ANAHEIM -- Juan Rivera is about as unassuming a guy as there is in baseball, a player who walks and talks softly and carries an occasionally big stick.
So it seemed out of character for the Angels' left fielder to stand at the plate and admire his eighth-inning blast for a solid second and then flip his bat violently into the air -- it looked like a baton being twirled -- before starting his home-run trot.
But even the quiet ones can get caught up in the moment, and Rivera was enveloped by this one.
Capping off a nine-pitch at-bat against reliever Guillermo Mota that included six foul balls, Rivera crushed a solo shot to left field to lead off the eighth, lifting the Angels to a 5-4 victory over the Dodgers in front of a sellout crowd of 44,222 at Angel Stadium.
"That was pure emotion; I didn't even realize I flipped the bat," Rivera said through an interpreter. "I saw the ball carry, and I went with it. There was no harm meant."
Rivera's 10th homer and closer Brian Fuentes' major league-leading 19th save, which was secured when the left-hander struck out Matt Kemp with two on to end the ninth, helped the Angels extend their win streak to seven and cut Texas' American League West lead to half a game.
The Angels, who are to 9-1 in interleague play, also got 1 2/3 innings of scoreless relief from Jason Bulger, Darren Oliver and Justin Speier (3-1), who got Juan Pierre to fly to left with the bases loaded to end the top of the eighth and was the winning pitcher.
Rivera's shot, which ended a 4-4 tie, also gave him nine home runs and 28 runs batted in over his last 31 games, a span in which he has hit .361 (43 for 119).
He stepped to the plate in the eighth inning with one thought.
"Mainly," he said, "I wanted to get on base."
Mota threw everything he had -- fastballs, changeups, sliders -- and Rivera seemed to be in survival mode before Mota made his one mistake.
"A slider that went for a strike," Dodgers Manager Joe Torre said. "Those sliders are meant to go through the strike zone and say hello, not goodbye, and that's what happened."
While teammate Torii Hunter has put together a season worthy of All-Star selection, Rivera is quietly hitting .316 with 10 homers, 13 doubles and 36 RBIs.
"A lot of guys don't get headlines or recognition from fans and the media, and Juan is in that group," Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said. "But ask any scout or manager who the tough outs are, and Juan is in that group."
Rivera's game-winner capped another comeback against one of the National League's best pitchers.
Wednesday in San Francisco, the Angels scored three runs in the eighth inning off Giants ace Tim Lincecum for a 4-3 victory.
Friday, the Angels rallied for three runs in the sixth off Dodgers ace Chad Billingsley, who also failed to hold a 4-0 second-inning lead in a 10-7 loss to the Angels at Dodger Stadium on May 24.
"I know Bills is kicking himself because he had this three-run lead, and he takes it to the finish line most of the time," Torre said. "He was battling all night. He didn't have the command he usually does."
James Loney's bases-empty homer off Angels starter Joe Saunders in the fourth and Rafael Furcal's two-run shot in the fifth helped stake Billingsley to a 4-1 lead.
But Hunter walked to open the bottom of the sixth, and Vladimir Guerrero, who had an RBI single in the third, reached on an infield single.
Rivera flied to right, but Kendry Morales fouled off four full-count pitches before drawing a walk to load the bases. Maicer Izturis then singled to right to score two runs and advance Morales to third, and Mike Napoli's sacrifice fly to deep center made it 4-4.
"Kendry had a terrific at-bat, and Izzy followed with a hit that got us back in the game," Scioscia said. "They're pretty good at holding leads, but we've come back from some good pitchers lately, and that's a good sign."
Indeed, the Dodgers still have baseball's best record at 44-24, but the Angels are definitely on a roll.
"We faced two very tough pitchers these last two games," Rivera said, "but our confidence level is such that we feel we can score runs against anyone."
ANGELS 5, DODGERS 4
Angels Beat Dodgers on Juan Rivera's Home Run
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