TORONTO -- A difficult series for Howie Kendrick ended with a daring dash for home plate.
Kendrick raced home with some bold baserunning, scoring the go-ahead run on a ninth-inning double play to help the Los Angeles Angels beat the Toronto Blue Jays 6-5 on Thursday.Mired in a 1-for-17 slump coming in and still stinging from his blunder in the series opener, when he lost track of the number of outs and was doubled off first base, Kendrick was all smiles after sparking the game-winning rally."I ain't going to lie to you -- I was happy," said Kendrick, held out of the lineup Wednesday. "It feels good after the ups and downs. I felt like today was a good day."Facing right-hander Brandon League (1-2), Kendrick opened the ninth with a bunt single and went to third on Chone Figgins' single to right. Erick Aybar grounded into a 4-6-3 double play, but Kendrick raced home as the second out was made at first, sliding in ahead of the throw from first baseman Lyle Overbay, who hesitated after making the catch and didn't appear to see that Kendrick had made a late break for the plate."Howie reacted and made a great read," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.Scioscia's reaction would have surprised Toronto manager Cito Gaston, who called Kendrick's play "bad baserunning" and said "he made it look interesting because he didn't break right away.""He's got to go right away," Gaston said. "I'm pretty sure if you guys go talk to Scioscia, he's probably wondering what the hell that kid was doing."Kendrick said he sized up the situation before the play even happened in a chat with third base coach Dino Ebel."With no outs right there Dino was telling me, 'Just make sure you see it through,'" Kendrick said. "You don't want to run into an out at the plate right there. I just wanted to make sure I saw [shortstop Marco] Scutaro start to turn it instead of try to come home with it. Then I took off from there."Justin Speier (2-1) got the win despite giving up a tying sacrifice fly in the eighth. Brian Fuentes closed it out for his 14th save in 17 chances, striking out Jose Bautista to strand runners at first and second.Trailing 5-2 after seven innings, the Blue Jays tied it with a three-run eighth against the Angels' beleaguered bullpen, which came in with a major league-worst 5.68 ERA.Darren Oliver replaced John Lackey and gave up singles to Adam Lind and Kevin Millar. Both runners moved up on a wild pitch, then scored when Overbay doubled.Justin Speier came on for Oliver and walked Bautista, then loaded the bases when Rod Barajas blooped a single. Joe Inglett lined out but Scutaro tied it with a sacrifice fly.Scioscia acknowledged his bullpen is "a work in progress," but said things were "moving in the right direction," a view that Speier shares."We've got a lot of guys down there with some good track records," Speier said. "We all have the same stuff we did last year. I think we're going to be fine. We're hitting our stride."Lackey allowed two runs and seven hits in seven innings. He was denied his first win since May 18.Making his first start of the season in the cleanup spot, Toronto's Adam Lind went 5-for-5 with three doubles, matching a team record with eight consecutive hits.Alex Rios was 0-for-5 with five strikeouts for the Blue Jays, who have lost 12 of 15.Toronto lefty Brian Tallet gave up three runs in the first. Vladimir Guerrero and Torii Hunter had RBI singles and Juan Rivera added an RBI double.Figgins hit a two-out RBI single in the fourth. Overbay singled home a run in the bottom half, but Mike Napoli answered with his eighth homer in the sixth.Toronto's Aaron Hill hit an RBI grounder in the seventh but finished 0-for-5 and is hitless in his past 20 at-bats.
Blue Jays OF Vernon Wells was held out of the starting lineup for the first time this season, with Rios moving from right to center and Lind replacing Wells in the cleanup spot. Wells pinch ran for Millar in the ninth. ... Angels RHP Kelvim Escobar (shoulder) threw a bullpen session before the game and remains on track to start Saturday at Detroit, his first appearance since 2007. ... Tallet has won once in his past five starts.