This has been a difficult season for Erick Aybar.
He started the season as the Angels' leadoff hitter but was moved into the bottom third of the order within weeks. His defense at shortstop has been subpar. He hasn't looked like a player worthy of the four-year, $35-million contract extension he signed in mid-April.
Wednesday night offered him a rare moment of glory.
Aybar's first home run of the season, a ninth-inning solo shot to right field, was the difference in the Angels' 2-1 victory over the Dodgers in the final game of the Freeway Series at Dodger Stadium.
"I've got to say, I was very stunned," Angels right fielder Torii Hunter said. "He dropped the head on that. It was an all-or-nothing swing."
The Angels, who won two of the three games in the series, remained 31/2 games back of the first-place Texas Rangers in the American League West. The Dodgers' margin over the second-place San Francisco Giants in the National League West was reduced to 31/2 games.
The Dodgers' two losses to the Angels both came with closer Kenley Jansen on the mound. Both times, Jansen entered a tie game. Both times, Jansen served up the winning hit.
The pitch that the switch-hitting Aybar hit out was where Jansen wanted it to be: a cut fastball in on the hands.
"It was the perfect pitch right there," Jansen said. "What could I do?"
Aybar, who is batting a modest .222, claimed he wasn't trying to hit a home run.
"I saw the ball and I swung hard and it went," he said.
Jansen, who replaced Javy Guerra as the Dodgers' closer last month, has given up runs in three of his last four appearances.
"Can't worry about it, man," Jansen said. "I just have to go out there, keep pitching, be aggressive, have a short memory."
Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly downplayed concerns about Jansen's form.
"I think he's fine," Mattingly said. "Guys are going to give up some hits, they're going to give up some runs every once in a while."
Angels closer Ernesto Frieri survived his own encounter his trouble in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Frieri, who hasn't given up a run since he was acquired from the San Diego Padres last month, had men on first and second with no outs and on second and third with one out after Juan Uribe's grounder to short. But Frieri struck out Tony Gwynn Jr. and forced former Angel Bobby Abreu to hit a comebacker that ended the game.
"I was in the outfield going crazy," Hunter said. "I had a headache, I was on edge, but Ernie came through. It was a hell of a game."
The game was preceded by a ceremony in which the Stanley Cup was on the mound. The Kings were joined by the Dodgers and Angels at the same time. The large group posed together for pictures.
Later, 22 Kings lined up to simultaneously throw out 22 ceremonial first pitches to a group of awaiting Dodgers.
The Dodgers went ahead in the first inning, 1-0, when Andre Ethier doubled to right-center to drive in Elian Herrera from first base. The run batted in was the 55th for Ethier, who leads the National League and is second in the majors to Josh Hamilton of the Rangers.
Retaliation was immediate.
In the top of the second inning, Alberto Callaspo tied the score with a solo home run to right field off Dodgers starter Nathan Eovaldi.
Two innings later, Callaspo drew a walk to load the bases with one out. But Aybar hit a grounder to James Loney, who threw out Mark Trumbo at the plate and took a return throw from catcher A.J. Ellis to complete a double play. Eovaldi struck out John Hester to end the inning.
The Dodgers had a chance to take the lead when they loaded the bases in the sixth inning, but Loney failed to break the stalemate, flying out harmlessly to Mike Trout in center field.
Trout stole a base, his 16th, and leads the AL.