Angels improve bullpen before beating Mariners, 3-2, in 16 innings

Angels pinch-hitter Efren Navarro delivers game-winning RBI single against Mariners in 16th inning

It would be a stretch to say that Friday night’s acquisition of closer Huston Street in a six-player trade with the San Diego Padres filled a critical need for the Angels.

Not after eight relievers combined to throw 10 scoreless innings in a 3-2, 16-inning win over the Seattle Mariners in Angel Stadium, a 5-hour and 14-minute marathon that ended with Efren Navarro’s pinch-hit, walk-off, run-scoring single to center field that brought home Mike Trout, who had doubled with one out in the 16th.

A vastly improved bullpen, led by closer Joe Smith and setup man Kevin Jepsen, has been a key component of the Angels winning 20 of their last 24 games, combining for a 2.37 earned-run average and converting 10 of its last 12 save opportunities.

But in Street, the Angels were able to acquire a 30-year-old right-hander who has been one of the most reliable closers in baseball over the last few years, a pitcher who is 1-0 with a 1.09 ERA in 33 games and has converted 24 of 25 save opportunities this season.

And that was impossible to resist for a club whose bullpen has been wobbly for the last two-plus seasons, in large part because of its lack of a lock-down closer.

“Today, it wasn’t necessarily a need,” General Manager Jerry Dipoto said late Friday night. “It’s nice to say that about our bullpen, because it’s not very often over last two or three years that we could say that about our bullpen confidently.

“Today, we can say that. Huston brings us a quality ninth-inning presence that really enhances our team. I don’t want to call him a luxury. He’s a quality major league player who makes our team better, but it wasn’t necessarily that we were starving in that area. We just wanted to get better.”

The Angels included three of their top prospects in the deal: triple-A second baseman Taylor Lindsey, hard-throwing double-A reliever R.J. Alvarez and Class-A shortstop Jose Rondon.

But the fact that Street is under club control through 2015 and makes a reasonable salary of $7 million a year, and that the Angels got back a quality double-A closer in 21-year-old right-hander Trevor Gott from the Padres, made the deal more palatable.

“Were it not for the fact we had the ability to control Huston for a year and two months, it would have been far more difficult to justify giving up the type of package we gave up to get him,” Dipoto said.

“Huston is 30, he’s been one of the more consistent closers in baseball for a long time, and we feel very strongly about his character and what he brings to the clubhouse. We’re not about anything but winning and doing your job, and Huston will align with that and put games away.”

To make room for Street on the 40-man roster, the Angels designated utility infielder Ian Stewart, who was at triple-A Salt Lake, for assignment. They will have to send a reliever back to the minor leagues to clear a spot on the 25-man roster on Saturday.

All-Star shortstop Erick Aybar is expected to sit out Saturday night’s game after being pulled from Friday night’s game in the ninth inning because of a sore right groin, an injury he sustained making a play in the field and aggravated coming out of the batter’s box on a ninth-inning single.

“It doesn’t look bad right now,” Manager Mike Scioscia said, “but we’ll hold him out tomorrow, see exactly where he is and get him back in there when he’s ready.”

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