C.J. Cron's homer helps Los Angeles Angels beat Tampa Bay Rays

By Bob Keisser, The Sports Xchange  |  July 16, 2017 at 9:25 PM
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ANAHEIM, Calif. - C.J. Cron has spent almost as much time in Salt Lake City as he has Anaheim in 2017.

He was sent down to the Los Angeles Angels' Triple-A affiliate at the end of April after driving in only three runs in 16 starts.

He was recalled in May, got six starts and was sent out again.

He was recalled in June, went 6-for-36 and was handed another boarding pass to the minors.

Now he hopes he's back to stay.

Cron hit a pinch-hit, two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth inning Sunday, the first pinch-hit home run by the Angels in 2017, to give them a 4-3 win to salvage the last game of a series with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Cron hit the first pitch he saw from Rays left-handed reliever Adam Kolarek, a line drive down the right-field line that was caught by a fan in the first row of seats. It was only his fifth at-bat since being recalled July 9.

"It's been awhile since I had an at-bat, so I wanted to be aggressive when I got a chance," Cron, a first-round pick in 2011, said. "It's good to help the team win a game. It makes you feel like you are part of the team."

The win was just the third in nine games for the Angels but their first in the second half of the season at a time when they were in danger of falling five games below .500 for the first time this year.

The right-handed-hitting Cron batted .278 with 16 home runs and 69 RBI last season, but his slow start forced the Angels to consider other options. For now, he's in a platoon with left-handed hitter Luis Valbuena.

"It's tough for any guy, young or old, when you get in maybe two games a week," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He made the most of his opportunity today. We've been looking for any kind of contribution from first base this season."

Cron's home run was the key moment, but the Angels had several on a day with a must-win feel.

Rookie Parker Bridwell, who has also been on the Salt Lake-Anaheim shuttle this season, went 6 1/3 innings, allowing six hits, one of them a two-run homer by Logan Morrison (his 26th). He struck out a career-high eight before leaving the game.

Bridwell has held the opponent to two runs or less in five of his six starts this season and looks like he's locked in a spot in the rotation. "This was the kind of effort I think I can repeat," he said, "keep the hitters off-balance and throw my off-speed and fastballs for strikes."

Albert Pujols had a two-out RBI single, the first hit with a runner in scoring position by an Angel in their last 16 opportunities. They're hitting .099 with runners in scoring position in their last 15 games.

Catcher Martin Maldonado also dropped a successful squeeze bunt that scored the second run.

The Rays scored a run and had the bases loaded in the ninth against closer Bud Norris when shortstop Andrelton Simmons made a nice pickup and relay of a hard-hit grounder by Tim Beckham for a game-ending double play.

Simmons also had three hits.

The loss snapped Tampa Bay's four-game winning streak, but manager Kevin Cash still felt good after winning the series.

"We lost, which stinks, but it happens," he said. "I just liked the way we responded in the ninth. I tip my cap to Simmons on that double play."

Rays starter Chris Archer had an uncharacteristic day, walking three batters in the first two innings and five total in his six innings. It was the most walks he has allowed in a game since Cleveland had six on May 15. He has allowed three walks or less in 17 of his 20 starts this season.

"He didn't have his usual command, obviously, but I thought he did a nice job battling," Cash said. "He made several big pitches when he needed. I can't complain about two runs in six innings."

Tampa Bay's Evan Longoria had three hits to extend his hitting streak to nine. Morrison and Steve Souza Jr. had two each, with Souza extending his hitting streak to 12.

The Rays used three hits in the ninth against closer Bud Norris to trim the margin to a run on a Longoria double and singles by Morrison and Souza. Norris walked Brad Miller to load the bases but induced Beckham to hit into a game-ending double play.

NOTES: Angels RHP Parker Bridwell was recalled from Triple-A Salt Lake City to start. His demotion was a personnel maneuver to work around the All-Star break and he didn't make an appearance with the Bees. ... The Angels designated 2B Danny Espinosa for assignment. Acquired from Washington in an offseason trade, Espinosa hit .162 in 77 games with six home runs, 29 RBIs and 91 strikeouts in 228 at-bats. The Angeles will platoon Nick Franklin and Cliff Pennington at second base. ... Rays C Wilson Ramos sat out his second game after suffering a slight strain in his hamstring in Friday's win over the Angels. ... INF Tim Beckham returned to the starting lineup after being activated from the DL. He was 1-for-4 with two strikeouts and is hitting .205 in his last 10 games.

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