Angels beat Rays to regain best record in AL
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP)—Given one more chance to extend his hitting streak to 23 games, Garret Anderson made sure he got his bat off his shoulder.
“I told myself as I was walking to the plate that if it’s out over the plate, I’m going to swing at it, and that’s what it was,” he said Wednesday night after his ninth-inning infield single gave the Los Angeles Angels a 5-4 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.
“Sometimes I have to do that because I’ll get too picky up there and not swing and not be myself.”
Anderson struck out with the bases loaded in the seventh—taking three called strikes as the Angels wasted an opportunity to break open a one-run game — but wouldn’t repeat the mistake against submariner Chad Bradford after the Rays tied it 4-all on Carlos Pena’s eighth-inning RBI double off Jose Arredondo (5-1).
Vladimir Guerrero was walked intentionally to load the bases with one out in the ninth. After Torii Hunter grounded into a force play at the plate, Anderson hit a sharp grounder that second baseman Akinori Iwamura was unable to backhand cleanly moving to his right.
The play initially was ruled an error. It was changed to a hit, keeping Anderson’s streak alive, after the Angels asked the official scorer to review it.
“That’s not a routine play because he did a good job to get in front of it and knock it down. That would have been a terrific play if he could have made it,” Los Angeles manager Mike Scioscia said. “He’s got to dive and knock a ball down and get an out all at the same time.”
The run was charged to Grant Balfour (3-2), who walked Chone Figgins to begin the inning before giving up a one-out single to Mark Teixeira on a routine fly ball that fell in front of left fielder Justin Ruggiano.
Ruggiano, who had just entered the game as a defensive replacement, said he pulled up short of the ball, not wanting to take a chance on it getting past him.
“That was definitely a break to move that inning along,” Scioscia said. “A timely break.”
Francisco Rodriguez pitched the ninth for the Angels for his major league-leading and club- record 48th save. He broke his own team mark of 47 (2006) and is on pace for 62 saves, which would shatter the major league mark of 57, set by Bobby Thigpen of the Chicago White Sox in 1990.
Angels starter Jered Weaver settled down after allowing three runs in the second, limiting the Rays to five hits and matching a career high with nine strikeouts in six innings before entrusting a 4-3 lead to the bullpen.
Los Angeles squandered a couple of chances to break the game open, leaving the bases loaded in the sixth against right-hander Matt Garza and the seventh when left-hander Trever Miller fanned Anderson.
Erick Aybar had a two-run triple and Chone Figgins and Mark Teixeira also drove in runs off Rays Garza for the Angels, who won for the first time in six tries at Tropicana Field this season.
Despite the loss, Tampa Bay retained its 4 1/2 -game lead over second-place Boston in the AL East.
“You’re going to lose some tough ones, but what really matters is what you do after that,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “They beat us tonight, but we had our opportunities to win the game, too. Again, it just indicates we are making progress.”
The victory cooled the Rays, who have won nine of 12, and enabled Los Angeles to nudge back ahead of Tampa Bay for the best record in the American League at 77-48.
The Rays scored three runs with two outs in the second after Angels third baseman Figgins was unable to get to Gabe Gross’ foul ball that didn’t quite reach the stands up the left-field line.
Gross singled to right two pitches later, driving in Eric Hinske, who drew a throw to the plate that allowed Gross to move up to second base. Shawn Riggans followed with a RBI single, then Jason Bartlett tripled to left-center to make it 3-0.
The Angels countered with a four-run third against Garza, who was coming off a two-hit shutout over the Texas Rangers.
Figgins doubled to drive in the first run, Aybar followed with his two-run triple and Teixeira put Los Angeles ahead 4-3 with a RBI grounder that scored Aybar.
Rays LF Carl Crawford, on the 15-day disabled list after undergoing surgery to correct a tendon problem in his right middle finger, returned to St. Petersburg from his home in Phoenix and will see a therapist on Thursday. He hopes to return before the end of the regular season. He said he’s not surprised the team has continued to win with him, 3B Evan Longoria and RHP Troy Percival on the DL. “We’ve been winning like that all year long without certain guys in the lineup,” Crawford said. “The team is not built for one person to make it win. It’s a team effort.” … Weaver fanned nine in a game for the fourth time in his career.