The Dodgers may be the more popular team in Southern California, with the larger fan base and the more prominent media play, but when it comes to competitive balance, the pendulum in the Freeway Series has swung decidedly toward Orange County.
The Angels overcame a brutal base-running gaffe by Juan Rivera to rally for three runs with two outs in the seventh inning Tuesday night to defeat the Dodgers, 6-3, in Angel Stadium.
Howie Kendrick drove in the go-ahead run with his third single of the game, and Kevin Frandsen followed with a two-run double to improve the Angels to 17-7 in their last 24 games against the Dodgers, a span in which they have outscored them, 119-68.
Bobby Abreu hit a clutch three-run, score-tying homer in the sixth, shortstop Brandon Wood made a game-saving play in the eighth, and Brian Fuentes threw a scoreless ninth for his 11th save, as the Angels improved to 4-0 against the Dodgers this season.
"We know they have a good team and we have to battle them," Abreu said. "We've been successful against them lately, but you have to be careful. You can't be too comfortable. You have to play hard and do the little things to win games."
The Angels did a big thing that nearly cost them Tuesday night's game. With the score tied, 3-3, Rivera lined a double to left-center off Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw to open the seventh. Mike Napoli struck out, but Rivera took third on Kershaw's balk.
This seemed a good time to replace Rivera, one of baseball's slowest runners, with Reggie Willits, but Angels Manager Mike Scioscia stuck with Rivera, a costly decision when Rivera wandered too far off the bag and was picked off by catcher Russell Martin.
"That spot was going to come up in the ninth inning, and we wanted to keep Juan's bat in there," Scioscia said. "If we were losing, I might think harder about that move."
Jeff Mathis smacked Kershaw's next pitch into left field for a single, and Mathis took third when Wood flared a single to right.
Dodgers Manager Joe Torre summoned right-hander Ronald Belisario to face Kendrick, whose run-scoring single to center gave the Angels a 4-3 lead and the second baseman 47 RBIs.
Kendrick, moved to the leadoff spot last week after injuries to Erick Aybar and Maicer Izturis, hit .254 with two homers and 20 RBIs in his first 46 games of the season. In 25 games since, he is batting .321 (35 for 109) with five homers and 27 RBIs.
Frandsen, after fouling off four two-strike pitches, lined a double into the left-field corner to score Wood and Kendrick for a 6-3 lead. Of the Angels' last 26 runs against the Dodgers, 19 have come with two outs.
"Obviously, that was a big momentum switch when Juan got picked off," Scioscia said. "But we kept battling and put together four good at-bats at the right time."
The Dodgers threatened in the eighth when Garret Anderson opened with a single off reliever Fernando Rodney and Casey Blake reached on Frandsen's fielding error.
Matt Kemp, who homered off starter Ervin Santana in the fourth inning, hit a grounder up the middle that Wood made a diving stop of behind second and a glove-hand flip to Kendrick to start a double play. Torii Hunter raced in from center field to snag Blake DeWitt's liner to end the inning.
"Howie turned a great double play," Scioscia said. "Woody made a good read and got a great jump, it was a clean flip, and Howie hung in there knowing Blake was bearing down on him. He stayed in there and made a great throw."
The Dodgers took a 3-0 lead on RBI singles by Andre Ethier and James Loney in the third and Kemp's homer in the fourth, and Kershaw allowed only one hit through the fifth. Wood opened the sixth with a walk, Kendrick singled, and after Frandsen flied to center, Abreu turned viciously on a 2-and-1 fastball, lining it over the center-field wall for a three-run homer and a 3-3 tie.
"He's a good hitter, that's really all there is to it," said Kershaw, who was 6-1 with a 1.82 earned-run average in his previous eight starts. "It's my fault. This one hurt, no question. We had a three-run lead and I didn't protect it. I've got to make that hold up."