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Angels rebound, win in Boston

Howie Kendrick drives in the winning run in the ninth inning and Brian Fuentes earns the save.

September 18, 2009|MIKE DiGIOVANNA | ON THE ANGELS

BOSTON — It was a game of redemption for Howie Kendrick, Brian Fuentes and the Angels, who for one cool, crisp New England evening did not have to address their supposed Boston Red Sox curse or their Fenway Park demons.

Kendrick, who batted .117 and stranded 18 runners in last season's playoff loss to Boston, hit a solo home run in the third inning, scored the tying run in the seventh and knocked in the winning run with a ninth-inning single to lead the Angels to a 4-3 victory over the Red Sox on Thursday night.

Fuentes, the embattled closer who suffered a blown save and loss in Wednesday night's controversial ninth inning against the Red Sox, struck out slugger David Ortiz and got pinch-hitter Rocco Baldelli to fly out for his major-league-leading 42nd save.

And the Angels, who had lost three games in a row, one in Yankee Stadium, two in Fenway Park and all three in sloppy fashion, committing several mental and physical errors, got a much-needed boost to their psyche, though few would admit it.

"Every win is important -- I've been trying to tell you guys that for a while," center fielder Torii Hunter said. "We're going to play Texas. I've forgotten all about the Red Sox tonight."

Those Red Sox will probably be right back in the forefront of Angels' minds in a few weeks, though.

The Angels moved 6 1/2 games ahead of the Rangers and reduced their magic number for clinching their fifth AL West title in six years to 11.

Boston is six games ahead of the Rangers for the wild card and is closing in on a playoff berth that would produce another division series matchup with the Angels, who suffered first-round knockouts at the hands of the Red Sox in 2004, 2007 and 2008.

If the Angels are going to end their streak of playoff futility against the Red Sox, they cannot melt down in Fenway Park as they did Tuesday and Wednesday.

They need to play like they did Thursday, when they got a solid start from Ervin Santana, who went seven innings and gave up three runs -- on Jacoby Ellsbury's solo homer and Jason Bay's two-run homer in the fourth -- struck out six and walked one.

They'll need to hit for power, as Kendrick did with his solo shot to right-center against ace Josh Beckett in the third, and in the clutch, as Chone Figgins did with his two-out, run-scoring double in the fifth and Kendrick did with his game-winner against Billy Wagner in the ninth.

They'll need to manufacture runs as they did in the seventh, when Kendrick singled with two out, Maicer Izturis doubled him to third, and Kendrick scored on Beckett's wild pitch -- and third strike -- to Figgins.

They'll need to play little ball, as they did in the ninth, when Juan Rivera walked and Reggie Willits dropped a sacrifice bunt to put pinch-runner Terry Evans in scoring position.

They'll need strong relief, which they got from setup man Kevin Jepsen, who threw a scoreless eighth and struck out Bay to open the ninth before yielding to Fuentes, who went after Ortiz with several well-placed fastballs after pitching around him Wednesday.

And they can't wilt in hostile environments, as they did the previous three nights under playoff-like pressure.

"The mistakes we made on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, we didn't make tonight," Hunter said. "We came through tonight. Howie came through with some big hits. We played our game. We had fun. We cracked jokes in the clubhouse. We were a little more loose."


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