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Angels bedevil Boston in 7-5 win

They help national profile with victory at Fenway that includes six runs, six hits in the sixth inning.

July 29, 2008|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

BOSTON -- The Angels used a Number-of-the-Beast-like rally -- six runs and six hits in the sixth inning -- to tame the Beast of the East on Monday night.

Casey Kotchman's two-run home run and Torii Hunter's three-run shot against one of baseball's best pitchers keyed an outburst that shot the Angels past the Boston Red Sox, 7-5, in Fenway Park and should further boost the team's national profile.

The Angels have lost nine straight playoff games to Boston, but they have now won six straight regular-season games against their October nemesis, their longest such streak since winning eight in a row from Aug. 26, 1961, to May 30, 1962.

After hitting .242 and averaging 3.7 runs a game in May and June, the Angels are batting .286 and averaging 6.1 runs a game in July. They have won 10 of 12 games and have the best overall record (65-40) and road record (34-19) in baseball.

And two days before the non-waiver trade deadline, the Angels may have pressed the mute button on that clamoring among fans for a big bat -- after hitting 20 home runs in 26 games in June, the Angels have 30 homers in 22 games in July.

"I don't have to feel redemption," said batting coach Mickey Hatcher, the target of heavy criticism during the team's early-season struggles. "The same guys who are doing well now were banged up or on the disabled list before. Now, they're all back. I didn't do anything different."

Hunter acknowledged that the Angels might feel "that extra energy because it's Red Sox Nation and we're on national television," but otherwise, they're not trying to prove they can hang with the defending World Series champions.

"We're just trying to show people we can play this game," Hunter said. "I still don't think we get the respect we deserve. You're going to learn to respect us one day."

The Red Sox do, especially after the Angels' dismantling of right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka, who entered with an 11-1 record and 2.63 earned-run average and had given up only five home runs in 100 2/3 innings this season before the sixth inning Monday night.

Boston had a 2-1 lead, courtesy of Manny Ramirez's two-run single off starter Jered Weaver (three runs, six hits in 5 2/3 innings for his first Fenway victory) in the fourth, but within a span of 16 pitches, Matsuzaka turned that one-run lead into a four-run deficit.

Chone Figgins led off the sixth with a walk and stole second. Kotchman crushed an 0-and-1 fastball into the right-field bullpen for a two-run homer -- his 12th of the season, a career high -- and a 3-2 lead.

Maicer Izturis doubled to right, Vladimir Guerrero singled to right-center, advancing Izturis to third, and Hunter blasted a three-run homer high above the Green Monster in left-center for a 6-2 lead, giving him three homers and 10 RBIs in his last four games.

Boston Manager Terry Francona pulled Matsuzaka in favor of Justin Masterson, who gave up a single to Garret Anderson and a fielder's-choice grounder to Howie Kendrick. Kendrick took third on Juan Rivera's single to right and scored on Jeff Mathis' suicide squeeze for a 7-2 lead.

"We did a little bit of everything that inning -- a walk, a stolen base, a few home runs, going from first to third, a squeeze," Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said. "I especially liked Kotch moving a guy over with a 390-foot home run."

Reliever Jose Arredondo, in his first Fenway appearance, struck out Jacoby Ellsbury with the bases loaded to end the sixth and got Ramirez, with two on, to bounce into an inning-ending double play in the seventh.

Francisco Rodriguez notched his 44th save despite giving up a solo homer to Ramirez in the ninth.

"They might be the class of the American League right now," Francona said of the Angels. "They have tremendous starting pitching, a very good bullpen, a lot of speed, they catch the ball well. I could name a lot of things."


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