Cron's go-ahead HR helps Angels beat Chicago 2-1
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) C.J. Cron, Albert Pujols and rookie Andrew Heaney helped the Los Angeles Angels stop a slide that had put them out of a playoff spot for the first time since July 2.
Cron hit a tiebreaking home run in the seventh inning, Pujols also homered and Heaney pitched six effective innings in the Angels' 2-1 victory over the Chicago White Sox on Monday night.
''We needed this win. There was really no other way around that,'' Cron said. ''The way Heaney threw, we knew we had to win this game - and he kept us in it throughout the whole time.''
The victory was only the second in eight games for the defending AL West champion Angels, who still trail Houston by 3 1/2 games in the division race and Toronto by a half-game for the second wild-card spot.
Cron drove an 0-1 pitch into the right-field seats for his ninth homer with one out against rookie Carlos Rodon (5-5), who allowed just four hits over eight innings and struck out five in the longest of his 17 big league starts.
''I was just trying to put the ball in play, maybe try to find a gap there to get in scoring position,'' Cron said. ''He threw me a first-pitch slider in that I swung through, a little down. Then he came back with the changeup away. I put a good swing on it, and fortunately it went out.''
Fernando Salas (3-1) pitched one inning for the victory. Joe Smith got three outs in the eighth and Huston Street set down the White Sox 1-2-3 in the ninth for his 28th save in 32 attempts, after blowing a save opportunity in Sunday's 10-inning loss to Kansas City.
''I'm not going to pretend as if today didn't mean a little bit more and that I didn't feel a little more sense of responsibility,'' Street said. ''I needed to get it done, especially after last night. I let the team down, and it really frustrated me. So you have to turn the page. That's my job. They pay everybody else to remember, and they pay me to forget.''
Heaney allowed a run and five hits and escaped a bases-loaded jam with his 100th and final pitch. The rookie left-hander lowered his ERA to 2.43 in 10 starts this season, but remained winless in four starts after winning five of his first six.
Heaney, who hit Jose Abreu on the left foot in the third inning, plunked Tyler Saladino with another low pitch in the sixth to load the bases after two-out singles by Trayce Thompson and Alexei Ramirez. But Tyler Flowers was called out on strikes by umpire Ed Hickox on a 3-2 pitch.
''He's an aggressive hitter, so I know he's going to swing at off-speed pitches,'' Heaney said. ''Falling behind 2-0 kind of put me in a hole, so I had to get back in the count with a fastball. I threw a 3-2 changeup that he fouled off, and it looked like he was sitting on it, so I went back to the fastball down in the zone. It was a borderline pitch, but I got the call.''
Pujols opened the scoring with his 32nd home run and 552nd of his career. It made Rodon the 355th pitcher to allow a homer to the three-time NL MVP.
''After the first homer, the responded to it was great and he pitched effectively,'' Chicago manager Robin Ventura said. ''He was really aggressive in the zone with all of his stuff, not just the fastball. He wasn't necessarily relying on his slider as much. He was going after it with his fastball, locating it and making it tough on them.''
Adam Eaton scored the tying run in the third on an error by second baseman Johnny Giavotella, who airmailed his throw to first base on what appeared to be a perfect inning-ending, double-play grounder to shortstop by Melky Cabrera with runners at first and second.
Abreu was hit again in the seventh, this time by Salas with two outs, but the right-hander fanned Cabrera.
Angels: LHP C.J. Wilson, whose season is over due to bone spurs and bone chips in his elbow, is scheduled to undergo surgery on Thursday at the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic in Los Angeles. He expects to be ready for Spring Training, following a recovery period lasting 2-3 months.
White Sox: LHP John Danks (6-9) has given up five earned runs in 19 innings over his last three starts, lowering his ERA from 4.97 to 4.58.
Angels: RHP Garrett Richards (11-9) already has equaled last season's total of hits allowed (124) in 26 2-3 fewer innings, and has given up at least one home run in 11 of his last 16 starts. Last season he yielded just five homers in 26 starts, spanning 168 2-3 innings.