In the end, Howie Kendrick finds an opening and Angels win, 4-3
Howie Kendrick surveyed the scene and liked what he saw.
As the Angels second baseman stepped to the plate with two out and a runner on third base in the ninth inning, he noticed that the Cleveland infielders were playing back.
Bench coach Ron Roenicke, acting as the Angels’ manager following the second-inning ejection of Mike Scioscia, had given Kendrick the go-ahead to bunt in that situation.
That’s exactly what Kendrick did, driving the ball past reliever Chris Perez on the first-base side of the mound to bring home the winning run and complete the Angels’ 4-3, come-from-behind victory Wednesday evening at Angel Stadium.
“The pitch was away, so I just went with it and pushed it toward first base and there was nobody there,” said Kendrick, whose walk-off hit sparked a celebration in the infield for a team that has won 10 of its last 15 games after a 2-6 start.
The Angels appeared doomed to defeat for much of a rare late-afternoon start, with shadows and an effective Jake Westbrook combining to hold them scoreless through the first five innings as the Indians took a 3-0 lead.
Even when Torii Hunter blasted a tying three-run homer over the left-center field wall in the sixth, he was still having trouble spotting the ball.
“I didn’t even see that pitch,” Hunter said. “I just saw something up and swung at it and it happened to go out of the park.”
Although Hunter said Westbrook was “pretty filthy” while pitching with the benefit of shadows that acted as an accomplice, Angels counterpart Ervin Santana was equally effective for much of a 6 2/3-inning outing in which he allowed six hits and three runs.
The Indians scored a run in the second after Hunter nearly made a dazzling catch of Austin Kearns’ drive to deep right-center field. But the ball popped out of the center fielder’s glove after it banged against the steel sign lining the outfield wall.
Asked if he was injured on the play, Hunter said, “My heart was broken. I might want to put a Band-Aid on it.”
There was further heartache for the Angels in the bottom of the second when Scioscia was ejected following a bizarre sequence. Umpires called a strike on Westbrook’s second pitch to Hideki Matsui even though the ball nearly hit the designated hitter and he stumbled while getting out of the way.
Scioscia had settled comfortably into his clubhouse office by the time Cleveland extended its lead to 3-0 in the sixth. Grady Sizemore hit a run-scoring single and Santana hit Travis Hafner on the left leg with an 0-and-2 pitch with the bases loaded.
The Angels didn’t wait long to mount a comeback. Erick Aybar singled with one out in the bottom of the inning and Bobby Abreu walked before Hunter hit his second homer.
Hunter also sparked the ninth-inning rally with a leadoff double that he legged out after beating a throw from right fielder Shin-Soo Choo, though replays appeared to indicate that shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera’s tag had swiped Hunter across the top of his back.
“I’m not going to answer that,” Hunter said when asked about the replay. The umpire “said I was safe, so I was safe.”
The Indians intentionally walked Matsui and appeared on the brink of escaping the jam when Kendry Morales grounded into a double play. But the Indians walked Juan Rivera to bring up Kendrick, who pounced on Perez’s first pitch.
“The biggest thing was just to make sure you bunt it hard enough to get it past him because everybody was back,” Kendrick said. “In that situation, if you get it down and it works, it looks great, but if it doesn’t work everybody’s like, ‘Hey, what the heck was he doing there?’ It worked today.”
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