Late Angels homers not enough in soggy finale loss

Morin allows game-winner in ninth; Freese, Hamilton HR to back Skaggs

Late Angels homers not enough in soggy finale loss

CHICAGO -- A walk-off single past a five-man infield and into left field -- it happened twice against the Angels in this just-completed six-game road trip.

The first came Sunday, when Royals second baseman Omar Infante did it against Jason Grilli at Kauffman Stadium.

The second came Wednesday, on a rainy night at U.S. Cellular Field, when White Sox pinch-hitter Leury Garcia went with Mike Morin's outside-corner fastball and drove it the other way to hand the Angels a 3-2 loss that denied them a sweep.

Morin, 23, has been a revelation for the Angels this year, posting a 1.88 ERA, thriving against righties and lefties, oftentimes pitching multiple innings and being one of a select few Angels manager Mike Scioscia actually trusts to hold leads.

A walk-off loss is completely new to him.

"It stings a little more, when you give up runs and they [directly] affect the outcome of the game," Morin said. "That's individually based. I'm trying to throw up zeros every time out there, but when the run that scores affects the outcome of the game, it's tough to swallow."

The Angels (47-36) split their six-game road trip and failed to gain ground on the A's, instead staying 3 1/2 games back of first place in the American League West. But Wednesday's series finale provided a couple of important positives.

Josh Hamilton hit a homer and took away another. In the first inning, he leaped above the left-field fence to snag Gordon Beckham's deep fly ball. In the eighth, he belted a changeup from White Sox lefty John Danks to right field to tie the game at 2 -- his second homer in as many days, after going 23 games without one.

And Tyler Skaggs was as efficient as he was effective in his first start off the disabled list, giving up only two runs in 7 2/3 innings while throwing 70 of his 87 pitches for strikes.

Skaggs, making his first start since sustaining a strained right hamstring on June 5, was erratic during a simulated game, then gave up seven runs (two earned) and five walks in three innings during his only rehab start. But something clicked for him during his 45-pitch bullpen session at Kauffman Stadium on Sunday; something that helped the 22-year-old left-hander scatter just five hits, walk one, strike out six and lower his ERA to 4.16.

"It's just rhythm and tempo," Skaggs said. "Mechanics are fine. You can have the worst mechanics in the world, but if you know in your head that you're going to throw strikes and you go out there with confidence and you exude it, you go out there and you throw strikes. I was kind of embarrassed after my last rehab outing. Walking five guys and giving up that many runs in a Triple-A game, it wears on you a little bit. So I wanted to go out there and show everybody that I'm still the same pitcher that I was."

But Danks was just as effective, commanding his signature changeup to shut the Angels out through six, record a career-high-tying 10 strikeouts and give up only a couple of solo homers -- to David Freese in the seventh and to Hamilton in the eighth -- in 7 2/3 innings.

Skaggs was nearing 90 pitches when he got Adam Eaton to hit a harmless fly ball for the second out in the eighth, and next up was Beckham, who doubled and singled after Hamilton took away his homer. So Scioscia went to Morin, who got out of the inning unscathed despite putting a couple of runners on and came out for the bottom of the ninth.

With one out, pinch-hitter Alejandro De Aza hit a sharp single to left and Conor Gillaspie followed with a broken-bat grounder that snuck just past a diving Albert Pujols to put runners on the corners with one out, prompting Scioscia to sub in Kole Calhoun and play him on the right side as his fifth infielder.

Up came Garcia, the guy Morin retired in a big spot during the sixth inning of Tuesday's doubleheader finale.

That time, with runners on the corners, two outs and the Angels clinging to a one-run lead, Morin threw three offspeed pitches in a four-pitch at-bat to strike out the speedy left-handed hitter. But on Wednesday, he noticed the White Sox were cheating up in the box, trying to get a better read on his devastating changeup, so he attacked Garcia with fastballs.

And the fourth one ended the game.

"You can replay the game in your mind, but it doesn't do you any good," Morin said. "I made my pitches, and obviously that last one kind of stayed up."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.