After sitting on the bench all night, Howie Kendrick took a very basic approach to pinch-hitting in the ninth inning of a tie game: go after the first fastball over the plate.
The result was the most basic a stat line as Kendrick could have produced for the Los Angeles Angels: one inning played, one at-bat, one pitch seen and one game-winning hit.
”Pinch-hitting is hard, man,” Kendrick said. ”You ask any guy in this room who hits and they’ll tell you it’s hard to come off the bench when you haven’t been playing.”
Kendrick broke a tie in the top of the ninth inning with a two-run single off closer Brandon League, and the Angels rallied from a 4-0 deficit for a 6-4 win over the Seattle Mariners on Friday night.
Trailing 4-3 entering the ninth, and about to see a meager winning streak snapped, the Angels took advantage of a meltdown from League to extend their streak to a season-best four games. There’s no one saying this is a turning point for the Angels so far in a disappointing season, but it could be reflected upon later as an important stretch if Los Angeles can keep its winning ways going.
”Hopefully a couple of months from now we can point back to the things we did right and we can point back on a night like tonight,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. ”It’s a good comeback win.”
Albert Pujols homered for the second straight game, a three-run shot in the sixth inning on a 0-2 pitch from Seattle starter Blake Beavan. His sixth homer of the season accounted for all of the Angels offense until the ninth-inning rally against Seattle’s shaky closer.
Mark Trumbo opened the ninth with a single on the first pitch of the inning from League. Considering League’s recent struggles, giving up a first-pitch hit was an ominous sign. After Trumbo’s single he was replaced by pinch-runner Peter Bourjos, and League was too fine facing Alberto Callaspo and walked him on a 3-2 pitch.
Erick Aybar followed with a bunt, but it came right back to League. With catcher Jesus Montero yelling ”third” League threw to try and get the lead runner, but his throw was wide of Alex Liddi and went bouncing down the left-field line allowing Bourjos to score the tying run and put runners and second and third with no outs. Kole Calhoun was intentionally walked to load the bases and Kendrick laced a liner past League and into center field for the winning runs.
It was League’s third blown save in his last five chances dating to April 30 and all four of League’s losses this season are blown saves. For now, League will remain Seattle’s closer, manager Eric Wedge said.
”The (pitches) are up (and) I’m not getting ground balls. That’s the bottom line,” League said.
Scott Downs pitched the ninth to close out the comeback and earn his fourth save. Downs got help from Calhoun, who made a leaping catch on Brendan Ryan’s liner to open the ninth inning. Downs then got a groundout from Michael Saunders and fly out by Liddi to close out the win. It was just the sixth save of the season for the Angels.
Jason Isringhausen (1-0) got the win pitching one inning of relief for the Angels.
The meltdown by League ruined a strong start from Beavan, who made just one mistake in seven innings. Beavan had allowed one baserunner to reach second before he ran into trouble in the sixth. John Hester led off with a single and Beavan missed on a 3-2 pitch to Maicer Izturis. He quickly got ahead of Pujols 0-2, but instead of throwing out of the strike zone, Beavan left a fastball up and on the outer half of the plate. Pujols’ response was a 410-foot line drive into the seats in center field. It was his third homer in four games and followed his two-run shot in the first inning in Thursday’s series opener.
”At time you need power to come back and Albert provided that and gave us a lift,” Scioscia said. ”He’s starting to come to life.”
Justin Smoak hit a two-run homer, had an RBI single and drove in all four runs for Seattle, but the Mariners missed numerous chances to capitalize on the wildness of Angels starter Ervin Santana early in the game. Santana walked seven, one off his career high.
Notes: Santana had a 2.25 ERA and a 2-2 record in his previous five starts after beginning the year 0-4. … Hall of Fame pitcher and one-time Seattle starter Gaylord Perry threw out the first pitch. Perry won his 300th career game with Seattle in 1982. … Seattle 2B Dustin Ackley was given the game off on the night his bobblehead was being given out as a pregame collectable for fans. ”I’m surprised I haven’t gotten a phone call,” Wedge jokingly said before the game.