Kendrick shocked the Indians and everyone else in the ballpark when he bunted with two outs in the ninth inning to score Torii Hunter(notes) with the winning run as the Los Angeles Angels rallied for a 4-3 victory over Cleveland on Wednesday.
“I was looking at the infield and they were all back—even the third baseman,” said Kendrick, who has a grand total of four sacrifice bunts in 379 big league games and none this season. “So right there I had it in my mind that in that situation, he was probably going to try to throw a strike on the first pitch.”
The Angels, who led the majors in bunt hits last season, began the winning rally when Hunter legged out a double leading off the ninth against Joe Smith(notes) (0-1). Hideki Matsui(notes) was intentionally walked and reliever Rafael Perez(notes) got Kendry Morales(notes) to ground into a double play, moving Hunter to third.
“The pitch was away, so I just went with it,” Kendrick said. “The biggest thing is just to make sure you bunt it hard enough to get it past the pitcher. If you get it down and it works, then it looks great. If it doesn’t work, then everybody’s going, ‘Hey, what’s he doing?’ But it worked today and we got the win.”
Hunter had tied the game with a three-run homer in the sixth inning.
In a game that started at the unorthodox time of 4 p.m. PDT, hitters on both teams had trouble picking up the spin of the ball. But Hunter, who came in 10-for-41 lifetime against Westbrook with no home runs, hit his second of the season after a one-out single by Erick Aybar(notes) and a walk to Bobby Abreu(notes).
“We couldn’t see the ball today at all,” Hunter said. “When you’re facing a guy like Westbrook, you really want to see the ball. But today it was so hard. I didn’t even see that pitch because of the shadows. I just saw something up and I swung at it, and it happened to go out of the park. I’ve gotten a lot of ground balls off of him because he’s that type of pitcher.”
Westbrook allowed three runs and four hits over six innings. The 32-year-old right-hander is still looking for his first victory since undergoing Tommy John surgery on June 12, 2008, and sitting out the entire 2009 season. He is 0-2 with a 5.53 ERA in five starts this year.
“I made a huge mistake to Torii,” Westbrook said. “I elevated a sinker. It hurt us big time. I’m tired of being part of the problem. I need to do a better job finishing ballgames. I’ve said that after the last two games.”
Westbrook retired his first 11 batters before giving up a two-out single in the fourth to Hunter—one of only two players in the Angels’ starting lineup who faced him on Apr. 8, 2008 at Anaheim, when he got his last victory in the majors with a complete-game 4-3 decision over Ervin Santana(notes).
“He looks like the Westbrook of old,” Hendrick said. “I remember facing him before his injury, and that sinker was working nice today. He was getting a lot of groundball outs as usual, and it was tough for us to get anything going off of him.”
Santana allowed three runs and six hits over 6 2-3 innings and struck out eight. He remains 0-6 lifetime against the Indians with a 5.71 ERA in eight career starts—including a 13-4 loss at Cleveland in his major league debut back in 2005, when he gave up a triple, double, single and home run to his first four batters.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia was ejected by third base umpire Rob Drake in the second inning. Drake ruled on an appeal that Matsui’s bat had inadvertently crossed the plane of home plate as he skipped out of the way of an 0-1 pitch at his feet and tried to brace his fall with his left hand.
“That call was mind-boggling,” Scioscia said. “In 35 years in baseball, I’ve never seen anything like what Hideki did interpreted as a swing. He was getting out of the way of the ball and trying to keep his balance. Somehow, Rob Drake interpreted that as a swing.”
NOTES: Austin Kearns(notes) finished the Indians’ 3-6 road trip at 12 for 29 with two homers and nine RBIs. … Indians No. 9 hitter Lou Marson(notes) doubled off the top of the 18-foot wall in right-center leading off the Indians’ two-run sixth. Acta came out to ask the umpires to look a replay to determine whether it was a home run, but the call by second base ump Paul Schrieber stood following a short trip to the video room.