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Drama works for Angels

Izturis' two-out hit in ninth against Toronto closer caps another rally for a victory, 4-3.

June 02, 2008|Bill Shaikin | Times Staff Writer

When Torii Hunter signed with the Angels, he had a rally monkey perched on his shoulder.

"My new best friend," Hunter said that day.

If he didn't really believe in the power of the rally monkey then, you might figure he's a believer now. The Angels rallied for two runs with two out in the ninth inning Sunday, with Maicer Izturis delivering the game-winning single in a wild 4-3 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays.

The victory concluded a homestand in which the Angels won four games, all in their last at-bat. In this one, Toronto closer B.J. Ryan suffered his first blown save of the season, forcing home the tying run by hitting Howie Kendrick with the bases loaded, and surely Hunter must believe in the monkey now.

"I don't really believe in that," he said. "I just have fun with it."

Ah, but perhaps there is a higher primate power watching over the home team. The Angels have scored four runs or fewer in 12 consecutive games, yet they're 8-4 in that stretch, and they have expanded their lead in the American League West from 1 1/2 games to 3 1/2 .

And now the Angels, with the best road record in the majors, take to the road for six games against their AL West rivals -- three in Seattle, then three in Oakland.

"We're getting it done," Hunter said. "I can't wait to see what we'll do when we hit. It's going to be fun."

The Angels managed three hits in eight innings against Toronto starter A.J. Burnett, but they got two runs in the third inning, when Sean Rodriguez's first major league home run followed an infield single by Brandon Wood.

That left Ryan, who had converted all 12 save opportunities this season, to protect a 3-2 lead in the ninth inning. Vladimir Guerrero singled to start the inning, and Hunter singled Guerrero to third. Casey Kotchman grounded out, with the Jays trapping Guerrero between third and home, and then Toronto walked Mike Napoli intentionally to load the bases.

Juan Rivera batted for Wood and struck out, for the second out. On the next pitch, Ryan hit Kendrick on the left elbow -- a glancing blow, perhaps, but a run batted in just the same.

Ryan was livid, throwing his arms into the air in protest. Toronto Manager John Gibbons argued that the ball had caromed off Kendrick's bat, not his elbow, to no avail.

"I've got proof that it hit me in the elbow," Kendrick said.

As proof, he offered his elbow, pointing to a spot of redness.

"It wasn't like I was trying to get hit, trust me," he said. "Last year, I broke my hand getting hit by a pitch."

On the next pitch, Izturis singled to right field, scoring Kotchman with the winning run. The light-hitting Izturis said he had told himself to stop trying to pull the ball, and Ryan delivered an inside fastball. Izturis, as broadcaster Rex Hudler might say, just got a lousy single to the opposite field.

"It wasn't a hard-hit ball," Izturis said through interpreter Jose Mota, "but I'll take it."

Ryan stormed off the field, shaking his fist at plate umpire Brian Knight. The mild-mannered Izturis raised his fist, then pumped it as he tagged first base.

"If you can't get excited about a victory like this, you shouldn't be playing baseball," Izturis said. "You should be staying home.

"Every player dreams about doing something like that."

--

bill.shaikin@latimes.com

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