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LAA@KC: Hunter puts Angels ahead with clutch homer

KANSAS CITY -- Torii Hunter's dramatic two-run homer in the ninth inning on Monday that turned defeat into victory was worth a grand.

That's grand, as in 1,000. With the two-run blast that lifted the Angels to a 10-8 come-from-behind win over the Royals, Hunter capped a two-homer, four-RBIs day that puts him right at 1,000 RBIs for his career.

When the Angels outfielder reaches a milestone, he knows how to do it in style.

The Halos were down, 6-1, early and behind, 8-7, entering the ninth against struggling Kansas City closer Joakim Soria. With one out, Bobby Abreu singled to left and up came Hunter, who deposited a 2-0 pitch over the wall in left-center. The Angels added another run and closer Fernando Rodney nailed down the save to give the Angels their second big comeback win on the road trip.

Last Friday, they overcame a five-run deficit to win in Minnesota.

"I definitely feel like we have a lot of fight in us," Hunter said. "We keep battling and I think we concentrate a little more when we're behind. We work the count and get good pitches to hit."

It seemed totally appropriate that Hunter's big power day and 1,000-RBI milestone came at Kauffman Stadium. Hunter now has 30 career homers against the Royals, the most he has hit against any opponent. Over his last 10 games against Kansas City, Hunter is hitting .409 with eight homers, two doubles and 18 RBIs.

The ball that Hunter hit out in the ninth was returned to him and figures to occupy a prominent place in Hunter's memorabilia collection.

"I'm definitely thankful that I can get 1,000 RBIs in the Major Leagues," Hunter said. "When I was in the Minor Leagues, I was like 'just get me up. Let me get one hit in the Major Leagues.'"

In the aftermath of Hunter's ninth inning heroics, the Royals announced they are changing closers. It seemed early on that Kansas City wouldn't even need to use a closer as the Royals racked up six runs against Angels starter Ervin Santana in the opening two innings.

But the Angels' offense kept chipping away and refused to wilt even after the Royals got two in the seventh against reliever Rich Thompson to take an 8-5 lead. Mark Trumbo and Peter Bourjos socked solo homers off Louis Coleman in the eighth to set the stage for Hunter's game-winning homer. It was the 10th game-winning RBI for Hunter, which leads the Majors.

"When those two guys came up with those two big home runs and got us within one, we smelled blood from there," Hunter said. "We're like sharks. We're trying to attack."

With Abreu having a 4-for-5 day and Hunter exploding for an RBI single and two homers in his last three at-bats, the heart of the Angels' lineup continued to show signs that it is heating up.

"Ervin didn't have command of his fastball early and he paid a price for it," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "But some power came out and you need it to get back in a game like this. Torii is quietly putting up numbers that people are going to take notice of and he's got a lot of baseball left in him."

While Hunter has been a longtime Royals' nemesis, his success hadn't extended to Soria before Monday. Hunter came in just 2-for-12 with four strikeouts and no extra base hits against the All-Star reliever.

I got behind," Soria said, "and he hit a fastball right in there."

When Royals manager Ned Yost saw his team get two in the seventh for an 8-5 lead, he felt confident his bullpen could protect the margin. But the Angels had other ideas.

"To tack on two more there late, I thought that would be enough to get us over the hump," Yost said.

Hunter didn't know he had reached the RBIs milestone until after the game. His immediate reaction?

"I'm old," Hunter said with a laugh.

The Royals don't think so. To them, Hunter always seems to look as though he's right in his prime.

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