PHILADELPHIA -- Their injury list is exhaustive, and their superstar hitters are searching, but the Angels continue to hold their heads above water with players from a much-maligned farm system.
Tuesday -- a 4-3 victory over the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park -- was just the latest example.
The afternoon belonged to Mike Trout, the South New Jersey native who had more than 8,000 people from in and around his hometown on hand to cheer him. But the night belonged to Matt Shoemaker, who held the Phillies to two runs in five innings, and Luis Jimenez, who hit a crucial two-run double and made an equally important double play in a game-changing sixth inning.
Trout (1-for-5 with a strikeout) and Albert Pujols (0-for-5 with a strikeout) are a combined 5-for-44 on this road trip, but the Angels won three of four in Toronto and took the first game in a set of two in Philadelphia. Josh Hamilton, Kole Calhoun, David Freese, Ian Stewart, Dane De La Rosa and Sean Burnett are all on the disabled list, but the Angels (20-18) are two games above .500 and have made a six-game improvement from where they were at this point last year.
It has been up to players like C.J. Cron, Grant Green, Efren Navarro and Jimenez to go from Triple-A regulars to quasi-everyday players in the Major Leagues and fill out a lineup card.
"You don't know what to expect from them," Trout said. "They're going out there and playing free."
But, more than anything else, the Angels have benefitted from strong starting pitching.
"We went in and faced a Toronto Blue Jays club that was killing the ball for a week, and for the first three games we held them down and won those games," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of a staff that now sports a 3.73 ERA. "You aren't going to get Mike and Albert to kill the ball every night. You aren't going to score five, six, seven runs every night. What we need is to control the defensive side, and we did that tonight."
They did it with Shoemaker, who earned his first big league win after being called up from Triple-A to take the rotation spot of a struggling Hector Santiago.
"I'm still on Cloud Nine," Shoemaker said postgame, adding that he was hoping to make this an extended stay.
"Of course," he added. "I don't know how else to say it other than of course. Grab hold of it and run with it."
Shoemaker left with a 2-0 deficit after the bottom of the fifth, despite having only thrown 57 pitches, then watched Jimenez -- Shoemaker's Triple-A teammate just three days ago -- take over in the next frame.
With two outs in the top of the sixth, and two on after Green's sacrifice fly tied it up, Jimenez smoked a double down the left-field line against Cliff Lee to plate two runs and give the Angels their first lead. With two on and one out in the bottom of the inning, Jimenez dived full extension to his left to snare a hard line drive off the bat of Marlon Byrd, then tagged out Chase Utley to complete an inning-ending double play.
This is Jimenez's second stint with the Angels this month. He was called up on May 3, then sent back down on May 5 before being called back up on Monday, when a hit by pitch sent Stewart to the DL and left the Angels without a true third baseman.
"You always want to come through, because this is the big leagues, not the Minor Leagues," Jimenez said. "But I've been talking with the guys -- Pujols, [Erick] Aybar, [Raul] Ibanez -- about just coming with the same mentality that you come with in the Minor Leagues. Swing the bat and be who I am. Don't try to do too much. Just play the game I know how to play."
Lee lasted seven innings and gave up four runs, but none of them were earned because 23-year-old third baseman Cody Asche made three errors -- accounting for the Phillies' entire total and extending what ended up being a four-run sixth inning.
"The kid had a tough night at third base," said Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg, whose team has lost six of its past eight games. "Those kind of games can happen. There's still work to be done; just keep working on it."
Asche had Pujols' grounder sneak under his legs with one out in the sixth, then made a one-hop throw home after fielding Chris Iannetta's chopper, allowing Collin Cowgill to slide in safely with the Angels' first run.
After the Angels took the lead, Michael Kohn got help from Jimenez to pitch a scoreless sixth, Fernando Salas worked around a leadoff triple by Domonic Brown to give up just one run in the seventh, Joe Smith pitched a 1-2-3 eighth inning against the Nos. 2, 3 and 4 Phillies hitters and Ernesto Frieri picked up the save in the ninth, striking out Byrd, walking Brown and getting Carlos Ruiz to ground into a 4-6-3 double play.
Scioscia continues to mix and match with his lineup, and he will continue to do the same in the ninth.
"We're trying to match up," he said. "You never know where that lineup is going to find you. As the seventh inning was over we felt real good with Joe and his sinker against those bigger bats and Ernie finishing the game."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read 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.