Angels amazed by crazy contest vs. Rangers

Angels amazed by crazy contest vs. Rangers

ARLINGTON -- As the ninth inning began on Saturday, four Angels pitchers sat in front of a big-screen TV inside the visitors' clubhouse at Globe Life Park. The Angels trailed by four then, their season close to extinction on the second-to-last day. Then Erick Aybar homered off Rangers closer Shawn Tolleson. Then Kole Calhoun did the same, cutting the Angels' deficit to two with the middle of their lineup coming up.

"All right, nobody move," reliever Mike Morin told the group.

And so Huston Street, Hector Santiago, Trevor Gott and Morin just sat there, frozen, hanging on every pitch, watching as their teammates put together the furious rally that gave them a critical 11-10 win and capped perhaps the craziest game of the year.

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Somehow, the Angels remained a game behind the Astros -- who beat the D-backs, 6-2, later that night -- for the second American League Wild Card spot.

Somehow, the Angels kept themselves relevant heading into the final day.

"I have no words," Santiago, who got the start earlier in the afternoon, said. "Honestly, this is one of the best games I've been a part of. It's crazy."

With two outs and Albert Pujols on second after his fly ball to shallow right field went for a double, the Angels strung together four consecutive singles off Rangers reliever Ross Ohlendorf.

C.J. Cron, who entered with 11 two-out RBIs against the Rangers this season, lined a base hit to center to make it a one-run game.

David Freese, the former World Series hero who ruined the Rangers' season in 2011, lined another hit to left to put runners on the corners.

Carlos Perez, the rookie catcher batting .338 since the start of September, dumped a broken-bat blooper into shallow center field to tie the score.

Johnny Giavotella, with a .361 batting average in late-and-close situations this season, drove in the go-ahead run with a liner to center.

The Angels -- buried after a 19-loss August, buried after giving up five ninth-inning runs to the Astros on Sept. 13, buried after allowing seven unearned runs to the A's on Wednesday, buried after falling behind, 10-6, heading into the ninth -- refuse to die.

"Nobody's ready to go home," Calhoun said. "We're not quitting. We're not quitting on each other."

Saturday marked the first time a team has come back despite being down by four runs in the ninth inning on the road since the Cardinals did it against the Marlins on June 25, 2012. Since then, teams had lost 1,761 consecutive games in that situation. It was the first time in 29 years -- since Aug. 29, 1986 -- that the Angels scored five-plus runs in the ninth to win a nine-inning game by a run.

That it came with their season on the brink took it to a whole other level.

Mike Scioscia called it one of the best games he had "ever seen." Joe Smith, who picked up the save in the bottom half, called it "nuts." Giavotella used the words "incredible" and "surreal." Mike Trout said it was "probably the craziest thing I've ever been a part of, just with everything on the line."

"When you're a part of crazy games like this, the best games, usually they're pretty sloppy," Freese said. "Very rarely do you go through games like this and they're clean. That's what makes them great. A lot of things happened."

So much happened.

The Angels scored four runs off Colby Lewis in the top of the fifth, but gave the lead back in the bottom half.

There were two home runs by former Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton.

There was an appearance by Mat Latos, who was needed for five outs because Scioscia used five of his six most important relievers to get through the sixth inning. There was a win by Jo-Jo Reyes, who threw one pitch, hadn't appeared in a Major League game since 2011 and wasn't added to the roster until Wednesday.

And then, of course, came the ninth-inning rally nobody saw coming.

Except, perhaps, the Angels.

"We never lost faith," Giavotella said. "We had confidence in one another and we made it happen."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.