So the Angels outfielder called a players-only meeting before Thursday night's series and season finale against Boston, and the team responded with a 7-2 victory.
"We had a little more energy, a little more bounce in our step," Hunter said after collecting three hits. "There's music playing, cracking jokes in the dugout. That's what you've got to get back to: having fun."
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Hideki Matsui hit a three-run homer, then drove in another run with a bases-loaded walk, and Ervin Santana took a two-hitter into the eighth inning to help the Angels beat the Red Sox for the first time this season.
"Those guys have been taking it to us. We haven't played well against them," Los Angeles manager Mike Scioscia said. "But our focus wasn't on who we're playing. We need to bring it every night. Tonight was definitely a step forward, and that was encouraging."
Santana (13-8) allowed two runs and four hits in seven-plus innings, walking four, hitting a batter and striking out three. Kevin Jepsen, who blew Wednesday night's game by giving up runs on a wild pitch and hit batsman, pitched out of Santana's bases-loaded, no-outs jam in the eighth by retiring Victor Martinez, Adrian Beltre and J.D. Drew.
The Angels had fallen below .500 with their fourth three-game losing streak since the All-Star break. So Hunter cleared the coaches out of the clubhouse before the game for a meeting he described as intense but uplifting.
"I'd love to tell you [what was said], but it's secret," he said. "We got into it a couple of times, but it was definitely uplifting. ... We got some things cleared up. 'Just go out there and play like it's your last.' That's all I asked."
David Ortiz reached base four times, including a solo home run in the fourth. Josh Beckett (3-3) took a two-hit shutout into the sixth inning before giving up four consecutive hits with one out, leading to four Los Angeles runs. The Angels also loaded the bases in the seventh, scoring three more runs without a ball leaving the infield.
"He hit his spots all night and then he missed three or four consecutive hitters," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "Sometimes you need a break, maybe a foul ball. It just happened. He was very good up until that point. It was nothing physical and then he came back and got the hitters after that."
In all, Beckett allowed six runs, seven hits and two walks, striking out six. He has given up 19 runs in his past three outings.
Most of Thursday's damage coming after he got the first out in the sixth. Maicier Izturis and Alberto Callaspo doubled, then Hunter hit a hard grounder down the third base line that went off Beltre's glove for a single. Matsui hit the next pitch into the Red Sox bullpen to give the Angels a 4-1 lead.
Boston put runners on first and third in the bottom half, but Santana got Beltre to pop up harmlessly to left to end the inning.
Beckett struck out Jeff Mathis to start the seventh, but Peter Bourjos reached on a bunt single and Bobby Abreu walked. Manny Delcarmen relieved Beckett but walked Izturis to load the bases and, after a run-scoring groundout, walked two more batters to make it 6-1.
After Scott Atchison came in, Kendrick reached on a grounder to short that gave the Angels a 7-1 lead.
The Red Sox loaded the bases with no outs in the eighth before Jepsen limited them to just one run, on Beltre's sacrifice fly.
- Drew made a diving catch in right to end the top of the third.
- In honor of a Jimmy Fund telethon to raise money for cancer research, Boston College linebacker Mark Herzlich threw out the ceremonial first pitch to Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester. Both are cancer survivors.
- The Angels went 4 for 7 with runners in scoring position after going 5 for 36 in the previous six games combined.