Aybar’s bases-clearing triple sparks Angels
Pinch hitter Erick Aybar hit a bases-clearing triple to highlight a four-run seventh, and the Angels rallied for a 4-2 victory over the defending World Series champions Saturday. Los Angeles pinch hitters were just 6-for-38 with five RBIs this season before Aybar’s clutch hit.
The Angels, going for their fourth AL West title in five years, won their fourth straight game including an 11-3 triumph over the Red Sox on Friday night to move a season-high 21 games over .500 and extend their division lead over Oakland to eight games.
The Angels have won a big league-leading 59 games including four of five against the Red Sox, who swept them in the first round of the playoffs on their way to World Series championships in 2004 and again last year. Boston has won nine the last nine postseason games between the teams.
“I don’t see this as a statement series by any means,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.
“The only time we hear about that is when you guys (the media) bring it up,” said Torii Hunter, who singled and scored in the decisive seventh inning.
“It’s a series in July,” said reliever Scot Shields, who struck out Jed Lowrie on three pitches with the bases loaded to end the eighth. “I do think we’re a better team now than we were in the past. I’m not saying we’re a better team than they are. (But) we’ve always come to the park thinking we can win.”
The loss was the ninth in 11 road games for the Red Sox, who haven’t lost a season series to the Angels since 2001.
“I don’t think we look at (the past),” Boston’s Kevin Youkilis said. “We’re not worried about the postseason. We’re just worried about playing baseball.”
Hunter and Garret Anderson followed with singles before pinch hitter Reggie Willits sacrificed. Beckett walked Howie Kendrick intentionally for his only walk of the game before Aybar pulled a grounder inside first to clear the bases.
“It was a changeup that got too much of the plate,” Beckett said. “I think it was pretty poor pitch selection, too, on my part. And the execution obviously wasn’t there.”
“He’s done it so many times when I’ve been out there,” Beckett said. “I pretty much have a highlight reel of me throwing my arms up in the air when he makes catches like that. He does things with his body that I can only dream of being able to do.”
Crisp would only say: “My back will probably be a little sore tomorrow, but I’ll be OK.”
Hunter, who has made his share of spectacular catches in center, was properly impressed.
“Sweet. I tip my hat to him,” said Hunter, a seven-time Gold Glove winner. “I was in awe. It was pretty impressive. He hit the wall hard.”
Beckett pitched his first complete game of the season, allowing nine hits and four runs. He threw 107 pitches and struck out six.
Jose Arredondo (4-0) earned the victory despite facing only two batters. He walked Dustin Pedroia with two outs and a runner at second in the seventh before throwing a called third strike past J.D. Drew.
Shields needed 27 pitches to get through the eighth and Francisco Rodriguez worked the ninth for his big league-leading 39th save in 42 chances. The Red Sox put two runners on base with one out before Rodriguez retired Manny Ramirez and Mike Lowell on popups.
Rodriguez said Ramirez’s game-winning homer against him last October in Game 2 of the AL division series didn’t enter his mind.
“What happened in the past is in the past,” he said. “This is a new season. I don’t think in the past.”
Youkilis hit a two-run homer off Joe Saunders in the second for Boston’s only runs. It was Youkilis’ fourth homer in six games, giving him a career-high 17 this season.
“We’ve been getting on base and having opportunities,” Youkilis said. “We’ve just got to seize those opportunities a little bit more. After the All-Star break, sometimes you get a little bit like this and not everyone’s 100 percent after a couple of days off. But once we get rolling again on all cylinders, we’ll be fine.”
Saunders, a 12-game winner who pitched in the All-Star game, allowed six hits and two runs in 6 2-3 innings.
Youkilis has 14 RBIs in his last six games. … Angels RHP Jon Garland (8-6), originally scheduled to pitch Saturday, was pushed back to Sunday because of a stiff neck. He’ll oppose knuckleballer Tim Wakefield (6-6) in the finale of a three-game series. … Pedroia has hit safely in each of his last 20 road games dating back to May 31, tying him with Nomar Garciaparra for the third-longest such streak for the Red Sox since 1956. Pedroia has at least one hit in 21 of his last 22 games overall. … Figgins, the Angels’ all-time stolen base leader, stole his 17th base of the season and the 221st of his career in the first. … Angels starting pitchers lead the majors with 48 victories and 621 1-3 innings pitched. … Beckett retired 10 straight batters after Figgins singled to open the Angels’ first.