ANAHEIM, Calif. – Pinch-hitter Alberto Callaspo drove home pinch-runner Peter Bourjos with a two-out single in the ninth inning, and the Los Angeles Angels beat the Detroit Tigers 3-2 Friday night for their ninth win in 10 games.
Kendrys Morales had a triple, a double and a one-out single that started the ninth-inning rally for the Angels, who have won 13 of 16 overall to surge back into the AL wild-card race.
Erick Aybar beat out a slow two-out grounder against Octavio Dotel (5-3), advancing Bourjos to second. Callaspo then pinch-hit for slumping All-Star Mark Trumbo and drove a rolling grounder past Detroit shortstop Jhonny Peralta into left field, scoring the speedy Bourjos.
Max Scherzer pitched eight dominant innings of five-hit ball while taking over the major league lead with nine more strikeouts for the Tigers, but Ervin Santana matched him with 6 2-3 innings of four-hit ball with 10 strikeouts for the Angels.
Torii Hunter and Howie Kendrick drove in first-inning runs for the Angels (75-63), who moved a season-high 12 games over .500 and closed within two games of Baltimore (77-61) for the second wild-card spot, with Tampa Bay (76-62) in between.
Prince Fielder and Alex Avila homered as Detroit wasted a chance to pull even atop the AL Central with Chicago, which lost 7-5 to Kansas City. The Tigers (73-64) also opened a 10-game trip by losing ground on the Angels and the Rays in the wild-card race.
Ernesto Frieri (3-0) pitched the ninth for the Angels, striking out Avila to strand speedy pinch-runner Quintin Berry on second.
Scherzer was outstanding yet again for the Tigers, allowing just two hits over seven consecutive scoreless innings without a walk after Los Angeles scored twice in the first. He racked up his 10th consecutive start with at least eight strikeouts and retiring the final seven batters he faced, taking over the majors' strikeouts lead with 213 to 209 for teammate Justin Verlander, who faces Los Angeles on Saturday night.
Scherzer is unbeaten since July 30, although his five-start winning streak ended.
But Santana had 10 strikeouts while stepping in for ace Jered Weaver with another superb start in his late-season surge. Santana has been outstanding over his last eight starts, but still leads the majors with 34 homers allowed after giving up two more to the Tigers.
The Angels stuck to their recent theme of early runs against Scherzer. Mike Trout hit a leadoff double and scored on Hunter's single, and Albert Pujols scored moments later on Morales' double and Kendrick's RBI groundout.
Fielder answered in the second inning with his 25th homer into the right-field corner, and Avila evened it with another shot to right in the third. Santana passed the Yankees' Phil Hughes for the major league lead in homers allowed.
Scherzer struck out five straight Angels starting in the second inning, and he took the strikeouts lead in the sixth by throwing 99-mph fastball past Pujols, whose 14-game hitting streak ended with an 0-for-4 performance.
Scherzer retired 16 of 17 Angels until Kendrys Morales' two-out triple off the top of the center-field wall in the sixth, but stranded him by striking out Kendrick.
Santana stepped up on regular rest to take the turn of Weaver, who will miss at least one start to rest his biceps tendinitis. The 16-game winner didn't sound terribly optimistic about his chances for a quick, full-strength return from the injury that has dogged him in recent weeks, contributing to three losses in his past five starts after a 16-1 start to the season.
NOTES: Fielder reached base in his 27th consecutive game with his homer. ... Detroit's Ryan Raburn grounded out to the mound on the first pitch he saw as a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning in his first game back from sprained right thumb. Raburn hadn't played for the Tigers since July 31. ... Trumbo was dropped to seventh in the order by manager Mike Scioscia, and the badly slumping All-Star went 0 for 3 with two strikeouts before getting pulled for Callaspo. ... Morales' triple was his first since June 2009, and just the fourth of his career. The Cuban slugger missed most of the past two seasons with a leg injury.