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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Aybar's Clutch Triple Wrecks Beckett: Angels 4, Red Sox 2

Angels didn't do squat against Josh Beckett until the seventh — so what? The important thing was Vlad's first-pitch leadoff homer, the ensuing singles by Torii Hunter and Garrett Anderson, and Reggie Willits' perfectly executed 1-3 sac bunt. Beckett loaded the bags with an intentional pass to Howie Kendrick so he could get to Jeff Mathis, but instead that brought up a pinch-hitting Erick Aybar, who took a 1-0 pitch down the right field line out of reach of Kevin Youkilis and cleaned up the bases. Chone Figgins struck out, but Casey Kotchman very nearly drove in a fifth run on a long fly ball to right center that required a spectacular leaping catch against the high pavilion wall from Coco Crisp. Crisp rolled down and didn't get up for a second or two; the crowd applauded the Angels' prolific outburst, and Crisp's amazing display of derring-do.

It was the seventh game this year in which he gave up four or more earned runs (the last was his most recent start against the Twins on July 9, one which the Sox won 18-5), and the first time in his career he's ever given up four runs against the Angels.

Hokie Joe wasn't great, but he managed to get out of trouble despite serious control problems at the plate; near the beginning of the game, he was throwing almost as many strikes as balls, and when he was missing, early or late, it was way out of the zone. Nevertheless, the only damage came on a Kevin Youkilis homer despite the Sox stranding twelve, including the bases loaded in the eighth, a jam that Scot Shields got into and out of.

The Angels' big rally made Jose Arredondo a winner for the fourth time this season. Frankie had another nervous save, allowing Dustin Pedroia to reach on a one-out single and walking J.D. Drew; that brought up Manny Ramirez, who somehow popped up a 2-1 pitch to Howie Kendrick, and Mike Lowell to Figgins at third.

And so for the moment, the Angels have the best record in baseball, an eight-game lead over the A's, and are one win away from taking the season series from the Red Sox for the first time since 2001.

Yahoo boxMLB.com recap

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