Trout's clouts, Giavotella's heroics win it for Angels
By Alden Gonzalez and Thomas Harding
DENVER -- Johnny Giavotella dribbled a bases-loaded, two-out single past a diving Troy Tulowitzki in the top of the ninth to give the Angels their 12th win in the last 15 games, 3-2, over the Rockies at Coors Field on Wednesday night.
The Angels are now just 1 1/2 games back of the first-place Astros, who held a five-game lead in the American League West as recently as five days ago.
"We're not looking at the standings at all," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Our challenge is in-house. We have to keep getting better as a team. I think the focus is good; there's really not a lot of distractions there. We've had a lot happen the last couple weeks and these guys keep playing baseball. That's what we're going to focus on."
Giavotella's game-winning hit off John Axford (1-2) meant the Angels -- 5-0 on the current trip -- prevailed on a night when Mike Trout homered twice, in the first and sixth off the Rockies' otherwise effective starter Chris Rusin.
"He [Trout] is just a good hitter, and you've got to make good pitches on him and be careful," said Rusin, who went six innings and gave up two runs on five hits.
The Rockies, losers of nine of their last 11, went 3-for-14 with runners in scoring position. Two of those hits -- singles by Ben Paulsen and Nick Hundley in the fourth off Angels starter Matt Shoemaker -- drove in their runs. DJ LeMahieu singled to open the Rockies' ninth, but Angels closer Huston Street earned his 24th save. However, Street suffered a slight groin injury on the final pitch and will be evaluated Thursday.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Still streaking: Tulowitzki singled in the first inning to run his hit streak to 20 games and his on-base run to 35. Tulowitzki's streak is the seventh in club history to reach 20 games. It's also the longest hit streak in the NL this season, and he tied the Indians' Jason Kipnis for this year's longest in the Majors.
Trouta here: Trout pulverized a couple of home runs, giving him 24 on the year. The Angels' superstar center fielder blasted one out to left in the first and hit a rocket to center to lead off the sixth, the two balls projecting at a combined 895 feet according to Statcast™. Trout's second homer checked in at 477 feet, per Statcast™, and left the bat at 114 mph. It was just his second home run on a 3-1 count all season and the ninth of his career.
"It's just one of those nights," Trout said. "I got good pitches to hit and I barrelled them up."
Wiggling free: With one down in the eighth, Rockies manager Walt Weiss went to hard-throwing Tommy Kahnle to face Trout and Albert Pujols. Kahnle had Trout 0-2 before losing him at the end of a seven-pitch at-bat. Pujols ran his at-bat to the eighth pitch before lining to Brandon Barnes in left, with Trout going. It was an easy double play to end an inning in which Kahnle's fastball reached 99 mph twice.
"A real tough spot against the meat of their order," Weiss said. "That's a tough inning right there. That was a tough assignment."
Stopping the bleeding: The Rockies had a chance to blow the game open with four straight hits to start the fourth, but Shoemaker limited the damage to two runs. The Angels' starter got a line out to deep right field, then struck out Rusin after three bunt attempts -- one of which would've gone for an RBI single had it not hit his foot first -- and got Charlie Blackmon to fly out. Shoemaker, fighting to keep his job in the rotation when Jered Weaver returns, gave up just two runs in 5 2/3 innings and has a 3.12 ERA in his last three starts.
"Pretty close," Shoemaker said when asked if he's back to being where he wants to be. "I always want to be better; I want to go out there and go deep into games and put up no runs. But I definitely feel pretty good."
"We just have to keep grinding. That's what we've been so good at, just ad nauseam repeating, one day at a time. Trust ourselves. 'It'll come, it'll come.' And it's starting to come. We can't get too excited about that, either." -- Street
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
• The 2-hour, 7-minute rain delay before Wednesday's first pitch increased the rain delay time at Coors Field this year to 20 hours, 18 minutes over 13 games. That doesn't count the four dates that were postponed.
• Trout and Albert Pujols are the first pair of teammates to hit at least 24 home runs before the All-Star break since Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson of the 2011 Yankees. Trout is the ninth player in Major League history with 120-plus homers before his 24th birthday. Pujols' 26 homers are tied with Garret Anderson (2000) for the most in the first half.
Street tweaked his right groin on the final pitch, right before locking down the 299th save of his career. The veteran closer said he doesn't think it's too bad, but would know more from Seattle on Thursday. Worst case, Street said, he'll be unavailable for the upcoming four-game series in Seattle, then get an additional four days off with the All-Star break. If that's the case, the Angels will probably use Trevor Gott as their setup man and Joe Smith as their closer.
READY OR NOT
Confusion reigned in the Rockies' eighth. Hundley singled to lead it off. Brandon Barnes bunted, but as Joe Smith (3-2) pitched, Hundley was on the bag and appeared to be calling time. Angels catcher Chris Iannetta easily threw out Hundley at second, and the rally never occurred.
"He [Hundley] lost his thumb guard and was trying to call time," Weiss said. "Didn't get it."
One batter later, Rockies pinch-hitter Daniel Descalso was called out on what would have been a double play to end the eighth inning. But Weiss challenged, and the call was quickly overturned. However, the inning ended shortly thereafter on Blackmon's fly ball.
WHAT'S NEXT Angels:Garrett Richards, 9-5 with a 3.35 ERA, takes the ball opposite Mariners ace Felix Hernandez when the Angels open up a four-game series from Safeco Field in Seattle at 7:10 p.m. PT on Thursday. Richards has a 2.44 ERA in 62 2/3 career innings against the Mariners. The 27-year-old right-hander has given up just three runs in 15 1/3 innings over his last two starts.
Rockies: Colorado opens up a four-game series with Atlanta on Thursday and will send Kyle Kendrick to the hill for the opener. In 25 career games against the Braves (19 starts), Kendrick is 9-4 with a 3.44 ERA. He's beaten just one other team (the Marlins) more frequently than Atlanta in his career. First pitch is slated for 6:40 p.m. MT (KOA/Root Sports Rocky Mountain).