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A little extra in reserve

Molina and Aybar take advantage of rare starts to lead the Angels to a 4-3 victory over the Pirates in 10 innings. They have won nine consecutive series.

June 25, 2007|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

A rare blown save by Francisco Rodriguez seemed to only delay the inevitable Sunday for the Angels, who logged an inning of overtime because of their closer's slip but still punched out with a 4-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates in Angel Stadium.

Howie Kendrick doubled with one out in the 10th inning, and reserve shortstop Erick Aybar stroked a two-out, run-scoring single to deep right field to give the Angels (49-27) their third walk-off win in six games, two of them in extra innings over the Pirates, who were swept in the three-game series.

Bartolo Colon, buoyed by an 8 a.m. wake-up call from Boston Red Sox slugger Manny Ramirez, rebounded from a horrid five-start stretch to pitch six strong innings, giving up two runs and seven hits, to help the Angels improve to 32-11 since May 9 and 15-6 this month.

Reserve catcher Jose Molina, making his second start in eight games, hit a two-run single in the fourth, Aybar, making his second start in 10 games, provided the game-winning hit, and long reliever Chris Bootcheck threw a scoreless 10th inning for the victory, as the Angels won their ninth series in a row, tying a club record.

"That's a big part of being a team -- whether you're a spot starter or not, you come in and get the job done," said Kendrick, who had two doubles and two runs Sunday.

"Everybody's been contributing to wins lately, and we're confident in everybody."

That's why there was no sense of panic when Rodriguez, one out away from his 23rd save, walked Adam LaRoche, threw two wild pitches that allowed pinch-runner Rajai Davis to take third, and gave up Xavier Nady's run-scoring single that tied the score, 3-3.

It was the Angels' first blown save since May 6, Rodriguez's first blown save since April 24 and his second blown save of the season. In jeopardy was the Angels' streak of winning 117 consecutive games when leading after eight innings, the longest current streak in the major leagues.

"It's a crazy game," Kendrick said. "Frankie has been lights out all year. He left a breaking ball over the plate, and the guy put a good swing on it. But we're a team.

"Regardless of the blown save, we have to keep our noses down and work hard."

Colon, who was 1-3 with a 9.79 earned-run average in his previous five starts, in which he was rocked for 29 earned runs and 46 hits, including 11 home runs, in 26 2/3 innings, took a similar approach in the days leading up to Sunday's game.

He studied the tape of his 2002 opening-day win over the Angels, when he threw a five-hit shutout for Cleveland, and compared it with his last two starts, when he gave up 11 runs and 18 hits. He worked with pitching coach Mike Butcher to iron out some flaws in his delivery.

Adding a finishing touch was the surprise call from Ramirez, a longtime friend who gave Colon a 15-minute pep talk.

"I was very thankful to Manny," Colon said through an interpreter. "He's such a confident hitter that I think he rubbed some of that on me today."

After Molina doubled his 2007 RBI total by following Robb Quinlan's single and Kendrick's double with a two-run single to center in the fourth, Colon minimized damage after the Pirates loaded the bases with none out in the fifth.

Colon struck out No. 3 hitter Jason Bay looking at a 91-mph fastball, and after walking LaRoche to force in a run, he fielded Nady's comebacker and started a home-to-first double play.

Chone Figgins walked, stole second, took third on Orlando Cabrera's groundout and scored on Vladimir Guerrero's sacrifice fly to make it 3-1 in the bottom of the fifth, and Pittsburgh pulled to within 3-2 in the sixth on Jack Wilson's run-scoring single.

But Colon caught Chris Duffy looking to end the sixth inning, his sixth strikeout.

Reliever Scot Shields struck out Josh Phelps with two out and the bases loaded in the seventh to preserve a one-run lead that was eventually lost in the ninth and found in the 10th.

"It was one of Frankie's rare blown saves," Manager Mike Scioscia said, "but we got the win, and that will give us some momentum."

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