Angels catcher Hank Conger, right, visits pitcher pitcher Billy Buckner… (John Sleezer / MCT )
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Angels starter Billy Buckner threw a nasty first-pitch curve just off the outside corner to Kansas City Royals cleanup hitter Billy Butler with a runner on first in the fourth inning Saturday.
One problem: Manager Mike Scioscia had called for a pitchout, and catcher Hank Conger was so crossed up as he came out of his crouch in anticipation of a high-and-away fastball that the ball went off his glove for a wild pitch that allowed Alcides Escobar to take second.
"That was an obvious glitch," Scioscia said. "We have a lot of things in our defensive playbook, but not a curveball pitchout."
Scioscia, Buckner and Conger could laugh about the play after a 7-0 Angels victory. The score was 1-0 at the time, and the pitch came right after Conger had visited the mound.
Butler walked, but Buckner escaped the jam and went on to complete five shutout innings to earn his first major league win since Oct. 2, 2009, when he was with Arizona.
"Oooh," Buckner winced, when asked about the pitchout. "We had just talked about the pitch we wanted to throw, and I thought Hank wasn't giving me a sign because he didn't want to tip any pitches.
"He was actually giving me the pitchout, and I stuck with the pitch we talked about. That could have been bad, but fortunately, we worked out of it."
On the money
Conger had one of his best all-around games of the season Saturday, hitting an opposite-field homer in the sixth inning, sparking a four-run eighth-inning rally with a leadoff single and throwing out Mike Moustakas attempting to steal second in the third inning.
Conger, whose throwing problems in spring training nearly earned him a demotion to triple A, also made a strong and accurate throw to third in the fourth inning, but Escobar got a great jump off second and stole the base.
"He threw a bullet to second and almost caught Escobar at third," Scioscia said. "I thought he caught a great game. He worked well with Billy, and his hits were important too."
Buckner became the third pitcher in franchise history to throw at least five shutout innings and allow two or fewer hits in his Angels debut. The other two were Don Sutton, against Texas on Sept. 13, 1985, and Mark Langston, against Seattle on April 11, 1990.
Mike Trout became the second player in franchise history to score multiple runs in five straight games, joining Don Baylor, who did it in seven straight games in 1979.
Former Angels utility infielder Angel Sanchez, selected by the White Sox in last winter's Rule 5 draft and waived last week, was offered back to the Angels and was willing to accept a minor league assignment. But the Angels, who have two utility infielders on the big league roster — Brendan Harris and Chris Long — and several at triple A, declined because they didn't have a spot for him.