Halos storm back from early hole to top Dodgers
The way Torii Hunter crashed into the fence catching Matt Kemp's flyball in the fourth inning, it didn't look like he would stay in the game.
Not only did he keep playing, he made another good defensive play two innings later and also drove in three runs to help the Angels beat the Dodgers 10-7 on Sunday in the rubber game of the Freeway Series.
"It's just fun to watch him play," teammate Robb Quinlan said. "I mean, we're getting to the point now where we're assuming that he's going to catch everything because he's done such a great job out there."
The eight-time Gold Glove winner, who has played in 202 consecutive games without making an error, had the wind knocked out of him and spent several anxious moments flat on his back in the warning track while trainers Ned Bergert and Rick Smith ran to his aid along with manager Mike Scioscia.
"When we got out there, he still hadn't caught his breath," Scioscia said. "Once he did, he said: 'I'm playing.' Ned and Smitty checked him out, and I don't think he was going to come out of the game at that time unless they tied him up and put him on a stretcher."
Hunter helped the Halos recover from a 4-0 deficit with an RBI single that triggered a three-run sixth. Juan Rivera followed that hit with a run-scoring single and Kendry Morales added a sacrifice fly to put the Angels ahead 5-4.
"See how many gold gloves he has? He's been doing it to people forever," Kemp said. "He told me he was gonna do that, too. He said: 'Don't hit it to me.' That's my boy."
When Hunter returned to the dugout after his great grab, starting pitcher Matt Palmer stopped him and told him how much his efforts were appreciated.
"I asked him if he was OK and then I said to him: 'You know what? You're an amazing guy. Not all Gold Glovers can do that kind of stuff.' He's one of the best players in baseball," Palmer said. "I thought he was a great player before I knew him. Then once I started to get to know him and his personality, I told him he was by far my favorite player."
Hunter, who leads the Angels with 37 RBIs and 10 home runs, extended the margin to 7-4 with a bases-loaded two-run single in the seventh. But the two-time All-Star left the game in the bottom of the inning because of tightness in his right leg, and was replaced by Reggie Willits. Gary Matthews Jr. played the final two innings in center.
"Under different circumstances, Torii probably could have finished the game. But we're not going to stretch him at this point," Scioscia said. "Every day, this guy just seems to do something better than the day before. I'm sure tomorrow it's going to be sore, so we'll just evaluate him and see how he is."
Rookie Jason Bulger (2-1) earned the victory, retiring all four batters he faced after relieving Palmer with two outs in the fifth inning. Palmer gave up four runs and five hits after winning his first five starts. The Angels' 30-year-old rookie was only the third player in Angels history to win his first five starts with the team, along with Bo Belinsky (1962) and Jered Weaver, who won his first seven starts in 2006.
Chad Billingsley (6-2) gave up five runs and nine hits in six innings after being staked to a 4-0 lead in the fourth on James Loney's RBI double and a three-run homer by rookie Jamie Hoffman, who was making his first big league start in right field.
Hoffman ended up with four RBIs. He filled in for Andre Ethier, who had a cracked nail on his big toe after getting hit by a pitch from John Lackey on Saturday night. The Dodgers' 24-year-old prospect made the jump from Double-A to Triple-A on May 13, and was promoted to the big club on Friday when rookie Xavier Paul went on the disabled list with a staph infection in his left leg.
"It was real exciting. It still hasn't hit home, really," said Hoffman, a former hockey player who was drafted in 2003 by the NHL's Carolina Hurricanes and signed with the Dodgers instead. "The last month has been pretty hectic. I'm just glad to have some success."
Ethier pinch-hit in the seventh and struck out looking. ... Dodgers 2B Orlando Hudson was shaken up briefly in the seventh when he caught Morales' popup in shallow RF and Hoffman collided with him. ... Hudson extended his career-best hitting streak to 14 games.