Angels 5, Pirates 4, 11 innings
Cabrera homered and had three RBIs, including a run-scoring single in the bottom of the 11th inning, to lead the AL West leaders to a 5-4 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday night.
Willits had a career-high four hits, including a pair of RBI doubles that lifted the rookie’s average to .347—third in the AL behind Magglio Ordonez and Ichiro Suzuki, and two points ahead of Derek Jeter.
“Reggie’s having an incredible season,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “I don’t think it’s a coincidence that from the day we adjusted some things and inserted him in the lineup every day, we found some chemistry that we were looking for on the offensive side.”
With one out in the 11th, Figgins tripled into the right-field corner against Jonah Bayliss (4-3). Cabrera lofted a 1-0 pitch into the right-field corner over a drawn-in outfield. The ball bounced into the seats, but was scored a single instead of a ground-rule double because Cabrera never touched second base.
“I don’t think there’s a shortstop in our league playing better than Orlando—from the defensive side to his clutch hitting,” Scioscia said.
Scot Shields (1-2) pitched two scoreless innings for the win, allowing one hit. Angels pitchers retired 19 consecutive batters between Ronny Paulino’s infield hit with one out in the fourth and pinch-hitter Chris Duffy’s infield single with two outs in the 10th. Both hits were high-choppers.
“When you start adding up all the different weapons that go into being a solid major league team, they have a ton of them,” Pirates manager Jim Tracy said. “They have weapons for you at the back end of the bullpen, they have starting pitching, power in the middle of the order, they have speed up and down the lineup, they’re very aggressive and they’re extremely well-managed. This may be the best team in baseball.”
Pirates closer Matt Capps returned to the active roster after serving a three-game suspension for hitting Milwaukee’s Prince Fielder with a pitch back on May 5. He allowed one hit over two scoreless innings.
Pinch-runner Nathan Haynes got a good jump off first on Willits’ double to left-center and was waved home frantically by third base coach Dino Ebel after left fielder Jason Bay cut the ball off and relayed it back to the infield.
“If you stand around and you’re a spectator against this team for a split-second, they will embarrass you,” Tracy said.
The Pirates, coming off consecutive shutout losses at Seattle, ended their drought of 20 consecutive scoreless innings in the first on an RBI double by reigning NL batting champ Freddy Sanchez.
Pittsburgh got its other three runs in the third. Rajai Davis drove in one with an infield hit up the middle after Jack Wilson led off with a single and advanced to third on two wild pitches by Joe Saunders.
Two outs later, Bay hit his 12th homer—extending Pittsburgh’s streak to 29 straight games with at least one extra-base hit. It was only the second home run for the Pirates in their last nine games.
Saunders, who was sent back to Triple-A Salt Lake right after each of his previous two emergency starts for the Angels (both victories), made another one in place of the ailing Jered Weaver and allowed four runs, seven hits and no walks in six innings. Again, Saunders sent back to the minors after the game and first baseman Kendry Morales was recalled from Salt Lake.
Zach Duke gave up a run and nine hits over 5 1-3 innings, including Cabrera’s leadoff homer in the sixth. The left-hander pitched with runners on base in every inning—but was able to induce double-play grounders in the second, third and fourth. Pittsburgh has turned a major league-leading 84 double plays.
The Pirates played at Angel Stadium for the first time since June 12, 2002— a night they were forced to use three different managers because of the ejections of Lloyd McClendon and bench coach Bill Virdon.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Pirates haven’t been shut out in three consecutive games since Aug. 28-30, 1968. They lost 8-0 and 5-0 to St. Louis and 2-0 to Atlanta. All three games were at Forbes Field. … Pittsburgh’s loss made Tracy 11-20 against the Angels—including the five seasons he piloted the Dodgers. … OF Terry Evans, who homered in his second big league at-bat on Wednesday, was optioned back to Salt Lake before the game to make room for Saunders.