The bullpen will also have to play a crucial role - and it did in the season opener.
After a strong pitching performance earned Los Angeles a win in its first game, C.J. Wilson will try to turn in one of his own in his first career start against the Cincinnati Reds and Mat Latos on Wednesday night.
With the offseason signing of former MVP Josh Hamilton , the Angels have one of the most feared lineups in the majors with reigning AL rookie of the year Mike Trout and three-time NL MVP Albert Pujols . That trio, however, went 1 for 14 with four strikeouts in a 3-1, 13-inning victory Monday.
The Angels were able to win because six relievers allowed one hit in seven scoreless innings, striking out nine, in the first-ever interleague season opener. They followed Jered Weaver , who allowed two hits in his six innings.
Los Angeles tied Boston for the most blown saves in the AL last season with 22.
"We are built on the offensive side, no doubt," Scioscia told the Angels' official website. "But we're not going to get our goal done unless we're able to hold leads, and we did it tonight."
Catcher Chris Iannetta provided all his team's offense with a homer and a two-run single.
Now the Angels go for their fourth straight victory in Cincinnati with Wilson on the hill. The left-hander is looking to bounce back after going 4-5 with a 5.54 ERA in 16 post-All-Star break outings last year, finishing 13-10 with a 3.83 ERA in his debut season with Los Angeles.
"If last year's my down year, in a nine-year cycle, and it's the worst year I have, perspective-wise, I think a lot of pitchers would take those results," Wilson said. "Not me. I'm not happy with that."
He also can't feel good about a 7.11 spring training ERA, though he's posted a 0.00 ERA in 2 1/3 innings of relief against the Reds.
Like the Angels, who struck out 17 times Monday, Cincinnati is looking to get on track at the plate after leaving 10 men on base. Newcomer Shin-Soo Choo had a double and two of the Reds' three hits out of the leadoff spot, but Brandon Phillips , Joey Votto and Jay Bruce had no hits in 14 total at-bats.
"We just have to get better at putting the ball in play," manager Dusty Baker told the Reds' official website.
Left fielder Ryan Ludwick might not be able to help with that for a while after suffering a dislocated right shoulder during a head-first slide into third base. Chris Heisey would be his likely replacement.
Latos begins his second year in Cincinnati after a strong first one, going 14-4 with a 3.48 ERA despite a 1-2 record and 5.97 ERA in April.
Latos is 2-8 with a 5.73 ERA in 13 career starts in that month.
"I don't know what it is for me," he said. "I should have pitched in the (World Baseball Classic this year). I would have gotten my April out of the way."
Latos has never faced the Angels.
Pujols is 2 for 6 with a double against Latos, while Choo has two hits and a homer in 11 at-bats off Wilson.
Los Angeles has taken two of three in the previous two series with Cincinnati.
|Los Angeles Angels|
|March 22, 2013||Andrew Taylor||15-Day DL||Left labrum tear|
|March 22, 2013||Ryan Madson||15-Day DL||Recovery from right elbow surgery|
|April 02, 2013||Ryan Ludwick||Day-to-Day||Torn cartilage in right shoulder|
|April 02, 2013||Ryan Ludwick||15-Day DL||Torn cartilage in right shoulder|
|March 22, 2013||Nick Masset||15-Day DL||Recovery from right shoulder surgery|
CINCINNATI (AP) -- Joey Votto 's first hit of the season wasn't all that pretty, but the timing and placement were perfect.
Votto's hard grounder deflected off the glove of first baseman Albert Pujols and drove in the winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning Wednesday night, sending the Cincinnati Reds to a 5-4 victory over the Los Angeles Angels .
Brandon Phillips hit a three-run homer in his new role as Cincinnati's cleanup hitter, and Votto provided the clincher with his first hit after an 0-for-6 start to the season.
"It's important to get that first win and get the winning going," Votto said.
His game-winning hit left the teams even heading into the finale of the first interleague series to start a season. The Angels won the opener 3-1 in 13 innings.
"I loved the way we played on opening day," Phillips said. "This team never gives up. Everybody picks each other up. We stayed in the game and got it done."
Left-hander Scott Downs (0-1) came on to start the ninth and hit Shin-Soo Choo with his first pitch. After a sacrifice, Votto hit his grounder to Pujols' right. The ball deflected off his glove and rolled into the outfield, allowing Choo to score easily.
"It was a tough play," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Albert's a terrific defensive player. It was hit pretty hard. It just got by him."
Phillips moved into the cleanup spot because of Ryan Ludwick 's injury and hit the Reds' first homer of the season. He connected for a three-run shot against C.J. Wilson in the fourth inning, when Cincinnati sent nine batters to the plate for four runs.
Left-hander Aroldis Chapman (1-0) walked one in the ninth, throwing a 99 mph pitch that hit the backstop screen.
Mat Latos , who took the loss in the deciding Game 5 of Cincinnati's playoff series against San Francisco last season, left with a 4-3 lead in the seventh. He gave up a solo homer by Howie Kendrick , and a two-run shot by Alberto Callaspo on his 100th and final pitch.
The Angels tied it with the help of third baseman Todd Frazier 's error in the eighth, pulling even on Mark Trumbo 's run-scoring groundout.
The Reds had to juggle their lineup for the second game of the season, and it's not going back anytime soon.
Ludwick had surgery on Wednesday to repair torn cartilage in his right shoulder, injured on a slide on opening day. He's expected to miss at least three months.
Phillips moved from second in the batting order into Ludwick's cleanup spot, where he'll stay for the foreseeable future. Reserve outfielder Chris Heisey becomes the everyday left fielder while Ludwick recuperates.
The new lineup had one very good inning.
Heisey walked in the fourth inning, and so did Votto. Phillips, who flied out to the warning track in his first at-bat, then homered for a 3-0 lead. It was a breakthrough for the Reds, who managed only three hits and one run - on a wild pitch - during the opening day loss.
"It wasn't a good pitch at all," Wilson said. "It's not like it was up and in. It was a cutter that cut right into his swing, right into his happy zone."
Jay Bruce followed with a double and scored on Frazier's single.
Latos was on his game at the outset, fanning seven in the first five innings. Once again, the bottom of the Angels' order produced the most.
The Angels' power hitters have failed to connect. Pujols is 0 for 7 with two strikeouts. Josh Hamilton - signed for $125 million in the offseason - is 0 for 8 with three strikeouts. Trumbo has a pair of singles and has fanned four times.
"Those guys are going to hit in the middle," Scioscia said. "We just have to keep constant on the defensive side and we're going to be fine."
The Angels committed five errors in the first two games. They've also struck out 27 times. They fanned 17 times in the opener.
NOTES: It was 49 degrees and breezy at the first pitch. ... The Angels are 5-3 all-time against Cincinnati, including interleague series in 2002 and 2007. ... The Reds called up 25-year-old OF Derrick Robinson to take Ludwick's roster spot. He'll make his major league debut. ... Bruce celebrated his 26th birthday. He went 1 for 4. ... Bronson Arroyo makes his seventh career start against the Angels in the series finale. He's 1-2 against them. L. A. starts Joe Blanton , who is 2-0 career against Cincinnati.
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