Anderson helps Angels beat Rays, avoid sweep
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Angels were not “swept into the Gulf of Mexico,” as Manager Mike Scioscia joked they might be by Tropical Storm Fay, and they weren’t swept out of Tropicana Field, either.
Garret Anderson’s two-out, bases-loaded infield single pushed across the go-ahead run in the ninth inning Wednesday night, and Francisco Rodriguez nailed down the Angels’ 5-4 victory over Tampa Bay with his 48th save, breaking his own club record.
In winning for the first time in six games in the Rays’ domed stadium -- they were swept here in May and lost the first two games of this series -- the Angels left the land of cowbells and catwalks feeling a little more confident about returning in October.
“Yeah, it was important to win here -- we had to win one and leave a mark,” center fielder Torii Hunter said. “I’m pretty sure we’ll see these guys in the playoffs, so we wanted to make a statement, to avoid a sweep.”
Equally important was the finishing touch applied by Rodriguez, and not just because it broke the franchise record that he had set in 2006.
When Jose Arredondo gave up back-to-back doubles to B.J. Upton and Carlos Pena to tie the score, 4-4, in the eighth, it marked the sixth blown save in seven games for the Angels bullpen. Relievers also suffered four of the team’s five losses this last week.
But after allowing a leadoff single to Gabe Gross in the ninth, Rodriguez got Dioner Navarro to ground to shortstop Erick Aybar, who turned an unassisted double play, and Jason Bartlett to ground out, reducing the Angels’ magic number to clinch the American League West title to 21.
“I was happy to come out with a win, especially with the way the bullpen has been pitching lately,” Rodriguez said. “It’s nice to get one here.”
The winning rally in the ninth began with a walk to Chone Figgins. Aybar popped out on a bunt attempt, and Mark Teixeira dropped a bloop single in front of left fielder Justin Ruggiano, who appeared to have a play but pulled up at the last second.
“A diving catch would have been great, but it would have been a lot worse if I let the ball scoot by me,” said Ruggiano, who entered the game in the ninth. “I wanted to keep the double play in order.”
Rays Manager Joe Maddon pulled Grant Balfour for submarine-throwing Chad Bradford, and on the first pitch to Vladimir Guerrero, Figgins and Teixeira pulled off a double steal.
Guerrero was walked intentionally to load the bases, and Hunter grounded to third baseman Willy Aybar, who threw home to force Figgins for the second out.
Anderson, who struck out with the bases loaded to end the seventh, looking at four straight pitches from left-hander Trever Miller, hit a first-pitch grounder up the middle that second baseman Akinori Iwamura had a back-hand play on.
But the ball squirted out of his glove, allowing Teixeira to score the winning run. The play was originally ruled an error but changed to a hit, extending Anderson’s hitting streak to 23 games.
“The at-bat before, I got too picky and struck out,” Anderson said. “I told myself if he throws anything over the plate, I’m swinging. I didn’t get it good, but I got it enough.”
Right-hander Jered Weaver gave the Angels a strong start, giving up three runs and five hits in six innings, striking out nine, which equaled a career high, and walking one.
All three runs and four of the hits he allowed came in the second, as Eric Hinske singled and stole second, Gross and Shawn Riggans hit RBI singles, and Bartlett hit a long fly ball to the gap that fell between left fielder Juan Rivera and Hunter for an RBI triple.
“I didn’t see it, and that’s why I didn’t call it, but I’m the center fielder, I’ve got to get that ball,” Hunter said. “I take full responsibility. It’s my fault.”
The Angels countered in the third when Sean Rodriguez walked, Jeff Mathis singled and Figgins, hitless in 11 at-bats, flared an RBI double to left. Aybar drove a two-run triple to right-center for a 3-3 tie, and Teixeira’s RBI groundout made it 4-3.