 15 blown saves, tied for most in the American League.
But Hawkins retired the side in order in the eighth, and Kevin Jepsen threw a hitless ninth, which included an 11-pitch battle with De Aza that Jepsen said "felt more like 30 pitches." De Aza flied to right field. Ernesto Frieri then retired the side in order in the 10th for his 13th save.
"Hopefully, this monkey, or this gorilla, is off our backs," right fielder Torii Hunter said of a three-game stretch in which the Angels lost twice in 10 innings and blew an 8-6, sixth-inning lead in the other game.
"Those late-inning losses hurt. You can't sleep at night. Sometimes you start drinking … water. They're tough to swallow, but that's part of baseball."
Was a performance like Saturday night's needed for the bullpen to restore some confidence in itself?
"That's the wrong way to put it," Jepsen said. "We're a tight-knit group, and things haven't been going well. We gave up a lot of runs in Texas, we come here, and you can't catch your breath because they have a potent offense, too.
"What's tough in the bullpen is you're not allowed to make any mistakes because one mistake can cost you the game. The blame comes on us. That's the way it is. That's the way we like it."
Albert Pujols had another productive night, hitting a run-scoring single during a three-run first inning and a solo home run, his 24th, in the seventh. He's batting .464 (13 for 28) with five homers and 13 runs batted in on the trip, and since May 1, he's hitting .312 with 25 homers and a major league-leading 72 RBIs.
But the most impressive play of the night was by center fielder Mike Trout, who leaped at the wall to make a spectacular catch to rob Gordon Beckham of a homer in the third.
"That had me pumped up," said Hunter, 37, known as "Spiderman" because of his wall-climbing abilities. "That was impressive. It reminded me of my old days.
"It's a lot of fun watching that kid play. Especially me, I really appreciate the art. What he did was special. It's nothing new, he has all the athletic ability in the world, but to see him make those plays, it gives me the chills."