ANAHEIM -- Pick your spot to plant the "Caution" sign. The banged-up, hard-knock, rough-luck Angels certainly have had multiple areas where they've had to tread carefully in the early parts this season. But Wednesday night's 5-4, 12-inning win that easily could have gone the other way moved them past what could have been another early-season booby trap.
"Usually, you just say a game is a game," manager Mike Scioscia said. "But there is a different feeling in that clubhouse tonight."
They scratched. They clawed. They scrapped.
And for the first time in these three nights against defending American League West champion Oakland, they won a one-run game.
For the fourth time on this homestand, the Angels' stamina was tested in extra innings.
The come-from behind win was cast when Chris Iannetta powered a home run over a leaping Craig Gentry and over the center-field fence with two out in the 12th off Drew Pomeranz, after Howie Kendrick's ground ball scored Mike Trout to knot the game at 4 in the ninth.
"I knew I hit it really well," Iannetta said. "But Angel Stadium at night, you never know. And Gentry is a really good center fielder.
"He almost jumped out of the gym on that one."
Last time the Angels played four extra-inning games in one homestand? June 1975. Long live Frank Tanana, Nolan Ryan, Leroy Stanton, Dave Chalk -- and the Captain and Tennille.
On this night, after a couple of rough ones in a row, the Angels really could look into their future and envision love (and wins) keeping them together.
"Team building and chemistry building," Iannetta said. "The more moments like this, the more you can define yourself. And the better you're going to be."
What defined this evening for the Angels came following starter Tyler Skaggs' six-inning, four-run outing. A bullpen that had been reeling -- particularly after the meltdown 24 hours earlier in Tuesday's 10-9, 11-inning loss -- roared back to life. One by one after Skaggs' departure, Kevin Jepsen, Fernando Salas, Michael Kohn, Yoslan Herrera and, finally, Joe Smith hung zeros and stranded A's. Oakland left a runner at second in the 10th, 11th and 12th innings.
It was a world of difference from Tuesday, when Smith ignited a four-run Oakland eighth inning.
After that, the Angels didn't exactly plan on bringing Smith back right away, but when Wednesday's game spun toward midnight PT, Scioscia and pitching coach Mike Butcher had to re-write a script they spent much of the day revising.
As Scioscia said of a bullpen that ranked 12th in the American League with a 5.31 ERA entering the evening, he and the coaches "peeled the paint" during a daytime meeting, examining various ways to rearrange some of the bullpen pieces -- particularly those in middle relief.
"What makes me feel good is that these guys wanted the ball, Joe Smith and Ernie [Frieri, closer]," Scioscia said after the game. "You try to stay away from guys [so they're not overworked], but when you call down to the bullpen and the bullpen coach says, 'Those guys want the ball,' it makes you feel good."
Said Smith: "I wanted that thing bad."
Scioscia had joked with the reliever during batting practice that he "would have to wait until the 15th inning" Wednesday night before getting the ball. Who knew then that the Angels and A's would go 12? At any rate, Smith got the ball in the 12th and went to work. He fanned Gentry, hit Jed Lowrie with a pitch, and then obtained two quick ground balls from Josh Donaldson and Yoenis Cespedes.
"I wanted to go back in there," Smith said. "Nobody likes sitting after the worse night of your life."
Stick-to-it-iveness and shoddy Oakland defense, particularly in the eighth inning, put both Smith and the Angels in place for redemption.
With two out in the eighth and the A's leading, 4-3, Oakland reliever Ryan Cook threw a third strike past a swinging Iannetta. But the ball got by catcher Derek Norris -- a passed ball, was the ruling -- and Iannetta wound up at first. Next, Donaldson mishandled Brennan Boesch's ground ball, putting runners at first and third.
Even though Erick Aybar harmlessly ended the inning with a simple bouncer back to the pitcher -- no runs, no hits, one error, the A's held their one-run lead -- the significant damage had been done.
Because of the two extra outs the A's surrendered, that meant both Trout and Albert Pujols would come to the plate in the ninth. Had the A's completed what should have been a 1-2-3 eighth, they very well might have escaped without ever seeing Trout and Pujols again until they next meet on May 30 in Oakland.
Instead, with one out in the ninth, Trout ripped a single against Luke Gregerson to start things, Pujols followed with another hard single and, soon, it was 4-4.
Until then, when Brandon Moss' three-run homer dropped into the right-field seats in the fourth inning to make it 4-1, the Angels were in serious danger of getting swept, which would be nothing new for Scioscia's club against the A's in Anaheim: As it is, even by eking out a win Wednesday, the Angels still have lost 15 of their past 22 to Oakland at Angel Stadium
The homer emphasized another of the Angels' problems this season: Including Moss' blast, the A's now have surrendered 71 runs in their first 15 games. Of those 71, 37 have come with two out.
The flip side: The Angels entered the night leading the Majors with 23 home runs … and Iannetta's game-winning wallop punctuated that strength.
"Great team win," an uncharacteristically animated Scioscia said.
"Awesome," Iannetta said. "Great feeling. It really is."
Now they'll see if they can transport that feeling with them to Detroit for the weekend. That and some more solid relief work could really take them places.
"The bottom line is, we're a game under .500," Scioscia said. "It could be worse. And if we start pitching, I think you're going to see our club take off."
Scott Miller is a contributor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.