Angels first baseman Howie Kendrick, right, celebrates with teammate… (Thearon W. Henderson / Getty…)
The Jerome Williams joy ride turned into a high-wire act Tuesday night. Good thing for the wild right-hander the Angels bullpen and defense were there with a safety net.
Reliever Hisanori Takahashi, pitching in a rare high-leverage situation, bailed Williams out of trouble in the fifth inning of a tie game, and the veteran left-hander combined with Bobby Cassevah, Scott Downs and Jordan Walden to throw 42/3 scoreless innings.
Howie Kendrick crushed a pair of two-out, two-run home runs, and the Angels turned four double plays in a 6-3 victory over the Oakland Athletics that kept them three games behind the Texas Rangers in the American League West with 14 to play.
Williams was 3-0 with a 3.51 earned-run average since being called up on Aug. 17, a promotion that ended a four-year odyssey that included tours in Taiwan, Mexico, Puerto Rico and two independent leagues.
He walked four in 252/3 innings of his first six games but was all over the place Tuesday night, allowing three runs and seven hits and walking five in 41/3 innings.
"You walk five, you're going to get killed — that's not my game," Williams said. "Fortunately, the guys behind me played their butts off and turned a few nice double plays."
The Angels, who had only two hits in 11 at-bats with runners in scoring position, snapped a 3-3 tie in the seventh, a rally Erick Aybar sparked with a single. Aybar took second on Peter Bourjos' sacrifice bunt and third on Hank Conger's single to center.
With the infield in, Maicer Izturis hit a chopper toward the middle that shortstop Cliff Pennington gloved. But his throw home was wide, and Aybar, running on contact, scored easily for a 4-3 lead.
The Angels tacked on two runs in the ninth when Bourjos singled and scored on Kendrick's two-run shot to left, which gave him a career-high 18 homers on the season.
"A great game by Howie," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "He gave us a big boost with both his home runs. We have a finite amount of games left, and we need guys to produce the way they can."
Walden notched his 30th save with a scoreless ninth, becoming only the fifth rookie closer since 2000 to record 30 or more saves. The others are Neftali Feliz, Craig Kimbrel, Kazuhiro Sasaki and Jonathan Papelbon.
The Angels took a 3-0 lead in the third when Aybar doubled and scored on an error, Izturis singled and Kendrick homered to center. Williams nearly gave it all back in the bottom of the third.
Michael Taylor walked and scored on Jemile Weeks' double. Pennington reached on an infield single. Hideki Matsui walked to load the bases, and Josh Willingham walked to score Weeks to make it 3-2.
Oakland still had the bases loaded with no outs, but Williams struck out Scott Sizemore and got Ryan Sweeney to ground into a 4-6-3 double play.
Williams employed the same exit strategy in the fourth after Allen doubled with one out and Taylor reached on an infield single. Weeks bounced into a 4-6-3 double play.
Williams wasn't as Houdini-like in the fifth after walking Pennington and Matsui to open the inning. Willingham blooped an RBI double to right to tie the score, 3-3.
Sizemore struck out looking, and Scioscia summoned Takahashi, who got Sweeney to fly to shallow left, Matsui holding. Kurt Suzuki was intentionally, and Allen grounded out.
"There were a lot of baserunners on that field for Oakland, with seven walks and eight hits," Scioscia said. "Holding them to three runs tells you our bullpen and defense did a good job."