Thursday was the kind of night at the ballpark that prompted psychological talk of all kinds. The Angels relished in the discomfort they created for their opponents, the New York Yankees. They cherished their own fortitude to recover from a four-run deficit and win 10-5 at Yankee Stadium. And they considered the implications of their recent play without their star.
How else to explain Cameron Maybin’s baserunning exploits beyond the nervousness his presence engenders? How to explain 26 comebacks among 38 victories? And, above all, how to explain that they have played as well without Mike Trout for nearly four weeks as they did over two months with him?
The Angels thought it would be best to consider matters of the mind — even the “subconscious.” Utilityman Cliff Pennington, who did not make an out in four trips to the plate Thursday, said Trout’s absence had induced better performances from the Angels’ lesser players, knowingly or not.
“It’s never on purpose, but sometimes when you have the best player on the planet, guys kind of look to see: ‘Is he gonna win this for us?’ ” Pennington said. “Now that we don’t have him, the other guys step up. And we needed it. Because, without it, we would have been in trouble.”
The Angels are 38-38. Playoff prognostications still list their odds as long. But, in need of treatment or not, they remain more alive than they have been since September 2015.
They have achieved their status without much effective starting pitching and without Trout, but with a suddenly swelling, balanced offense.
Beginning Thursday’s thorough effort, Maybin homered on the game’s second pitch. But the Angels soon fell behind. Their starter, Jesse Chavez, issued two walks and gave up a run-scoring single in the first inning, and more hits in the second. First, with one out, was a Chris Carter double. Then a Ronald Torreyes soft single off of Chavez’s right hip, and a run-scoring groundout by Brett Gardner. Next, Aaron Hicks rapped a single to right, and runners were on the corners for Aaron Judge.
On a 3-and-2 count, Chavez left a cutter over the middle of the plate. Judge deposited it into Monument Park, 425 feet from the plate, and pushed the Yankees ahead 5-1.
“It was supposed to be a cutter in,” Chavez said. “Well, it cut over.”
The Angels made it two in the third, when Pennington singled, Maybin walked, Albert Pujols blooped a run-scoring single into right field, and Yunel Escobar lined a single to the same location.
Chavez kept it at that margin for two more innings, then gave way to four relievers, who went on to retire 15 of 16 Yankees.
Chavez, the owner of a 3.86 earned-run average at Angel Stadium but a 6.31 mark everywhere else, incurred his own scorn.
“I just have to figure out these road woes,” he said. “They’re killing me. They’re bothering me so much.”
In the sixth, the Angels again halved the Yankees lead. Escobar doubled and Luis Valbuena singled him in. The runs continued in the seventh, aided by a Starlin Castro error on a Maybin grounder that could have been a double play. Maybin soon swiped second base, took third on an errant throw and scored when Pujols singled past a drawn-in infield.
A walk, a wild pitch and an Andrelton Simmons double later, the Angels led by three. They led by five after the eighth, when a wild pickoff attempt on Maybin allowed the Angels to take three extra bases and cued cerebral thoughts.
“I love creating chaos, making those guys frantic, and you could see it tonight,” Maybin said. “When I get on base, guys get worried, get nervous. Guys behind me get good pitches. They make mistakes on the mound, throwing balls away.”
Manager Mike Scioscia was asked how he thought his players had endured. He declined to scrutinize their mentality, instead forcing his focus to Friday’s series opener in Boston.
“I’m not real big on doing introspectives of the team,” Scioscia said.
“The schedule keeps coming. You just keep playing.”