Kendrick reels in catch of the day
Derek Jeter’s seventh-inning popup to shallow right-center field -- and the game -- hung in the balance Sunday, but second baseman Howie Kendrick reeled them in with a superb catch to help the Angels beat the New York Yankees, 4-3.
With the score tied, 3-3, a runner on third and two outs, Jeter hit a ball that appeared destined to fall in among Kendrick, right fielder Vladimir Guerrero and center fielder Gary Matthews Jr.
But Kendrick, whose potent bat gains a lot more notice than his improving glove, raced back to make an over-the-shoulder catch.
“I didn’t think I’d get to it,” Kendrick said. “I turned around, took my eye off the ball and went into a dead sprint, figuring I’d pick up the ball later. I caught up to it, and it fell into my glove. A little luck was involved.”
Pitcher Joe Saunders showed his appreciation by pumping his fist into the air.
“That was huge,” he said. “If that ball falls, they take the lead.”
Manager Mike Scioscia said Kendrick “made that play look much easier than it was.”
Said Kendrick: “That’s a great compliment.”
The Angels scored three runs in the third inning Sunday, a rally that began when Matthews ended an 0-for-16 skid with an infield single. Mike Napoli doubled to left field, and Chone Figgins hit a run-scoring infield single, Napoli holding at second base.
Left-hander Andy Pettitte balked the runners to second and third. Erick Aybar hit a run-scoring single to left field, and Mark Teixeira had a sacrifice fly to right field to give the Angels a 3-2 lead.
The Yankees tied it, 3-3, in the fourth when Alex Rodriguez walked, took third on Xavier Nady’s hit-and-run single and scored on Robinson Cano’s fielder’s-choice grounder.
New York threatened against reliever Jose Arredondo in the eighth inning when Rodriguez doubled with one out, but Rodriguez, trying to steal, was thrown out on a disputed call at third base.
Player of the tweak
Torii Hunter, who rolled his right ankle slightly sliding into the plate Saturday, started at designated hitter Sunday.
It was Hunter’s seventh start at DH this season and first since June 4, but he’s confident he’ll be able to return to center field Tuesday against Seattle.
“I rolled it a bit, but I woke up [Sunday] and it was fine,” Hunter said. “There’s no pain, nothing to worry about.”
Hunter has been on a tear, hitting .355 (27 for 76) in his last 20 games with seven home runs and 22 runs batted in in his last 16 games.
He credits former Minnesota Twins teammate Matt Lawton, who visited around the All-Star break, with some season-altering advice.
“He told me my swing looks good, I’m just swinging at bad pitches,” said Hunter, who has raised his average from .269 at the break to .285. “I made a point of swinging at strikes, working counts. I might not get a hit, I might strike out, but I have a chance.”
Catcher in the eye
Catcher Jeff Mathis was scratched Sunday because of a right eye irritation, which Scioscia said “doesn’t look serious.”
Though Mathis is hitting .212 with nine homers and 39 RBIs, Scioscia considers him one of the Angels’ most valuable players.
The reason? Angels pitchers have a 3.59 earned-run average in the 615 innings Mathis has caught this season, and the team is 81-41 in games Mathis has caught since last season. The Angels have a 4.32 ERA this season with Napoli catching.
“That spread makes it very clear that he’s doing a good job,” Scioscia said. “He’s a terrific technician, he has sound fundamentals, he’s very athletic, has good hands, he puts visuals in right spots, he’s in tune with the pitchers. The biggest thing is in-game adjustments. He’s gotten a much better feel for that part of it.”
Garret Anderson extended his hitting streak to 16 games with a second-inning single. During the streak, Anderson is hitting .409 (27 for 66) with three homers and 16 RBIs. . . . The Angels are 26-14 in their last 40 games against the Yankees. Including the playoffs, they are 72-60 against the Yankees since 1996.