LOS ANGELES (AP) — Kole Calhoun believes the death of Tyler Skaggs presented the Los Angeles Angels with a stark public challenge to go along with their private grief.
Skaggs’ hurting teammates had to decide whether they would get worn down by the baseball schedule’s daily grind, or whether they would channel an element of their raw emotions into their play.
After their 12th win in 18 games since Skaggs’ death, the Angels’ choice is clear — and not even their powerhouse local rivals could slow them down.
Calhoun had a homer and two doubles while driving in two runs in his second straight big game at Dodger Stadium, and the Angels swept the Freeway Series for the first time in franchise history with a 3-2 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday night.
The Angels (54-49) moved five games above .500 for the first time all season with their fourth straight victory. They’re making a midseason push toward the playoff race, and Calhoun sees Skaggs’ imprint on this surge.
“It’s something that definitely shook us big-time,” Calhoun said. “You could go one of two directions, and I think everybody chose to really pull together and be there for one another, and that’s shown on the field. We’re playing good ball right now, and we’re pulling for each other. That’s what we decided to do as a ballclub.”
Mike Trout drove in a run and scored another in the fourth straight victory overall for the Angels, who took two from Dodgers in Anaheim last month and two more in Chavez Ravine to earn their first sweep of this local derby since interleague play began in 1997.
“Baseball is a strange sport, but at the very least it shows that we can compete with the best team in baseball,” Angels manager Brad Ausmus said. “We have some work to do, some ground to make up, but it’s nice to be able to take these two games.”
Justin Turner homered for the Dodgers, who couldn’t overcome the Angels’ sturdy defense and resilient pitching to back Calhoun’s brilliance.
One day after Calhoun threw out star Cody Bellinger at the plate to end the Angels’ 5-4 win, the Angels slugger kept up his torrid streak at the plate and his career-long excellence at Dodger Stadium, where he is a career .375 hitter with six homers.
Calhoun got extra-base hits in his final three at-bats Tuesday, and he got two more in his first two plate appearances Wednesday. His double to right drove in Trout from first base in the first inning, and he homered into the right field bleachers in the fourth. Calhoun added yet another double in the ninth.
The Dodgers’ frustration culminated in the eighth-inning ejection of Bellinger, who argued about two called strikes by home plate umpire Dan Iassogna.
“I just was telling him how far that it was off the plate,” said Bellinger, the NL’s wins above replacement leader. “I mean, it’s going to happen. He had a bad night, it’s going to happen. But bottom of the eighth inning, one-run game, you got to lock it in. So just frustration that boiled over.”
The Angels’ bullpen and defense preserved a one-run lead in the final three innings, turning gritty double plays to end the seventh and eighth. Hansel Robles pitched a perfect ninth for his 16th save, enduring much less drama than in the series opener.
Ross Stripling (4-4) pitched five innings of three-hit ball for the Dodgers, giving up two runs before leaving with a stiff neck. The right-hander said he woke up with neck pain, but loosened it up enough to pitch effectively.
“Basically I had to keep my neck still and finish (the pitching motion),” Stripling said. “You could see my last inning especially, I was throwing 87-, 88-mile heaters out there, which aren’t really going to get it done in the big leagues.”
Jaime Barria (4-3) yielded three hits and two walks over five innings for the Angels, bouncing back impressively from a miserable start against Seattle last week.
Dodgers second baseman Enrique Hernandez left the game with left hand soreness shortly after he appeared to get hurt while swinging in the fourth inning. Hernandez popped out shortly after the problematic swing, and Matt Beaty replaced him in the fifth.
Dodgers: Reliever Dylan Floro threw a simulated game. He is on the injured list with a sore neck, but hopes to return Monday.
Dodgers: After a travel day, All-Star Game starter Hyun-Jin Ryu (11-2, 1.76 ERA) takes the mound in Washington on Friday.
Angels: Rookie Jose Suarez (2-1, 5.51 ERA) is expected to return from Triple-A Salt Lake to take the ball at Angel Stadium in a four-game series opener against woeful Baltimore.
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