A milestone run by Mike Trout, a dominant start by Michael Lorenzen and home runs by middle infielders Luis Rengifo and Andrew Velazquez were nearly frittered away by the Angels bullpen on Saturday night.
Relievers Aaron Loup and Oliver Ortega combined to turn a five-run, seventh-inning lead into a two-run, eighth-inning lead, but the Angels survived a harrowing finish for a nail-biter of a 5-3 victory over the Oakland Athletics before 39,045 in Angel Stadium.
Ortega struck out Luis Barrera with the bases loaded to end the eighth, and closer Raisel Iglesias, who was tagged for walk-off homers in his last two appearances, struck out two of three batters in the ninth to help the Angels end a four-game losing streak.
“Wow,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said afterward, the relief clearly evident in his voice. “Listen, to get through this right now with three really good relief pitchers … they’re going to settle down, and everything’s going to turn out well.”
Maddon was referring to Ryan Tepera, Loup and Iglesias, who all have taken their lumps lately after dominant starts.
Tepera retired the side in order in the seventh Saturday night, and Velazquez’s opposite-field, two-run homer to left gave the Angels a 5-0 lead in the bottom of the seventh.
But Loup, who entered with a 1.62 earned-run average in 17 games, ran into trouble when he gave up a one-out double to Kevin Smith in the eighth. Sheldon Neuse’s RBI single made it 5-1, and Jed Lowrie’s RBI double to left made it 5-2.
Christian Bethancourt grounded out for the second out, but Loup walked Chad Pinder. Ortega replaced Loup, and Sean Murphy singled sharply to left to load the bases.
Up stepped Barrera, who hit a three-run, walk-off homer against Iglesias to give the A’s a 4-3 win over the Angels in the first game of a doubleheader in Oakland a week earlier.
“I didn’t like it,” Maddon said, when asked what he was thinking when Barrera came up with the bases loaded. “He’s had some good at-bats against us. He seems like he was on everything.”
Ortega threw a wild pitch that allowed Lowrie to score to make it 5-3, but he struck out Barrera with a nasty curve to end the inning.
“Tep got through [the seventh] nicely,” Maddon said. “Louper, I mean, it’s just one of those things. I have so much faith in this guy. I think he’s that good. It’ll straighten itself out. And it was good to see Iggy have a nice clean ending.”
Trout burnished his Hall of Fame resume, the Angels center fielder racing home with the 1,000th run of his career in the sixth inning to join Garret Anderson (1,024) as the only Angels to score 1,000 or more runs.
Trout, the three-time American League most valuable player, also joined Willie Mays and Alex Rodriguez as the only players in baseball history to accumulate at least 1,000 runs, 300 homers and 200 stolen bases by their age-30 seasons.
Lorenzen navigated through some heavy traffic in the third and fourth innings to throw six shutout frames, giving up three hits, striking out five and walking two, to improve to 5-2 with a 3.05 ERA in seven starts.
Rengifo delivered two decisive blows, the first a 94.6-mph line drive that hit Oakland ace Frankie Montas in both his glove and pitching fingers and knocked him out of the game in the second inning, the second a solo homer that gave the Angels a 1-0 lead in the fifth.
The switch-hitting Rengifo, batting from the right side, broke a scoreless tie when he turned on a 1-and-2, 90-mph fastball that left-hander Adam Kolarek left middle in and sent a 397-foot homer, his first of the season, over the wall in left.
The Angels loaded the bases with no outs in the sixth on a Shohei Ohtani single, a Trout walk and an Anthony Rendon single. Jared Walsh struck out, but Brandon Marsh drew a full-count walk off reliever Lou Trivino to force in a run for a 2-0 lead.
Rengifo followed with a chopper back to the mound. Trivino looked home but didn’t have a play on Trout, who scored to make it 3-0.
The Angels added two more runs in the seventh when Tyler Wade reached on a bloop single and the switch-hitting Velazquez lined a two-run homer to left field to make it 5-0.
Lorenzen needed only 22 pitches to record the first eight outs and 44 pitches to get the next four outs. With two outs in the third, Oakland’s Tony Kemp worked a nine-pitch walk and took third on Neuse’s single to right. Lorenzen struck out Lowrie with a 93-mph fastball to end the inning.
The A’s put two on with one out in the fourth. Lorenzen whiffed Barrera with a 92-mph fastball and Cristian Pache with an 86-mph changeup. Lorenzen needed only 18 pitches to record six more outs in the fifth and sixth.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.