ANAHEIM, Calif. — Howie Kendrick was the hero Tuesday night after his second homer of the game sent the Los Angeles Angels home with a 5-4 victory in the 11th inning.
But a game that also featured a four-run rally, a spectacular late-inning catch and some gutty relief pitching was decided, according to some afterward, way back in the first inning by a Texas Rangers fielding mistake.
First baseman Mitch Moreland couldn’t handle a low throw from catcher A.J. Pierzynski after Mike Trout, the game’s second batter, struck out on a pitch in the dirt, and the Angels would score two unearned runs that were as big of a factor as any other play at Angel Stadium.
“A simple out. Unfortunately we didn’t finish it off,” manager Ron Washington said. “That was the difference right there, the two runs they got there when maybe we should have been off the field.”
The inning would have ended on a sliding catch by left fielder Jeff Baker that took him into the wall and forced him out of the game with a bruised right knee. Baker should be ready in a couple days.
But the right-handed hitter would have batted in a critical spot in the eighth inning against left-hander Scott Downs. The Rangers were down one with the bases loaded and no outs, thanks to two sloppy plays by the Angels, but the left-handed-hitting David Murphy batted instead of Baker.
Murphy bounced into a double play. While the tying run scored and the Rangers had completed a comeback from a four-run hole after five innings, they got just the one unearned run.
“We had some opportunities, just like they did,” Washington said.
Kendrick’s first homer of the game, a two-run shot in the fourth, gave the Angels a 4-0 lead against Alexi Ogando. The right-hander was better than he was Thursday at Wrigley Field, when he lasted only 2 1/3 innings, and would pitch into the eighth inning.
He struggled to command his pitches early, including in the first when the Angels scored the two unearned runs on singles by Mark Trumbo and Kendrick after Baker’s catch. But Ogando found his rhythm as the game stretched on.
“I wasn’t really sure with my fastball to one or two hitters, but the rest of the lineup, I thought I commanded my fastball,” he said. “I had command of my changeup, and it was easy for me.”
Nelson Cruz hit a three-run homer in the sixth inning to take a big chunk out of the Angels’ lead, and the Rangers looked poised to take the lead in the ninth when Adrian Beltre sent a hooking drive toward the left-field corner.
Trout, though, raced to the warning track and made an awkward diving catch to end the inning with Ian Kinsler at third base.
Beltre also lined out in the first inning when Angels center fielder Peter Bourjos went into the alley in right-center field to make a running catch.
“I couldn’t believe it when I saw it,” Beltre said of the Trout catch. “It was hooking away from him. I thought he had no chance to get there. It’s not fair to have three center fielders playing in the outfield.”
The play was part of nine straight outs recorded by Angels relievers. Left-handers Robbie Ross and Joe Ortiz were lucky to get the Rangers to the 11th.
Ross had pitched scoreless innings in the eighth and ninth, but the Angels loaded the bases against him with one out in the 10th. Ortiz entered to face Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton, and got them to hit two grounders to end the threat.
Ortiz (2-1) got Trumbo to start the 11th, but Kendrick ended it two pitches later.
“It was just one bad pitch,” Beltre said.
But, according to some, one bad mistake in the first inning is what felled the Rangers.