ANAHEIM -- With one out in the bottom of the ninth, his team trailing by one and holding onto faint postseason hopes by the skin of their teeth, Erick Aybar knew that if he could just get on base, there was a very good chance Mike Trout would come up to bat, and if he did, there was a very good chance he would score.
"When Trout's hitting behind you," Aybar said in Spanish, "you always think he's going to get a hit."
And somehow, when the Angels need it most, Trout always seems to deliver.
Aybar reached first on what could've been a phantom hit by pitch, stole second, watched pinch-hitter Alberto Callaspo draw a walk and then started feeling pretty good as he watched Trout swagger towards the batter's box.
"I just thought, 'Here comes the hit and I'm coming home,'" Aybar recalled.
Then it happened. Trout hit a broken-bat single up the middle off maligned Red Sox reliever Alfredo Aceves, tying the game and putting a runner on third base with less than two outs. Torii Hunter's sacrifice fly then led to a walk-off celebration, giving the Angels a much-needed 6-5 win that helped them recover from back-to-back losses and allowed them to keep pace in the standings.
Had they lost, the Angels would've slipped to 5 1/2 back of the second American League Wild Card spot and a season-high 11 games back in the AL West. Instead, they're one game better, and at this point, any little bit helps.
"It's almost September and it's getting close," said Hunter, whose club also snapped a seven-game home losing streak to the same Red Sox team it swept at Fenway Park last week. "We didn't give up tonight."
"It's big for momentum, especially since we're only going to have three at home," starter Jered Weaver added. "It would be nice to take all three before we go on the road [to Seattle and Oakland]."
Weaver wasn't his dominant self, giving up five runs (four earned) in seven innings against a lineup that was without David Ortiz (disabled list) and Adrian Gonzalez (trade), putting his ERA at 2.85 and keeping his record at 16-3.
But Trout led off the game with a homer against Clay Buchholz, making him the youngest player and first rookie to amass 25 home runs and 40 stolen bases in a single season. Down three in the sixth, Albert Pujols hit his 29th homer after missing the last four games with a right calf injury and Howard Kendrick extended his hitting streak to 14 games with a two-out RBI double.
The Angels then failed on a couple of prime scoring opportunities, and the way August had gone for them -- 9-15 entering Tuesday -- it looked like they were on their way to another loss.
Then Aybar got nicked on his left toe by an Aceves breaking ball.
Or did he?
"Of course. Hit me right here," Aybar said as he pointed to his left little toe while putting on his sandals.
Replays seemed rather inconclusive, but the ball did appear to change direction upon ricocheting back up, indicating that it may have hit a small piece of Aybar's cleats.
"I'm not 100 percent sure it got the guy, but you can't go back and change it now," Red Sox catcher Ryan Lavarnway said. "That kind of started a little bit of momentum that we didn't want to happen."
Two batters later, with Aybar on second and Callaspo on first, Trout took a 94-mph fastball for a first-pitch strike, then fouled off a 93-mph cutter to put the count at 0-2. But falling behind in counts isn't much of an issue for Trout.
"Mike has a pretty compact swing and a unique approach for a young player," manager Mike Scioscia said. "He's not afraid to get into deep counts, and he doesn't change his approach very often."
When Aceves' 95-mph fastball came bearing inside, Trout used that compact swing to get just enough barrel to muscle it into center field for the game-tying hit. Trout leads the AL in batting average (.340), OPS (.995), runs (101), steals (41) and Wins Above Replacement (8.8) -- and he's batting .375 with runners in scoring position.
"I just tried to stay inside the ball and hit the ball up the middle," Trout said, "and it just found a hole."
Hunter kept it simple, too. Two innings earlier, with Trout reaching second after a one-out bloop single and an error, Hunter tried to bunt for a hit and popped out. But in the ninth, Aceves gave him an 0-1 belt-high fastball that Hunter was able to elevate to deep-enough center field, allowing Callaspo to score easily and give the Angels their third walk-off win.
"I just told myself, 'Just try to get a pitch up.' Unfortunately the first pitch was down, and I swung at it and he threw me a nice little cutter," said Hunter. "I just told myself, 'Just get something up and don't do too much, don't swing too hard. Just poke it in the outfield and we'll win this game.' So I just, 'Kept it simple, stupid,' and it worked."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.