ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The cleanup hitter in the Los Angeles Angels' lineup came up with the big hit of the game Friday night at Angel Stadium.
Only it wasn't Josh Hamilton, the former MVP who began the night in the No. 4 slot.
Hamilton left the game after the third inning with a sore knee, giving way to Efren Navarro, a minor league lifer who had 12 games of major league experience before this season.
Navarro's two-out RBI single in the sixth inning scored right fielder Kole Calhoun from second base with the go-ahead run as the Angels rallied for a 2-1 win over the Detroit Tigers.
Navarro's thought process when he came to the plate to face Detroit left-hander Drew Smyly, who had already struck out 11 Angels?
"Don't strike out," Navarro deadpanned.
He did fall behind 1-2 in the count but was able to hit the ball just hard enough to go up the middle for a single and drive home the winning run in a pitching-dominated game.
"The previous at-bat I fell behind 1-2 and he made his pitch," Navarro said of his strikeout one inning earlier. "But my second at-bat I told myself to stay up the middle and try to put the ball in play, not strike out, and the result was there. He made his pitch, but I was able to do something with it."
That the Angels were able to push across two runs in the decisive sixth inning was a significant accomplishment the way Smyly had pitched the first five innings.
Smyly retired 15 of the 16 batters he faced through five innings, including 10 by strikeout. The only baserunner he allowed came on second baseman Howie Kendrick's one-out double in the fifth inning.
"His cutter was really working," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "He was getting a lot of swings and misses over the top of the cutter, especially in the first four innings. The ball to Navarro was off the end of the bat, and it just found a place to go."
The Angels finally broke through against Smyly in the sixth inning with back-to-back doubles by catcher Chris Iannetta and Calhoun to tie the score at 1 with one out.
Center fielder Mike Trout followed with what he thought was a walk and headed to first base, but plate umpire Doug Eddings -- the same Eddings who was the plate umpire for Game 2 of the 2005 American League Championship Series between the Angels and White Sox -- called a strike on a 3-1 pitch that appeared low.
Trout struck out on the next pitch, Smyly's career-high 11th of the game. Smyly then walked first baseman Albert Pujols intentionally to get to Navarro.
"Efren's going to put the ball in play," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He has a real good idea of his swing and he's not going to try to overpower a pitch. He understands using the whole field and I think that for the most part he's going to give you a tough at-bat every time. He doesn't have the power of a lot of guys, but he uses the whole field and hits the ball hard. He's just having a great run right now."
Smyly gave up two runs, four hits and one (intentional) walk to go with his 11 strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings.
Angels starter Tyler Skaggs had to work hard, making 104 pitches in his 5 2/3 innings, but gave up only a solo homer to first baseman Miguel Cabrera in the fourth inning. Skaggs, who got a no-decision, gave up the one run, five hits and one walk while striking out five.
"We had five hits and Miggy had a couple of them," Ausmus said. "We couldn't get anything going, couldn't put much pressure on them tonight."
With Skaggs out of the game, the Angels went to their much-improved bullpen, and it came through. Mike Morin (3-3), who picked up the win, got a huge out when he struck out right fielder Torii Hunter with the bases loaded to end the sixth inning.
Right-hander Kevin Jespen struck out the side in the seventh. In the eighth, Joe Smith retired the first two batters before having to face Cabrera, who fouled off two full-count pitches before flying out to right to end the inning.
Huston Street gave up a two-out single to Hunter but closed it out with a strikeout of Nick Castellanos for his second save as an Angel and 26th save overall this season.
"Those guys had tough hitters every inning," Scioscia said of the bullpen. "They did a terrific job against groupings that were tough every inning. That lineup is deep and they don't give you a breather."
NOTES: Tigers LF J.D. Martinez was back in the starting lineup after missing the two previous games with a strained upper quadriceps muscle. ... Tigers RF Torii Hunter went into the game with 22 RBIs in July, most in the majors. ... Including Friday's win, the Angels have 32 comeback victories, most in the majors. Six of them have come when trailing after the seventh inning or later. ... Angels CF Mike Trout's 25.8 WAR through age 22 ranks No. 1 all time, ahead of Ty Cobb (25.5) and Ted Williams (23.6).