Angels' Howie Kendrick can't explain success against Rays

Reporting from St. Petersburg, Fla.

No active major leaguer has hit better against Tampa Bay than the Angels' Howie Kendrick, who is batting .454 against the Rays in his career.

But even Kendrick's not sure why that is.

"I can't even explain it," said Kendrick, who had two of the Angels' seven hits Saturday and drove in their run in a 2-1 loss. "I don't think about it. I just come in and play. I just happen to have some success. I can't tell you that I was doing anything different. I don't know why. Or how."

Aside from having no explanation for his success, Kendrick, who has five hits in the series, had even less desire to discuss it lest he jinx himself.

"I don't want to talk about any of that," said Kendrick, who also has the highest career on-base and slugging percentages of any Tampa Bay opponent. "As soon as you start talking about it, it'll start to change."

Rug burned

Torii Hunter credits Hall of Famer Andre Dawson with inspiring him to give up football for baseball.

"He was my favorite player," Hunter said. "I would leave school and go to my grandmother's to watch [his] games."

Hunter can recite some of Dawson's career statistics from memory, but the number he was thinking of Saturday was 12 — the number of knee operations Dawson underwent after playing 11 seasons on the unforgiving artificial turf in Montreal.

"I got with him a couple of years ago. He can't walk up the steps," Hunter said.

Hunter's knees took their own beating during a decade on the fake grass in Minnesota's Metrodome, so he was happy with Manager Mike Scioscia's decision to get him off the carpet in Tropicana Field, using Bobby Abreu in right field and starting Hunter as the designated hitter for the third time this season.

"I didn't ask for it. He gave it to me and I'm not complaining," said Hunter, who doubled leading off the ninth then dashed home an out later to send the game into extra innings.

"I'm an expert about turf," he said. "And no turf's good."

Bad bounce

Scioscia, an All-Star catcher in his playing days, refused to blame rookie Hank Conger for letting Fernando Rodney's two-strike slider get away from him in the 10th inning Saturday, allowing the winning run to score.

"Hank did all he could," Scioscia said. "That would have been an incredible stop."

Rodney and Conger said they were going for an inning-ending strikeout on the pitch.

"There's [three] pitches you can use: a fastball high or a slider down, a changeup down," Rodney said

Said Conger, who took blame for failing to block the ball: "His slider was really good today. I was trying to keep it in front of me. It happened to get away."

All Hart

With eight scoreless innings, former Newhall Hart High standout James Shields tied a Rays franchise record with 21 consecutive scoreless innings and came within three outs of a second straight shutout and third straight complete game. That ended when Hunter doubled to lead off the ninth, knocking Shields out.

"We won the ballgame. That's all that really matters," he said. "Any time you get the win, everybody's happy.

"That definitely would have been nice to be able to throw back-to-back-to-back complete games, but … you've got to bring your closer in right there."

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