In the third inning of Monday night's 6-3 win over the Kansas City Royals, with Angels starter C.J. Wilson teetering on the brink of a second straight meltdown, Peter Bourjos retreated to the warning track, jumped and turned what might have been a Lorenzo Cain three-run home run into a fairly innocuous sacrifice fly.
The next inning, Wilson was again stumbling into some trouble when Jeff Francoeur hit a bullet to the left side of the infield. It nearly knocked Maicer Izturis down, but Izturis threw from his knees to start a difficult double play that helped Wilson get out of the inning.
And those are just the backups.
Both Izturis and Bourjos have played only part-time this season, Izturis because of the presence of Gold Glove shortstop Erick Aybar and Bourjos because of the presence of league batting leader Mike Trout, who, incidentally, made an even more impressive play taking a home run away in Baltimore earlier this season.
The Angels have premium defenders at most positions on the field and, often, all over their bench, which is another reason they are surviving some fraying in their starting rotation. Combined with an offense that has sprung to life -- leading the majors in runs per game over the past two months -- it has helped stabilize the Angels during this difficult stretch of schedule.
"There have been some phenomenal players out there behind everybody on the pitching staff," Wilson said.
The Angels, according to ESPN Stats and Info, rank fifth in the majors in defensive runs saved (DRS) and second in another measure of overall defense called Ultimate Zone Rating, or UZR. Their outfield ranks third in DRS and third in UZR.
"Statistically, there are some things you can point to and say we're just playing average defense, but if you see it every day, you see the range, you see guys that are taking hits away, helping our pitchers shrink the field a little bit," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Our defense is a plus, there's absolutely no doubt about that."
Nor is there any doubt they need it. Had Bourjos not made that catch, for example, Wilson likely wouldn't have been able to pitch into the seventh inning. He might have given the Angels their second ultra-short outing in the past three games. Ervin Santana, who is 4-10 with a 6.00 ERA, couldn't get out of the second inning Saturday. Wilson, in his previous start, gave up seven runs on five walks, and he hasn't picked up a win this month.
General manager Jerry Dipoto is searching high and low for help from starting pitchers, but he has yet to hit the high end of the market. He acquired Barry Enright from the Arizona Diamondbacks Monday, but Enright will report to Triple-A and figures to join the Angels only if they have another crisis. He had a 5.21 ERA with Triple-A Reno.
Good starting pitchers aren't easy to come by via trade, so the Angels might have to make do with who they have this season. It will be easier to pull that off if their teammates keep making virtually all the plays behind them.