09/17/09 11:22 PM ET
Kendrick carries Angels over Red Sox
Second baseman knocks in two runs, scores a third
By Lyle Spencer / MLB.com
The Angels came back on Thursday to the scene of the incident, where an emotional game the night before had been lost in bizarre fashion, and performed with a cool professionalism in turning away the Red Sox, 4-3, and averting a Fenway Park sweep.
"This game tonight," manager Mike Scioscia said, "is more in sync with what we've done all year than the last handful of games. Some guys just relaxed. We had some crazy things happen [on Wednesday] night. We didn't kill the ball, do anything spectacular. But we were steady."
From starter Ervin Santana to setup artist Kevin Jepsen to finisher Brian Fuentes, with Howard Kendrick's homer and game-winning hit driving the offense and the defense making all the plays, the Angels looked like the American League West leaders they are heading to Texas.
"It was nice, very gratifying," said Fuentes, the focus of the brouhaha that developed about 24 hours earlier surrounding balls and strikes and tempers and harsh words. "That's why I always say you can't go back.
"What happened the night before doesn't matter. You can't go back, you can't take it back. It happened, and you move forward. That's the difference between a starter and a reliever. As a starter, you've got five days to think about it. As a reliever, you can get right back out there."
Fuentes, who felt that he was more effective in blowing a save on Wednesday night with some controversial umpiring calls, got the final two outs for his 42nd save. Jepsen delivered four outs to move to 6-3, and the Angels claimed the season series, 5-4.
"He's gone from a guy mopping up to the guy holding this thing together," Fuentes said of Jepsen, who struck out two of the five men he faced.
It all began with Santana dueling Josh Beckett on even terms, a pair of strong right arms dealing precision heat.
After Santana went seven innings, with all three Boston runs coming in the span of four hitters in the fourth, the bullpen held its own, and Kendrick dropped an RBI single into right-center in the ninth inning to cash in pinch-runner Terry Evans with the decisive run.
"I'll take it any way I can," a beaming Kendrick said, having started at second with Maicer Izturis experiencing leg tightness. "I'm actually more comfortable against right-handers than lefties. Coming up, you mostly faced righties."
Kendrick's solo homer to right-center came on a Beckett fastball in the third, his single to left was off a Beckett curveball in the seventh and the pitch for the game-winning hit was a heater from esteemed veteran southpaw Billy Wagner.
"Kendrick is a real strong kid, and he hits it the other way like a left-handed hitter," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said.
Kendrick has a natural inside-out swing along the lines of the Yankees' Derek Jeter, a hitter Francona knows all too well.
"He actually threw me a good pitch, inside," Kendrick said of Wagner. "I was thinking about that area out there with a lot of space, and I put it out there."
Juan Rivera had opened the inning with a walk against Wagner, who fell to 1-1 with the loss, and Evans ran for him.
The Angels had drawn even against Beckett in the seventh after Kendrick's two-out single was followed by Izturis' pinch-hit double. It looked like a bad break for the Angels when the ball bounced over the wall in right, keeping Kendrick at third, but he scored when Beckett's third strike to Chone Figgins got past catcher Jason Varitek for a wild pitch.
Santana had rolled through three innings, facing the minimum, and was protecting a lead provided by Kendrick's solo homer when Boston unloaded the heavy artillery.
Jacoby Ellsbury laced a 93-mph fastball down the right-field line, inside the pole, to bring the Sox even. After Victor Martinez lined a one-out single, Jason Bay launched a 94-mph heater over the wall in left for his 33rd homer, giving him 106 RBIs.
"He's got a lot of life in that arm," Francona said of Santana. "We went through that one little streak where Ellsbury turns on the ball and then Bay hits one. Other than that, he was pretty solid. He's got good stuff."
Torii Hunter, who had called out his team with some choice words following the demoralizing defeat on Wednesday night, had to like the way the Angels responded.
"Every win is important," Hunter said. "The mistakes we made Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, we didn't make those mistakes tonight. We came through. Howie came through with big hits. The mental part of the game was there for us."
Hunter has grown weary of hearing about the Angels' history of misery in New England, of the hold the Red Sox have had on them in October. It's a tale he'd like to personally quash by any means necessary.
"I'm sick of hearing about the Red Sox jinx, all that [stuff]," he said. "I don't care about history. It's time for us to make some of our own history."
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.