ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Although Howie Kendrick is an unconventional leadoff hitter, he's the best option available to the Los Angeles Angels while they fight through a swath of infield injuries.
With his bat and his arm, Kendrick was plenty good enough to beat the Dodgers in the opener of another interleague Freeway Series.
Kendrick drove in the tiebreaking run in the seventh inning with his third hit and Kevin Frandsen followed with a two-run double in the Angels' 6-3 victory Tuesday night, sending the Dodgers to their fifth consecutive loss.
They couldn't have done it without Kendrick, whose superb hitting skills are just one reason he's helping the Angels get through a rough stretch without injured infielders Erick Aybar, Maicer Izturis and Kendry Morales.
"Howie did a nice job, even if he's not really a prototypical leadoff guy who's going to sit up there and work counts," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of Kendrick, who has 10 walks in 71 games.
Kendrick, a .372 career hitter against the Dodgers coming in, also made a gutsy turn of a double play at second base in the eighth. Brandon Wood dived to stop Matt Kemp's grounder to shortstop and tossed it from his glove to Kendrick, who made a strong relay throw while getting flattened by Casey Blake's takeout slide -- a fright for a team that can't afford another infield injury.
"We've had some mistakes, but overall the team's playing good," said Kendrick, who has 27 RBI in his past 25 games. "A lot of people were counting us out early when we lost some games, but it feels good to be stepping up and getting the job done."
Even with Texas winning nine consecutive games atop the AL West, the three-time defending division champion Angels are hanging close -- 3½ games back with the Rangers visiting next week.
In the opener of a 12-game homestand that ends one week before Angel Stadium plays host to All-Star festivities next month, the Angels posted their fourth consecutive victory against the Dodgers, who matched their worst skid of the season after dropping three straight at Fenway Park last weekend.
Kemp hit his first home run in three weeks for the Dodgers, who couldn't finish a strong start by Clayton Kershaw (7-4). The left-hander didn't allow a hit between Kendrick's leadoff single and the sixth, when Abreu drove home Kendrick and Wood with his eighth home run.
"It was the third time through the order, and I hadn't thrown a breaking ball for a strike to Abreu," Kershaw said. "So he's sitting on one pitch, and he's a good hitter. That's really all there is to it. ... It's frustrating. This one hurt, there's no question about it. We had the lead, and I've got to make that hold up. It's my fault."
Garret Anderson went 1 for 4 as the Dodgers' No. 5 hitter and left fielder in his first regular-season game back at Angel Stadium, where the three-time All-Star became the Angels' career leader in hits, RBI, games played and several other categories during 14 full seasons in Anaheim.
Anderson also made an error on Frandsen's drive to left in the seventh, misplaying a ball in a corner he has visited thousands of times.
"Ever since they raised the padding on that wall out there, there's always been problems over there," Anderson said. "That concrete is exposed, and it's a coin flip. ... The padding always used to go all the way to the dirt, so the ball never kicked that far. I remember errors in two straight games after they raised the padding, so I never ran over there aggressively any more since then."
Anderson, who also played for the Dodgers in a preseason game here, got a fairly lukewarm welcome in his return, perhaps because he's wearing Dodger Blue in Orange County after one season in Atlanta. The Angels bought out Anderson's contract in October 2008.
"I thought that was pretty ironic," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said of Anderson's error. "He didn't do that against me in the playoffs, that's all I can tell you. I'm sure it surprised the hell out of him, too."
Santana (7-5) shook off a two-game losing streak to win for the sixth time in eight starts, allowing eight hits while striking out six. After Fernando Rodney barely escaped trouble in the eighth -- and subsequently got ejected for arguing -- Brian Fuentes pitched the ninth for his 11th save in 14 chances.
- Angels C Jeff Mathis extended his hitting streak to a career-best 13 games. He returned from the disabled list last weekend after missing 55 games with a broken wrist.
- Anderson's eighth-inning single was his 1,185th hit at Angel Stadium, extending his own record.
- Torre shook up his lineup, moving Andre Ethier to the No. 2 slot and Kemp back to seventh in a bid to kick-start both slumbering sluggers. Ethier was batting .197 since returning from the disabled list, while Kemp was hitting .181 in June.