ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Although Max Scherzer did his best to put the Detroit Tigers back on top of the AL Central, their latest chance to pull even with Chicago escaped right along with Alberto Callaspo's game-ending single to left.
Callaspo drove home pinch-runner Peter Bourjos with a two-out single in the ninth inning, and the Los Angeles Angels beat Detroit 3-2 Friday night for their ninth win in 10 games.
Prince Fielder and Alex Avila homered as Detroit (73-64) couldn't cash in on a chance to catch the White Sox (74-63), who lost 7-5 to Kansas City. The Tigers also opened their 10-game trip by losing ground on the Angels and Tampa Bay in the wild-card race, but they couldn't feel too down about narrowly dropping a thriller to the surging Angels, who have won 13 of 16.
"We had an opportunity, and it was a terrific major league baseball game, well played by everybody," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. "We had our shot. That's all you can ask for. ... We've got to go win games, simple as that. You're not going to back into anything."
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 and 10 strikeouts for the Angels. Detroit couldn't do much against four relievers, setting up Callaspo's heroics.
"Scherzer is tough," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He's been tough on us all year, but Ervin matched him pitch for pitch. It took a couple of relievers to do it, too, and in the ninth, we got the big hit."
Kendrys Morales had a triple, a double and a one-out single that started the ninth-inning rally for the Angels, who moved just two games behind Baltimore in 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 diving Detroit shortstop Jhonny Peralta into left field, scoring the speedy Bourjos.
"We're just playing together, trying to do all the little things," Callaspo said. "We'll keep playing together and see what happens in the end."
Torii Hunter and Howie Kendrick drove in first-inning runs for the Angels (75-63), who moved a season-high 12 games over .500. They also closed the gap on the Orioles (77-61) for the second wild-card spot, with Tampa Bay (76-62) in between and Oakland (77-60) just a half-game in front of Baltimore.
Ernesto Frieri (3-0) pitched the ninth for the Angels, striking out Avila to strand speedy pinch-runner Quintin Berry on second.