ANAHEIM, Calif. - Alberto Callaspo's teammates chased him from first base into left field while fireworks exploded above Angel Stadium, smacking the pinch-hitting hero on his back until he was sore.
"I was hurt," Callaspo said with a grin. "That's OK. I'd take 20 like that."
Callaspo drove home pinch-runner Peter Bourjos with a two-out single in the ninth inning, and the Angels beat the Detroit Tigers 3-2 Friday night for their ninth win in 10 games.
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.
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.
Max S cherzer 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.
Prince Fielder and then Alex Avila homered as Detroit wasted a chance to pull even atop the AL Central with Chicago, which lost 7-5 to Kansas City. The Tigers (73-64) also opened a 10-game trip by losing ground on the Angels and the Rays in the wild-card race.
"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 is unbeaten since July 30, although his five-start winning streak ended. "I was commanding the strike zone, and that's when I usually have success," said Scherzer , who matched his longest start of the season. "Minus the first inning, I pitched pretty well. ... That's a great ballclub over there. They're good hitters, so credit to them for putting together some good at-bats."
Santana stepped in for ace Jered Weaver with another superb start in his late-season surge. Santana has been outstanding over his last eight starts, but still leads the majors with 34 homers allowed after giving up two more to the Tigers.
Scherzer struck out five straight Angels starting in the second inning, and he took the strikeouts lead in the sixth by throwing 99-mph fastball past Pujols, whose 14-game hitting streak ended with an 0-for-4 performance.
Scherzer retired 16 of 17 Angels until Morales' two-out triple off the center-field wall in the sixth, but stranded him by striking out Kendrick.