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ANGELS 6, MINNESOTA 5 (10)

Angels are the rally kings

July 24, 2009|BEN BOLCH | ON THE ANGELS

It was a comeback that had an air of inevitability to it, the way the Angels kept pressuring the Minnesota Twins inning after inning.

Two men on with two out in the third.

Bases loaded and two out in the fourth.

Bases loaded and nobody out in the fifth.

The Angels put the potential tying run on base in the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth innings Thursday night at Angel Stadium before finally coming through with a pair of runs in the ninth off closer Joe Nathan to send the game into extra innings.

Mike Napoli completed the rally in the 10th inning, hitting a two-out double to right-center field off Jesse Crain to score Chone Figgins from second base and give the Angels a 6-5 victory.

Napoli raised his right arm in triumph after rounding first base and was mobbed by teammates in the infield after rounding second.

"It's pretty fun," Napoli said of the celebration following the Angels' sixth consecutive victory, which gave them a season-high 3 1/2 -game lead in the American League West.

"The adrenaline's going and your teammates are out there screaming, practically beating me up. It was nice."

It was the Angels' major-league-leading 31st comeback victory of the season, and one of their most improbable.

They entered the bottom of the ninth trailing 5-3 and facing Nathan, one of the toughest closers in baseball, with a lineup still missing sluggers Vladimir Guerrero, Torii Hunter and Juan Rivera because of assorted injuries.

"To do it to someone like him," Napoli said of Nathan, "it's unbelievable."

Bobby Abreu drew a leadoff walk on a full count and went to second when Nathan hit Napoli with a pitch with one out.

With two out and the fans standing, Gary Matthews Jr. blooped a full-count single to center to pull the Angels to within a run.

Howie Kendrick then hit a grounder off Nathan's glove that also caromed off second base before bouncing away from shortstop Nick Punto, allowing Napoli to score the tying run.

"We caught a break with the ball hitting the bag," Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said. "It was a game of inches and it fell our way tonight."

Figgins got things started for the Angels in the 10th when he singled through the left side of the infield and moved to second on Brandon Wood's sacrifice.

After Crain intentionally walked Abreu, Kendry Morales struck out to finish an 0-for-5 night in which his career-high 20-game hitting streak came to an end.

But Napoli delivered the Angels' 10th walk-off hit of the season.

With all the head turning he had to do in the first inning as hits whizzed past him, Jered Weaver of the Angels could have been forgiven if he felt a little nauseous and woozy again.

Those were the symptoms Weaver had experienced in his last outing after developing what Scioscia described as a case of "the shakes" on Sunday against Oakland.

The right-hander was merely shaken up in the early going, yielding three first-inning runs, two on Jason Kubel's homer.

Weaver rebounded to retire 14 of the next 15 batters before giving up another run in the sixth inning.

"Weave pitched well," Scioscia said. "As the game went on his stuff got sharper."

Minnesota added what looked to be an insurance run off reliever Jason Bulger in the ninth on Joe Mauer's two-out single to left-center field.

But Napoli and the Angels had other ideas.

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ben.bolch@latimes.com

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