ANAHEIM -- The Angels know that to make a run at playing in October, they have to not only beat the teams in front of them, but even their closest pursuers.
They did just that Friday night, beginning a pivotal seven-game homestand with a 3-2 win in the bottom of the ninth inning on an Alberto Callaspo pinch-hit single to take the series opener against the Tigers at Angel Stadium.
Kendrys Morales got a base hit with one out in the ninth, before a bunt base hit by Erick Aybar put pinch-runner Peter Bourjos on second with two outs. Callaspo, who pinch-hit for Mark Trumbo, then singled home Bourjos for the Angels' fourth walk-off win of the season.
"It feels great and is an amazing win for the team," Callaspo said. "We are just playing together and trying to do the little things and play hard."
The Angels are now two games back of the second American League Wild Card spot, winning four straight games, nine of 10 and 13 of their last 16 for the best record in the Majors since Aug. 21. The win also created separation between themselves and the Tigers, who sit 1 1/2 games back of the Angels. Detroit would've tied Chicago for first in the AL Central with a win.
"It is going to be a grind the whole way," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "You can talk about momentum, but you have to rebuild every night. We need to control the game."
Closer Ernesto Frieri got out of a jam in the top of the ninth when Delmon Young led off the inning with a single and pinch-runner Quintin Berry stole second. However, Frieri (4-0) got the next three batters out to end the threat.
The second out of the frame showcased Morales' glove work at first, digging out an in-between hop that could have scored Berry from second if Morales hadn't scooped up Aybar's throw from shortstop.
"Aybar didn't have a lot on the throw, so I had to really be careful on the hop and make sure my hands were soft," said Morales through a translator.
The Angels' first runs of the game came against Tigers starter Max Scherzer in the first inning, thanks to a double by Mike Trout and and RBI single by Torii Hunter to begin the frame.
Albert Pujols hit into a fielder's choice and then scored after Morales belted a doubled down the left-field line and Howie Kendrick grounded into a fielder's choice to give the Halos a 2-0 lead.
Morales also legged out a two-out triple in the sixth, his first since June 28, 2009, and first at Angel Stadium.
"We're in the AL. You could look around the whole league and make a case for everybody. The Angels are no different," Scherzer said. "Don't get me wrong, that's a great ballclub over there with what they can do with so many facets of the game -- pitching, baserunning and obviously the middle of the lineup. Obviously, they are going to be a contender all the way until the end."
After the Angels plated two runs in the first, right-hander Ervin Santana gave back one of the runs in the second, with Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder crushing a home run to right field to begin the inning.
The same thing happened again in the third, when Alex Avila led off with a blast into the right-field seats, tying the game at 2.
It marked a continuing trend for Santana this season. He leads the AL with 34 home runs allowed.
Santana was able to settle down after that, allowing just two more hits the rest of his outing. Throwing his sixth quality start in his last seven outings, Santana allowed just those two runs on four hits in 6 2/3 innings. He also struck out 10 batters, tying a season high.
"His fastball command as the game went on was very sharp," Scioscia said. "He threw a fastball, breaking ball combo that, when it's on, is as good as anyone in the league. He got into that rhythm tonight and made some great pitches."
Santana took the ball in place of ace Jered Weaver, who missed Friday's start because of tendinitis in his right biceps.
After Santana exited, four Angel relievers tossed 2 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing just two hits, with Frieri picking up the win.
"We kept ourselves in the game on the mound against a good hitting club and Ervin did well," Scioscia said.
"The guys have roles in the bullpen. They are doing a great job and Ervin set the tone pitching so deep into the game."
Quinn Roberts is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.