BOSTON — 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 6½ 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 scored 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.
NOTES: Beckett was facing the Angels for the first time since drawing a five-game suspension for throwing at Bobby Abreu’s head on April 12 and sparking a bench-clearing skirmish. Beckett went over the 200 inning plateau for the third time in his career. … Red Sox manager Terry Francona said RHP Tim Wakefield will throw a side session on Friday and, if all goes well, start on Monday against the Kansas City Royals. The first-time All-Star, who has a bad back, will not be in the rotation but will be available for spot starts. … 1B Victor Martinez was back in the lineup after returning from Cleveland, where he was tending to personal matters. … Santana hasn’t beaten Boston in five starts since 2005, including playoffs. … Kevin Youkilis was out of the lineup for the third straight game.
Rays 3, Orioles 0
BALTIMORE — Wade Davis threw a four-hit shutout to earn his first major league win and Tampa Bay earned a split of the four-game series.
Evan Longoria had three hits and drove in a run for the Rays, who put a positive finish on a dreadful road trip. Tampa Bay went 2-9 against AL East foes New York, Boston and Baltimore.
Making his third big league start, Davis (1-1) struck out 10 and walked two in his first complete game. Davis capped his outstanding performance by striking out the side in the ninth. He threw 124 pitches.
Baltimore’s Mark Hendrickson (5-5) gave up two runs and five hits over 3 1-3 innings in his first start since May 12. The left-hander was removed from the rotation after going 1-4, then made 42 relief appearances.
Phillies 4, Nationals 2
PHILADELPHIA — Cole Hamels is again pitching like Philadelphia’s October ace.
Hamels took a perfect game into the sixth inning, masterfully using his changeup while matching a season high with 10 strikeouts and leading the Phillies to a 4-2 win over the Washington Nationals on Thursday night.
Hamels, the MVP of last season’s NL championship series and World Series, allowed one run and five hits in eight strong innings. Hamels (10-9) even chipped in with an opposite-field RBI single to help the NL East-leading Phillies win their fifth straight game.