Kendrick caps three-run ninth to sink Mariners

Kendrick caps three-run ninth to sink Mariners

Kendrick caps three-run ninth to sink Mariners
SEATTLE -- The Angels want to believe they've finally moved on from their disappointing start. That they've regained their footing and that they're now turning the corner, on their way to meeting the expectations they've fallen short of thus far.

Friday night -- a 6-4 comeback victory over the Mariners at Safeco Field, made possible by a three-run ninth inning -- provided signs that point toward that.

There was the three-run homer by Albert Pujols, which cut his team's deficit from four to one, gave him five homers in his last 10 games and was his first to the opposite field. There was the go-ahead, two-run single by Howie Kendrick, who came in 6-for-37 with runners in scoring position. And there was, of course, the end result -- the first win in 20 tries when trailing after seven innings, and a season-high four-game winning streak.

"It's huge," Angels slugger Mark Trumbo said of what was only his team's fourth comeback victory of the year. "That's one of the things I've always noticed on good teams. They come from behind and have the ability to do that, and I've kind of been waiting for a game like this for a little while. It was awesome."

It was Trumbo who started it in the top of the ninth, bringing some life to a struggling offense that showed very little of it while getting put in a daze by Mariners starter Blake Beavan.

Trailing 4-3 against closer Brandon League, Trumbo lined a first-pitch single to right field then made way for pinch-runner Peter Bourjos. Next came Alberto Callaspo, who found himself behind in the count, 1-2.

"I was just looking for a pitch to drive or hit between first and second to try to move the runner," Callaspo said in Spanish.

Instead, Callaspo worked a walk. The next batter, Erick Aybar, laid down a sacrifice bunt that was intended to put two runners in scoring position with less than two outs -- and instead resulted in League throwing wide of third base, Bourjos racing home as the tying run and the Angels being in prime position to pull away.

"I thought it would have been a close play, but if I'd made a good throw, we had a chance to get him at third," League said. "But it went into left field, and then it was like all hell broke loose."

After an intentional walk to Kole Calhoun, who would later make a full-extension grab in right field that prevented a leadoff baserunner in scoring position, out came Kendrick to pinch-hit -- cold off the bench, to face a guy who throws in the mid-90s.

"Pinch-hitting's hard, man," Kendrick said. "You ask any guy in this room that hits, they'll tell you it's hard to come off the bench when you haven't been playing."

But Kendrick made it look easy, getting a first-pitch, down-the-middle fastball from League and lining it right back up the middle to drive in two. Going into that at-bat, Kendrick was 4-for-17 for his career as a pinch-hitter but 4-for-7 against League.

"As a pinch-hitter, you're trying to be aggressive early," Kendrick said. "It happened to be out over the plate where I was looking, and I just put an aggressive swing on it."

With that, the Angels overcame their largest deficit of the season (four), mustered their first ninth-inning comeback, moved to three games below .500 for the first time since April 21 (when they were a mere 6-9), remained 6 1/2 games back of the victorious Rangers in the American League West and stayed out of their division's cellar for another day.

It wasn't that they won -- it was how they won.

"It's good to have those types of wins," Kendrick said. "I don't think we've been doing that all year, and to be able to put that together tonight, get the bases loaded and rally back to win, that's huge for our team."

The comeback opportunity doesn't present itself without Ervin Santana, who put the team in an early hole by giving up four runs in five innings -- which isn't bad considering he walked seven, one shy of his career high.

"I don't know if I've ever seen Ervin more erratic than he was tonight," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.

It doesn't take place without the streaking Pujols, who made it a 4-3 game with a three-run shot in the sixth -- giving him 21 RBIs in 23 May games (after just four in 23 April games). And it isn't possible without Calhoun, who made an over-the-shoulder grab in the bottom of the ninth, robbing Brendan Ryan of extra bases and allowing Scott Downs -- a member of a bullpen that has now allowed just three runs in its last 34 1/3 innings -- to close it out.

"Hopefully, in a couple of months we'll point back to this little stretch and see some of the things that have gone well, and we can point to a game like tonight," Scioscia said. "But there's a lot ahead of us. We need to do things in a more consistent basis."

Maybe this is the start.

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for Read his columns and his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.