ANAHEIM -- Considering how well Felix Hernandez had been pitching, how poorly Ervin Santana's season has gone and how badly things had unfolded for the Angels lately, Friday's five-run deficit to the Mariners almost seemed insurmountable, even with 21 outs still remaining.
But if there's one thing the Angels have learned this year, it's this: With Mike Trout, all things are possible.
In the opener of a critical 10-game homestand -- and on the heels of a gut-wrenching 10-game road trip -- the uber-talented 21-year-old came through when his team needed him most, driving in five runs to bring them all the way back and help set the stage for a walk-off 6-5 victory at Angel Stadium.
Trout hit a three-run shot off Hernandez in the third, representing the second homer the Mariners' ace had given up since June 1, then somehow drove in two runs on a sacrifice fly in the fifth.
Around him, everything else arranged itself.
Santana bounced back from a two-homer, five-run frame by retiring 11 of his final 14 batters. The bullpen, which posted a 10.54 ERA in a just-completed 4-6 road trip, blanked the Mariners in the final 2 2/3 frames. Peter Bourjos plated the winning run, scoring on a wild pitch with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the ninth. And the Angels gained ground on the two teams that sit above them in the American League West, moving a half-game back of the A's and six behind the first-place Rangers.
The five-run comeback matched the largest of the year -- and it came at a good time.
"Good team win," is what Trout called it, even though he had all of the Angels' RBIs. "We've been on the wrong side lately, and to be on the right side tonight was awesome. This is a big homestand for us. We just have to take it one game at a time and go out there and play."
Trout tied his career high for RBIs in a game -- also achieved on Aug. 30 of last year, against these same Mariners -- while putting his American League-leading batting average at .345 and lifting his homer total to 21, matching his age.
One half-inning after the Mariners used Dustin Ackley and John Jaso homers to build a 5-0 lead, Trout came up with runners on the corners and one out, worked a full count and lined a hanging, 90-mph changeup just over the wall in right-center field, giving him his fifth homer in his last 11 contests.
"Felix's got great stuff," Trout said of a guy who had posted a 1.41 ERA over his previous 10 starts. "I just had a great at-bat against him. I was seeing his pitches good, 3-2, I just tried to stay short."
"My changeup against righties was terrible today," added Hernandez, whose Mariners have lost five straight. "I only threw about five or six. One was the one he hit out of the ballpark."
The Angels then tied it in the fifth, when Trout collected two RBIs on a sacrifice fly.
With the bases loaded and none out, Trout lofted a fly ball near the right-field foul pole that Eric Thames caught. Howie Kendrick scored easy, and eventually so did shortstop Erick Aybar. The Angels' heady shortstop took a wide turn at third base after tagging up at second, then was waved in by third-base coach Dino Ebel after he saw the throw going toward second base, allowing Aybar to score easily once it sailed past cutoff man Dustin Ackley.
"The timing was right," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "[Ebel] thought that there was going to be a chance to score and he waved him home."
Santana finished giving up five runs (four earned) in 6 1/3 innings, putting his ERA at 5.82 and his Major League-leading home-run total at 28. But, as catcher Chris Iannetta noted, "The scoreboard is not indicative of how well he pitched." Santana filled up the strike zone early -- requiring only 21 pitches to get through the first two frames -- and would've been out of the third with only two runs if not for two misplays by Kendrick. Santana finished strong thereafter.
He's still not pitching great, but Santana has looked better, more composed, in the three starts since being given a 15-out limit on July 30.
The biggest difference?
"I think the difference is throwing strikes," Iannetta said. "Any time you throw strikes and command the zone is when you're going to have success. It doesn't matter how good your stuff is."
After Santana's exit, Hisanori Takahashi (final two outs in the seventh), Kevin Jepsen (scoreless eighth) and Ernesto Frieri (three strikeouts in the ninth) kept the score tied heading into the bottom of the ninth, setting the stage for the Angels' second walk-off win of the year.
Against righty Josh Kinney, Kendrys Morales began the bottom of the ninth with his second double of the night, then made way for Bourjos to pinch-run. After an intentional walk to the switch-hitting Alberto Callaspo, Kendrick dropped a sacrifice bunt that put runners on second and third with one out for Aybar, who was intentionally walked to load the bases, bringing up pinch-hitter Maicer Izturis.
Kinney's 1-2 fastball sailed way wide, ricocheting off the glove of Jaso and allowing Bourjos to slide in safely.
"I was looking for [a wild pitch] the whole time, especially after he had thrown some breaking balls in the dirt," Bourjos said. "Jaso blocked the ball pretty well; I was looking for a ball to kick off, get past him."
And even if it hadn't, Trout was waiting on deck.
"Mike Trout's special, we all know that," outfielder Torii Hunter said. "But he really proved it today."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com Read his columns and his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.