KANSAS CITY -- Back at the site of this season's Home Run Derby, Mark Trumbo added one more blast.
Home runs off Trumbo's bat have become more and more rare as the season has progressed, but he crushed one in the second inning on Sunday, and it proved the key swing in the Angels' 4-3 victory over the Royals at Kauffman Stadium.
Despite the win, the Angels remained 2 1/2 games behind the Orioles in the Wild Card race due to Baltimore's 9-5 win at Oakland.
Trumbo hit 14 home runs in the Derby, held July 9 at the home of the Royals, and Friday he was telling teammates that his favorite of that night was a line-drive shot to center field.
It was a foreshadowing conversation.
With the Angels ahead 1-0 in the top of the second, Trumbo stepped to the plate following back-to-back singles by Vernon Wells and Alberto Callaspo. He smoked a 1-1 offering from Royals starter Will Smith 414 feet to center field, a line-drive, three-run homer.
The home run was the first for Trumbo since Aug. 21, and just his fourth since July 21. But it was his 31st blast of the season, moving him out of a tie with Albert Pujols and into sole possession for the Angels' team lead.
"It's an obviously important hit in that stage of the game, and probably just as important for Mark as important for our team," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He felt good to contribute. He's been getting some hits. He's got some RBIs, but nothing like he was doing the first half. Hopefully, he can start to drive the ball like he's capable."
"It's been a tough go for a long time now," Trumbo said. "I'm not expecting one at-bat to get me out of anything. It's part of the grind, just trying to contribute where I can. Things have obviously changed. I'm going to do everything I can when I do get an opportunity to get in there."
Trumbo's shot momentarily gave Angels starter Dan Haren a four-run lead, but the right-hander gave up a run each in the second, third and fourth innings -- only two were earned -- and yielded a one-run advantage to the bullpen after 5 2/3 innings.
The relief corps took over and did a remarkable job, as five pitchers held the Royals scoreless over the game's final 3 1/3 innings. Three relievers faced just one hitter each, as Scioscia played the matchups on Sunday.
"It's kind of been like that for the last week or so," said Kevin Jepsen, who pitched a scoreless ninth to earn his second save of the year. "At this point, we're just trying to stay out of big innings. We have plenty of arms down there, and it kind of keeps everybody fresh by having to throw full innings or come in and split innings between guys. Now we have three lefties down there. With [Scott Downs] and [Nick] Maronde throwing the way he's throwing, it allows innings to kind of be chopped up between all of us. That obviously helps."
It was a drastic change for the Angels, who used just one reliever in Saturday's game. Ernesto Frieri threw four pitches and gave up a pair of home runs to lose that contest.
"You have to keep putting guys in a position where they're going to help you win games," Scioscia said. "Last night was obviously a heavy page to turn, but the guys came back today. In the situational look with the bullpen, you saw everyone come in and do the job. We got a lead and we held on."
Haren ended up grabbing the victory, his 11th of the season. He is now 3-1 in his past five starts with a 2.35 ERA. He's allowed three runs or fewer in each of those outings.
He admitted that he made a couple mistakes. The Royals scored on a Jeff Francoeur RBI groundout in the second, a Tony Abreu solo home run in the third and an Erick Aybar throwing error in the fourth.
The Royals made a late threat in the ninth. Mike Moustakas singled off Jepsen -- the only hit allowed by an Angels reliever on Sunday -- to put the tying run on base and was replaced by pinch-runner Jarrod Dyson. The Angels pitched out on the first pitch to try and nab a stealing Dyson, who seemed to beat the throw, but he was called out when he overslid the bag.
"I guess that happens when you're so fast that it's hard to actually stop," Jepsen said. "I made a good throw home, Bobby came up quick, made a good throw. I turned around and he's already at second base. It surprised me how quick he actually was. He's out. It helps. Got out of here with a win."
"You put Dyson in those situations, he can steal a base if you pitch out or don't pitch out," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "The problem is, it takes him 20 feet to stop sliding he's so fast."
The Angels now move on to a nine-game homestand that kicks off on Tuesday with a series against the American League West-leading Rangers.
"Not that we're not trying to catch Texas, but I think for us, rather than scoreboard watch or do anything, our games are so important," Haren said. "When we win, that's a good thing. When we lose -- last night was tough. We just can't lose that many games. So every game is just so magnified right now. Obviously playing Texas is going to be tough. We're going to have to come out and play really well.
"If we make the playoffs, we deserve it. If we don't, we don't deserve it."
Vinnie Duber is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.