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Angels top Tigers as offense remains hot
DETROIT -- The Los Angeles Angels had to switch their starting pitcher at a moment's notice. One thing that didn't change was their suddenly revived offense.
Mike Trout drove in three runs, and Erick Aybar delivered a go-ahead, two-run homer, lifting the Los Angeles Angels to a 7-4 victory over the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday at Comerica Park.
Los Angeles has scored 30 runs in the past three games.
"We've been swinging the bats better," Angels catcher Chris Iannetta said. "Earlier in the year, we were not helping ourselves or playing to our capability, and when we did hit it hard, it was right at someone or we'd hit into a double play. Now, we're taking advantage of mistakes."
Detroit couldn't take advantage of the misfortune that befell the Angels just before the game. Scheduled starter Tommy Hanson was a late scratch after he felt tightness throwing a pitch while warming up in the bullpen. That forced Los Angeles manager Mike Scioscia to use six pitchers to get through the night.
Emergency starter Billy Buckner lasted three-plus innings, and five relievers gave up just one unearned run the rest of the way. Dane De La Rosa (2-1) contributed two innings of relief for the victory, and Ernesto Frieri recorded his 18th save.
"For Billy Buckner to have to get down there and get loose in a hurry and for our bullpen to respond the way they did was huge," Scioscia said. "It's a big offense over there, and Billy did the best he could to get us going. Then, the bullpen came in and gave us six strong innings."
Miguel Cabrera hit a solo homer to stretch his hitting streak to 11 games, but the Tigers lost to the Angels for the eighth straight time. Jose Alvarez (1-1) suffered his first major league loss in his third start.
"I've seen different teams manhandle one team, and they're manhandling us right now," said Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter, an ex-Angel. "They're throwing us around like rag dolls. There's just that one team that always has your number."
Aybar provided the big blow, blasting Alvarez's 110th pitch of the game over the left field wall to give Los Angeles a 4-3 edge in the sixth. Iannetta's two-out single preceded Aybar's third homer of the season.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland knew he was taking a risk by leaving Alvarez in after he threw so many pitches.
"We asked a lot of him," Leyland said. "He got the first two quick outs and then, of course, the base hit and the home run. He did a terrific job. It wasn't his fault.
"He was a little spent, there's no question about that. I think Aybar was sitting on a changeup, obviously, and that's what he got and he hit it out. We were hoping to get it down and away from him where he would pull it, maybe hit a ground ball to short."
The Angels tacked on three seventh-inning runs off Drew Smyly for a 7-3 lead. Trout knocked in J.B. Shuck with a bloop double and later scored on Josh Hamilton's groundout. Alberto Callaspo's single scored Mark Trumbo for the final run of the inning.
Prince Fielder scored the Tigers' only run in the last six innings on a passed ball in the eighth.
The Angels are just 35-43, but they're showing signs of getting on a roll, at least offensively.
"If we knew what we were doing differently (against the Tigers), we'd try to do it against everybody," Iannetta said. "We had a tough start to the season, and now we're at the midpoint and we're still not playing to our potential. Hopefully, we'll turn the corner and start getting some wins. Our backs are against the wall in our division, and we need wins and we need them fast."
Detroit (42-34) saw its lead in the American League Central cut to 2 1/2 games over the second-place Cleveland Indians.
NOTES: Angels 2B Howie Kendrick was not in the lineup for the first time this season. Kendrick, who is batting .321 with eight homers and 37 RBIs, fouled a ball off his foot Tuesday. Scioscia also felt it would be a good time to give Kendrick a breather and believes he'll be able to start Thursday. ... Hanson will undergo tests Thursday, and Scioscia said there's a chance he would be placed on the disabled list. .... Cabrera's 77 RBIs entering the game were the most by a Tigers player through 75 games since Vic Wertz had 77 in 1949. ... Angels LHP Jason Vargas underwent surgery Wednesday morning in Orange, Calif., to remove a blood clot in his left armpit. Vargas, 6-4 with a 3.65 ERA, was placed on the 15-day DL on Friday. He will not be allowed to throw for two weeks, and there's no timetable for his return.