A sweep of the defending AL champion Detroit Tigers should give the Los Angeles Angels — particularly their much-maligned bullpen — a major shot of confidence going into their second series of the season with the AL-rival Texas Rangers.
Mark Trumbo homered leading off the bottom of the 13th inning, Albert Pujols doubled home two runs, and the relievers combined to hold the Tigers scoreless on four hits over the final seven innings of a 13-inning, 4-3 victory Sunday — completing the Halos' second straight series sweep of Detroit.
"It was pretty well chronicled that we struggled early on. But three wins against a team of this caliber is an excellent sign," Trumbo said.
Tigers lefty Phil Coke (0-2) intentionally walked Pujols with two outs and the bases empty in the 12th before striking out Josh Hamilton on three pitches. But Trumbo drove a 3-1 changeup into the upper tier of the double-decker bullpen in left field for his second homer of the season.
"He threw it 2-0, and hadn't thrown a fastball for a strike," Trumbo said. "The more mature you get as a hitter, the better educated guesses you can make. And in that case, I guessed right. That's why you've got to pay attention to the game. I got some great scouting reports from my teammates who were up there, and they gave me a good idea of what to look for. That's what it's all about."
Hamilton is hitting just .176 with two homers and eight RBIs through the first 17 games with his new club — just slightly better than Pujols was doing a year ago at this time in his first season with the Angels after leaving St. Louis. So Tigers manager Jim Leyland went for the unorthodox strategy of walking a three-time NL MVP and rolling the dice with the 2010 AL MVP.
"You have Coke against a right-hander like Albert Pujols, and a guy behind him who's struggling. It's not very comfortable to do that, to be honest, but I felt it gave us our best chance," Leyland said. "We play these guys again (the last week of June), and next time, Hamilton will probably be on fire and have 30-something home runs. So we won't feel comfortable doing that. But in this particular series, he wasn't. So you take your chances."
Jerome Williams (1-0) got the victory with three innings of two-hit relief.
Angels lefty C.J. Wilson allowed three runs and five hits in six innings, struck out four and walked four. He gave up a two-run homer to Prince Fielder that tied the score 3-all in the fifth after a leadoff walk to Torii Hunter. The left-hander also got out of bases-loaded jams in the first two innings.
"We were trying to work him a little bit and make some pitches, then get him out of there and get to the bullpen. But the their bullpen did a fantastic job," Tigers right fielder Torii Hunter said. "We've been grinding, trying to get runs across the plate, and it's just been tough for us. A 14-inning game and a 13-inning game can really wear you out. But we have no excuses. We have a day off Monday, so we'll kick back, watch some basketball and come back Tuesday ready to go."
The Angels made a bid to regain the lead in the seventh against Tigers starter Doug Fister. But Hamilton lined out to center field with a runner at third, after Mike Trout grounded into a double play and Pujols received his first intentional walk since the three he got on April 3 at Texas.
Los Angeles squandered another chance in the 10th when Joaquin Benoit struck out Howie Kendrick on a full-count pitch in the dirt after a double-steal by Trout and Trumbo, who was intentionally walked with two outs.
"I thought the entire bullpen was terrific, including Cokie," Leyland said. "But we had a tough series. I thought the guys battled today. We pitched well and Prince hit a big home run, but I felt like we had an opportunity that was taken away from us."
Leyland got into a lengthy argument with umpire Gary Darling in the Tigers' ninth, after Darling called Omar Infante out at second base on Austin Jackson's attempted sacrifice bunt to reliever Ernesto Frieri.
The Tigers left the bases loaded in the ninth, the third time in the game they failed to capitalize in that situation. They stranded 13 runners all together, and the Angels left 10 on base.
Hunter, who spent the previous five seasons with the Angels was 3 for 12 with three walks and no RBIs in his first series against his former teammates.
The Angels' first two runs scored on Pujols' double off the glove of third baseman Cabrera. Fister then plunked Hamilton, and Trumbo hit a potential inning-ending double-play grounder to Cabrera. But the relay to first by second baseman Infante was low and bounced off Fielder's glove, allowing Pujols to score.
Fister allowed three runs and six hits in seven innings. The right-hander also hit three batters, two of them during a three-run third that gave the Angels a 3-1 lead. Detroit's pitching staff has hit seven batters through the first 18 games — six by Fister, who plunked seven last season in 161 2-3 innings.
NOTES: Only two pitchers in Tigers history have hit four batters in a game — Frank Lary in 1960 and Earl Whitehill in 1924. ... Peralta was hitless in three at-bats against Wilson, and is 1 for 20 lifetime against him. ... Leyland was planning to start Ramon Santiago at SS on Sunday, but Santiago went to see a doctor after Saturday's game because of dehydration, back issues and stomach problems. ... Fister has pitched 32 1-3 innings since his franchise-record nine consecutive strikeouts against Kansas City last Sept. 27, and has fanned no more than two in a row at any time during that stretch.