ANAHEIM, Calif. -- His face still red from exertion and embarrassment, Russell Martin could only complain halfheartedly about getting caught off second base for the final out.
Even if he really was safe diving back to the bag, the catcher knew he still had no excuse for making the last baserunning blunder in a nightmarish ninth inning for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
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Martin was tagged out an instant before Reed Johnson would have crossed the plate with the tying run, allowing the Angels to escape with a 2-1 victory on Wednesday night.Moments after Matt Kemp was picked off second, the Dodgers lost their sixth straight game on a sequence of mistakes that even left mellow manager Joe Torre disgusted."Everybody is high-fiving in the dugout, and the next thing you know, our heads are down," Martin said. "Baserunning mistakes don't get much worse than making the last out of game like that at second base."Pinch-hitter Jamey Carroll's two-out bloop single off Angels closer Brian Fuentes should have scored pinch-runner Johnson easily from second, but left fielder Juan Rivera alertly threw back to second base to double up Martin, who had been on first after drawing a two-out walk.
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"I thought we gave it away," Torre said. "I thought Russell was safe getting back to second, but he can't put himself in peril like that. It shouldn't have been a situation where there was a play there. I mean, they weren't going to throw Johnson out on the plate on the ball that was hit, and that's the guy we need to get home with that tying run."Plate umpire Mike DiMuro correctly ruled Johnson hadn't reached home in time, setting off an abashed celebration for the Angels after their fifth consecutive win over the Dodgers in the Freeway Series.Martin slammed his helmet to the ground, believing he was safe. Torre briefly argued the call."It's a terrible mistake," Martin said. "I won't make it again, I promise you that. I'll just move on and make the best of it, and hopefully my teammates will still look me in the eye."Johnson shared some blame for slowing up a bit before crossing home plate."As I'm about ready to cross home plate, I hear the crowd starting to go crazy," Johnson said. "Then I turn back around and I see the umpire at that time has already called Russ out, so I was kind of looking around for answers."The Dodgers wasted multiple chances to score against Fuentes, who backed into his 12th save in 15 chances in a ninth inning that erased most memories of a well-pitched matchup between Joel Pineiro and Dodgers rookie John Ely.Kemp reached on a throwing error and Ronnie Belliard singled to open the ninth, but Fuentes struck out Casey Blake and picked Kemp off second.Kemp, who was criticized by general manager Ned Colletti for his baserunning a few weeks ago, accepted blame for his mental lapse. Torre recalled telling his players about Fuentes' spinaround pickoff move earlier this month."You need more than ability you were born with to play this game," Torre said. "You need to be able to think and keep your head in the game, and we didn't do a very good job of thinking tonight. We certainly need to think a whole lot better than we did tonight."Pineiro (7-6) allowed six hits while pitching into the eighth inning to beat Ely (3-5), who yielded three hits in seven innings. Torii Hunter and Howie Kendrick drove in the Angels' runs on grounders to shortstop Rafael Furcal, who made errors during each of the Angels' rallies."I guess you see something different every day in this game," said Pineiro, who watched the ninth inning on a clubhouse television. "It was a weird ending. It's just nice to be on top. Fundamentals is one of the things [manager Mike] Scioscia works hard on, with the infielders and everybody."Just 12 days after throwing a five-hitter against the Dodgers, Pineiro retired 14 straight batters after the Dodgers scored their only run on a three-hit rally in the third. The Angels didn't acquire Pineiro to be a Dodgers stopper, but it's certainly working out that way: The right-hander is 4-0 in five career starts against the Dodgers with a 2.38 ERA.Ely has made six straight starts without a win after two mistakes by Furcal in his first game back after his father's death last week.The Dodgers finally reached base again on Andre Ethier's one-out walk in the eighth, but Kevin Jepsen quickly retired Manny Ramirez on a fly ball and struck out James Loney.
Knuckleballer Charlie Haeger will return from the disabled list to start Thursday's series finale for the Dodgers, Torre said. Haeger is 0-4 with an 8.53 ERA. ... Scioscia expects to decide Thursday whether infielder Erick Aybar will go on the disabled list. Aybar hyperextended his left knee June 14 in a collision at second base, but the Angels gave him a pain injection and waited to see whether he could avoid a DL stint.