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The Los Angeles Angels couldn't afford to give the Boston Red Sox yet another psychological advantage in their budding postseason rivalry.
One night after a ninth-inning collapse, the Angels rallied behind Howie Kendrick's tie-breaking blooper in the ninth to beat Boston 4-3 on Thursday night and avert a three-game sweep. Brian Fuentes, who blew the previous game, earned the save and snapped Boston's seven-game winning streak.
"Winning cures everything," outfielder Torii Hunter said. "I have already forgotten about the Red Sox and am thinking about our series with Texas."
Los Angeles improved to 61/2 games ahead of Texas in the AL West, and the Red Sox hold a six-game lead over the idle Rangers in the wild-card race. If the standings hold, Boston will open the playoffs in Anaheim; the Red Sox have beaten the Angels in 12 of their last 13 postseason games dating to 1986 and are 4-0 all-time in postseason series against them.
"Let's get there first," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "No messages to send tonight or feelings to get. Our first goal is to make the playoffs."
Kendrick also homered in the third and score the tying run in the seventh, and Fuentes rebounded from Wednesday night's collapse to hand the Red Sox their first loss at Fenway in 11 games. Kevin Jepsen (6-3) got four outs, then Fuentes got the last two batters to earn his major league-leading 42nd save and end Los Angeles' three-game losing streak.
"I thought he had a nice inning last night," said Scioscia, who was still agitated over the questionable calls that prolonged the ninth on Wednesday. "I think it was good for him to get back out there, but he's been around. He knows what's it's all about, being in that closer role. He did a good job coming in to get those last couple of outs."
Billy Wagner (1-1) walked Juan Rivera to lead off the ninth, then pinch-hitter Reggie Willits sacrifice bunted him to second. Kendrick blooped his third hit of the night over the second baseman's head to make it 4-3 and help the Angels avoid a September sweep by their likely first-round playoff opponent.
One game after Los Angeles complained about two questionable pitch calls that contributed to Boston's two-out comeback rally in the ninth, starter Ervin Santana coughed up a 1-0 lead when he gave up Jacoby Ellsbury's homer to lead off the fourth and then a two-run shot to Jason Bay three batters later.
The Angels cut it to 3-2 on back-to-back doubles by Jeff Mathis and Chone Figgins in the fifth, then tied it in the seventh when Kendrick singled, Maicer Izturis bounced one over the Los Angeles bullpen wall for a double and then Josh Beckett bounced a third strike between catcher Jason Varitek's legs, allowing the run to score.
"I guess it's frustrating, but there isn't (anyone) alive I'd rather have back there," Beckett said. "Over the last four years I can't remember one time where that's happened. It was just a freak deal.
This program aired on September 18, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.
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