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Kendrick and Matthews lead the way as Angels cut magic number to 7

John Lackey gets the win as the Angels win two of three at Texas, increasing their lead over the second-place Rangers to 7 1/2 games and moving even closer to clinching the AL West title.

September 21, 2009|MIKE DiGIOVANNA

ARLINGTON, TEXAS — There weren't any outrageous quotes in the press, but there was one on the field that has stuck in the craw of the Angels for four months.

Texas had completed a three-game sweep of the Angels on May 18 to take a 4 1/2 -game division lead, and in a clip that was replayed numerous times on ESPN, Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler, as he high-fived teammates, could be seen mouthing the words, "Get the [heck] off our field!"

That was brought up Sunday afternoon, after the Angels cracked four home runs in a 10-5 victory at the Ballpark in Arlington to take a commanding 7 1/2 -game lead over the Rangers in the American League West.

"We noticed that, for sure, but nothing needed to be said," Angels pitcher John Lackey said. "We try to fly flags; we don't talk. Let them do that. We win games."

The Angels won two of three from the Rangers to reduce their magic number for clinching their fifth division title in six years to seven with 13 games left.

They won Sunday because an offense that hit .247 and averaged 3.3 runs in 18 September games broke out for 12 hits, including a two-run home run and three-run triple by Howie Kendrick, a two-run single and tiebreaking solo homer by Gary Matthews Jr., and solo home runs by Juan Rivera and Chone Figgins.

And they won because Lackey, noted for his hot-headed behavior on the mound, kept his composure in the face of a three-run, three-hit, 34-pitch first inning, and Angels errors in the third and sixth innings.

After first baseman Kendry Morales booted Hank Blalock's easy grounder with a runner on third and one out in the third, a local television network showed a medley of Lackey's on-field meltdowns after errors by teammates -- call it Lackey's Greatest Fits.

But Lackey did not glare at Morales or scream into his mitt. He got Kinsler to hit a sacrifice fly to left and struck out Nelson Cruz.

The Angels made two superb plays in the fourth, shortstop Erick Aybar ranging into medium right-center field to catch Chris Davis' popup and Kendrick making a backhand diving stop of Julio Borbon's grounder and throwing to first to end the inning.

But with two out in the sixth, Aybar booted Borbon's grounder. Lackey's response? He got Elvis Andrus to ground out, ending a six-inning effort in which he gave up five runs -- four earned -- and seven hits to improve to 11-8.

"For sure, yeah, I'd definitely like to get better in that area," Lackey said. "Today, I wasn't pitching very good myself. I didn't have much command early, and it was probably my worst game in over a month. I needed to worry about myself before anyone else. The boys took care of me on a day I needed it."

Lackey's manager noticed the pitcher's improved demeanor.

"A couple plays were not made, but I thought his head was where it needed to be," Mike Scioscia said. "He's at his best when he turns the page and gets to the next pitch."

The Angels trailed, 5-3, in the sixth but scored three runs on Kendrick's homer and Matthews' opposite-field solo shot to right against left-hander Derek Holland. They added three in the seventh on Kendrick's bases-loaded triple for their 46th come-from-behind victory, a club record.

Kendrick's big day made up for Saturday night, when he grounded into a bases-loaded double play to end a 3-2 loss.

"That felt really good after last night," Kendrick said. "We had them on the ropes, and the last thing I wanted to do in that situation was hit into a double play."

Matthews redeemed himself for his mental gaffe in the second, when, after his two-run single, he took off from first on Jeff Mathis' routine fly ball to center field . . . with one out.

The Angels lead the major leagues in going from first to third on singles. They do not lead in going from first to third on fly-ball outs. Matthews was doubled off first to end the inning.

"That was a bad play -- I can't let that happen," said Matthews, who made only his second start in 12 games. "I'm just glad it didn't come back to haunt us."

As Kinsler's words did the Rangers.







This is the combination of Angels wins and Texas losses that will clinch the AL West title. H: home games left.

R: road games left.

*--* AL WEST W L Pct GB H R Angels 89 60 597 -- 10 3 Texas 81 67 547 7.5 3 11 *--*

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