Published May 01, 2011
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Vernon Wells didn't let a hitting slump keep him from making a key offensive play.
Hank Conger homered and nifty baserunning by Wells helped the Los Angeles Angels rally from a five-run deficit to beat the Tampa Bay Rays 6-5 on Sunday.
Los Angeles went ahead 6-5 during the eighth thanks in part to Wells, who drew a one-out walk from Joel Peralta (1-1) with Torii Hunter on third. Wells slowed up on Conger's grounder and forced second baseman Ben Zobrist to throw to first for an out. Wells then prolonged a rundown long enough for Hunter to score.
"That was a great, heads-up play by Vernon," said Hunter, who had a leadoff double in the eighth. "He actually won the game by doing that."
Wells actually thought about that play while in the outfield during Saturday night's game.
"It's funny," he said. "I was thinking about different situations and that was one of them. Then it happened today. It worked out."
Angels ace Jered Weaver (6-0) was scratched from his scheduled start because of a stomach virus. Los Angeles manager Mike Scioscia hopes Weaver will be able to pitch Monday night at Boston.
"If this was the seventh game of the World Series, I think you'd see him out there trying to pitch," Scioscia said. "He had some IVs put in, and I think one more day of getting fluids in him and he should be good to go."
Scioscia tweaked his lineup, dropping the struggling Wells to sixth and putting Howie Kendrick, who entered the game hitting .454 (49 for 108) against the Rays, in the third spot.
Wells went 0 for 3 with a walk, while Kendrick was hitless in two at-bats and walked twice. Wells has five hits in his last 38 at-bats.
Rich Thompson (1-1) pitched a scoreless seventh. Jordan Walden got three outs for his fifth save.
Tampa Bay went up 5-0 in the first on run-scoring singles by B.J. Upton, Matt Joyce, Casey Kotchman, Felipe Lopez and John Jaso off Tyler Chatwood, who had been scheduled to start Monday.
"We've got to do a better job of keeping a lead," Rays manager Joe Maddon said.
Conger cut the deficit to 5-1 with a second-inning homer. Bobby Abreu and Alberto Callaspo had run-scoring singles, and Hunter hit a sacrifice fly during a four-run fifth that tied it at 5.
Chatwood allowed five runs and nine hits in four-plus innings.
"I went out there and just knew I had to keep it right there," Chatwood said about ending his start with three scoreless innings. "Try to do some damage control and keep us in the game."
Tampa Bay rookie Alex Cobb gave up four runs and four hits over 4 1-3 innings in his major league debut. The right-hander struck out three and walked four.
"Obviously, it wasn't what I wanted," Cobb said. "I wanted to go in there and at least go five. My command wasn't really there all game."
Cobb was recalled from Triple-A Durham for a spot start after the Rays used two starting pitchers in a day-night doubleheader last Thursday at Minnesota. He was optioned back to the International League club after the game.
NOTES: Weaver has lost about 9 pounds in the past few days. ... The Rays still expect All-Star 3B Evan Longoria (strained left oblique) to return from a minor league rehab assignment at Double-A Montgomery on Tuesday. ... Hunter grounded into his 10th double play. ... Tampa Bay INF Sean Rodriguez (dislocated left pinkie) had a soft-toss session in the batting cage. He entered the game as a pinch runner in the eighth. ... Rays LHP J.P. Howell (left shoulder surgery) allowed one hit in a scoreless inning for Class-A Charlotte. The reliever could rejoin the team in mid-May.