Angels designated hitter Mark Trumbo arrives at home plate with a leap into… (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images )
As the ball left the bat of Mark Trumbo, as his teammates rushed out of the dugout in celebration, the Angels finally had the look of a championship contender.
Trumbo hit a walk-off home run in the 13th inning Sunday, giving the Angels a 4-3 victory over the Detroit Tigers. The Angels had their first sweep of the season; for that matter, their first three-game winning streak of the season.
If they can get Josh Hamilton on track, the Angels really might have something special.
For now, the Angels are 7-10, nothing special. But they have won five of their last seven games, including this sweep of the defending American League champions.
"It's pretty well-chronicled we struggled early on," Trumbo said. "Three wins against a team of this caliber is an excellent sign."
The Angels had arrived home after losing two games against the Minnesota Twins, with a record of 2-1 against the Houston Astros and 2-9 against everyone else.
"You've got to think this is closer to what our actual team is," Trumbo said. "I think you'd be foolish to think we're the team that showed up to Minnesota."
C.J. Wilson has started four games for the Angels this season, pitching six innings in every one. His pitch count, respectively: 91, 110, 115, 109. Not good, but the Angels and Tigers were tied, 3-3, when he left.
Angels relievers threw seven scoreless innings, the last three by winner Jerome Williams. In the series, the Angels held the powerful Tigers to four runs in 31 innings.
Four of the first five players in the Angels' lineup are hitting .300 — in batting order: Peter Bourjos, .302; Mike Trout, .307; Albert Pujols, .317; and Trumbo, .329.
The guy who bats between Pujols and Trumbo, the $125-million cleanup hitter, is Hamilton.
He is batting .176, with 23 strikeouts in 68 at-bats.
"Hello, my reporter friends," Hamilton greeted the media after Sunday's game.
His struggles have gotten to the point, he said, that he had to warn Pujols not to try to cover for him.
The Tigers twice walked Pujols intentionally so they could pitch to Hamilton. In the 12th inning, they walked Pujols with two out and no one on base. Hamilton struck out on three pitches.
"I told Albert, 'Don't start expanding your zone because I'm struggling,' " Hamilton said.
Hamilton has a .254 on-base percentage and .571 OPS. On the same date last year, he had a .412 OBP and 1.131 OPS.
Hamilton said he and Angels coaches have looked at video from last April, without discerning a significant difference.
"It's just, I don't know, the only way I can describe it is, 'It's baseball,' " Hamilton said.
Manager Mike Scioscia deflected, but not directly answered, a question about whether he might drop Hamilton in the batting order.
"Josh hit two bullets today. Did you see them?" Scioscia said. "I think he's making progress. He's not locked in, but the quality of his at-bats has improved."
Hamilton expressed frustration but confidence too, particularly at the question of whether the intentional walks surprised him.
"Do it while you can," he said.