ANAHEIM, Calif. — Howie Kendrick was the hero Tuesday night after his secondhomer 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 somegutty relief pitching was decided, according to some afterward, way back in the firstinning by a Texas Rangers fielding mistake.
First baseman Mitch Moreland couldn’t handle a low throw from catcher A.J. Pierzynskiafter Mike Trout, the game’s second batter, struck out on a pitch in the dirt, and the Angelswould score two unearned runs that were as big of a factor as any other play at AngelStadium.
“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 shouldhave been off the field.”
The inning would have ended on a sliding catch by left fielder Jeff Baker that took himinto the wall and forced him out of the game with a bruised right knee. Baker should beready in a couple days.
But the right-handed hitter would have batted in a critical spot in the eighth inningagainst left-hander Scott Downs. The Rangers were down one with the bases loadedand no outs, thanks to two sloppy plays by the Angels, but the left-handed-hitting DavidMurphy batted instead of Baker.
Murphy bounced into a double play. While the tying run scored and the Rangers hadcompleted a comeback from a four-run hole after five innings, they got just the oneunearned 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 4-0lead against Alexi Ogando. The right-hander was better than he was Thursday at WrigleyField, 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 scoredthe two unearned runs on singles by Mark Trumbo and Kendrick after Baker’s catch. ButOgando 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, Ithought I commanded my fastball,” he said. “I had command of my changeup, and it waseasy for me.”
Nelson Cruz hit a three-run homer in the sixth inning to take a big chunk out of theAngels’ lead, and the Rangers looked poised to take the lead in the ninth when AdrianBeltre 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 inningwith Ian Kinsler at third base.
Beltre also lined out in the first inning when Angels center fielder Peter Bourjos went into thealley 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 hookingaway from him. I thought he had no chance to get there. It’s not fair to have three centerfielders playing in the outfield.”
The play was part of nine straight outs recorded by Angels relievers. Left-handers RobbieRoss 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 thebases against him with one out in the 10th. Ortiz entered to face Albert Pujols and JoshHamilton, 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.