Juan Rivera's sacrifice fly in the 11th inning gave the Angels a 5-4 victory Monday night over the team with baseball's best record after closer Brian Fuentes blew a three-run lead in the ninth.
Tampa Bay Rays
Torii Hunter and Mike Napoli homered, and Trevor Bell (1-0) struck out the only batter he faced in his season debut after getting called up from Triple-A Salt Lake earlier in the day. Manager Mike Scioscia said before the game he needed an extra pitcher because of an overworked bullpen, and the timing was perfect.
"It started at 6 a.m. in Fresno and ended pretty good," said Bell, who was notified of his promotion the night before. "I had to get to the airport pretty early because my flight was at 8. I got to town around 10 o'clock, drove home to see my parents in Burbank and made a 50-minute drive down here. Luckily, I didn't catch any traffic today. It was intense, but it was fun."
Kendry Morales led off the 11th with a single against Grant Balfour (0-1), advanced on Reggie Willits' bunt and took third on a wild pitch. Manager Joe Maddon then went to a five-man infield, adding outfielder Ben Zobrist to the mix, but Rivera flied to center and Morales scored after the catch by Gabe Kapler.
It was the second time this season that Maddon used the unorthodox defensive alignment. The other time, it worked.
The ending was a shot in the arm for the three-time defending AL West champions, who were coming off a 2-8 road trip that was their worst since 2001.
"That felt good," Hunter said. "It was good to get away from that road trip. That was a disaster. We'd like to apologize to the fans, to the front office and everybody because of the way we played. It was terrible. But we won two out of three in Seattle and kind of built off of it."
The Rays, who saw a perfect game pitched against them by Oakland's Dallas Braden on Sunday, were held to five hits by Joel Pineiro through the first 6 1/3 innings and trailed 4-0 heading into the eighth.
"We never feel like we're out of a game," Maddon said. "I know we've been struggling at the plate a bit, but this game causes those kind of moments and you just have to battle through them."
After Willy Aybar homered with one out, Jason Bartlett beat out an infield single to the right of second base, Zobrist walked with two outs, and Evan Longoria drove Fuentes' next pitch to the fence in left-center to score both runners. It was his first career at-bat against the four-time All-Star, who led the majors last season with a career-high 48 saves.
"It wasn't a bad pitch in my mind," Fuentes said. "It was a first-pitch changeup and he went out and got it. But it was really the walk that hurt me the most. But we won, so that's some relief."
Tampa Bay's Matt Garza allowed four runs and seven hits over 7 2/3 innings, struck out six and was lifted after walking Hideki Matsui with his 117th pitch.
Zobrist singled with two outs in the first, ending a string of 37 consecutive Tampa Bay batters retired -- including the final eight Saturday. That's the second-longest drought by any losing team in the last 14 perfect games pitched in the majors since 1923. When Mike Witt pitched his perfect game for the Angels on the final day of the 1984 season at Texas, the final 11 Rangers batters were retired the night before.
"We were just relieved and happy that somebody got a hit," Carl Crawford said. "Coming off a game like that, it was nice to break that cycle real quick so that we could concentrate on this game more."
Tampa Bay had allowed only one home run in a span of 95 innings entering the game. But Hunter homered in the third, and Napoli increased the Angels' margin to 4-0 in the fourth after a leadoff single by Howie Kendrick.
- The Rays played without center fielder B.J. Upton, who was in St. Petersburg for the birth of his son.
- The Angels are scheduled to face Braden either Saturday or Sunday at Anaheim. According to research by the Elias Sports Bureau, the only other pitchers to face the Angels in their first start following a no-hitter were Boston's Dave Morehead on Sept. 22, 1965, and Oakland's Vida Blue on Sept. 26, 1970. Morehead allowed his first four batters to reach base and retired only two of the nine he faced in a 10-1 loss to Dean Chance at Dodger Stadium. Blue squared off against Rudy May, retiring his first seven batters and pitching four innings (one run, three hits) in the Athletics' 4-3 victory at Anaheim.