TORONTO -- The Angels' beleaguered bullpen blew up again, but their beleaguered second baseman bailed out the relievers.
For a day at least, Howie Kendrick was not benched, criticized or threatened with demotion. For this day at least, Kendrick was celebrated.
"I'm not going to lie to you," Kendrick said. "It feels good."
Kendrick dropped a bunt single in the ninth inning, then scored the winning run on a brilliant bit of baserunning, lifting the Angels to a 6-5 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre on Thursday.
Kendrick lost track of the number of outs in Tuesday's game. Manager Mike Scioscia benched him Wednesday.
He batted ninth Thursday, amid a prolonged slump, at the end of a series in which Scioscia acknowledged the Angels had considered sending him to the minor leagues.
"I can't think about that," Kendrick said. "There's a lot of failure in this game. The more you focus on it, the more it's going to happen.
"I know we have a lot of great players in our system. If they make a move, it's out of my control. I just want to continue to play hard. Whatever they do, hopefully I'll make it a tough decision."
John Lackey handed the Angels' bullpen a 5-2 lead after seven innings, but the Blue Jays tied the score with three runs off Darren Oliver in the eighth.
Kendrick led off the ninth, with one hit in his previous 19 at-bats. He conferred with Chone Figgins in the on-deck circle, and they noted that third baseman Jose Bautista was playing behind the bag.
On the first pitch, Kendrick delivered a bunt single. Figgins followed with a single to right field, and Kendrick raced to third.
Erick Aybar grounded sharply to second baseman Aaron Hill. Kendrick took a couple of steps down the line, but he waited until shortstop Marco Scutaro had taken the relay from Hill and committed to throw to first before sprinting home.
The Blue Jays got their double play, but first baseman Lyle Overbay had no chance to throw out Kendrick.
"Howie reacted and made a great read," Scioscia said.
Toronto Manager Cito Gaston said he thought Kendrick was guilty of "bad baserunning," that he made a mental error and should have run on contact, something the Angels often do.
"I'm pretty sure, if you guys go talk to Scioscia, he's probably wondering what. . . . that kid was doing," Gaston said.
But Kendrick had consulted with third base coach Dino Ebel, who told him not to run on a ground ball or line drive until the ball cleared the infield.
Beyond that, Kendrick said, "You've got to let your instincts play. You don't want to make the first out at the plate."
After Lackey got 21 outs and gave up two runs, Oliver got no outs and was charged with three runs.
Closer Brian Fuentes got the save but not easily. With the tying run in scoring position and the winning run on first base, he rallied to strike out Overbay and Bautista.
The earned-run average of the Angels' bullpen rose to 5.79, the highest in the American League.
The Angels got two hits from Figgins, Vladimir Guerrero and Torii Hunter, and Mike Napoli hit his eighth home run of the season. But the star was Kendrick, a young player whom Hunter has taken under his wing.
"This was so sweet," Hunter said. "Heads-up baseball, and a great bunt. I'm so proud of him."
ANGELS 6, TORONTO 5
Halos Come Through In The Ninth
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