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LAst Night's Action: Dodgers and Angels Duel Away for Wins

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On this Friday night, we were treated to two pitching duels with both the Angels and the Dodgers defeat the Yankees and Giants respectively 2-1. It seemed like a karmic gift for suffering through this little heat wave in Southern California this week.

The Angels needed this win. The Texas Rangers had demolished the Oakland Athletics 13-4 bring their lead up to three games in the AL West. Thankfully the Angels had Jered Weaver to face off against the vaunted Yankees, and he didn’t disappoint. He made only one mistake - a fastball to Jesus Montero to lead off the third inning that went behind the Yankees’ dugout in left-centerfield.

Unfortunately his counterpart was dealing just as effectively. Baseball’s version of Frankenstein’s monster Bartolo Colón and his stem cells for the most part stuck with his fastball and would have a shutout through his seven innings had it not been for Derek Jeter’s throwing error in the fifth inning that led to the Angels’ tying run.

Once the Angels got into the Yankees’ bullpen, they finally were able to scrape together something. Alberto Callaspo led off the ninth inning with a single off of Aaron Laffey. Luis Ayala replaced Laffey, and he gave up a single to Vernon Wells and hit Peter Bourjos by a pitch to load the bases with no outs. Maicer Izturis did his job lifting a fly ball to center field to get the Angels back to 2 ½ back of the Rangers.

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Meanwhile up in the Bay Area, the Dodgers and Giants had their arms race going. Clayton Kershaw, after a very shaky first inning where a Dee Gordon error scored an unearned run for the Giants, was his Cy Young self retiring 19 of 20 batters at one point. And Tim Lincecum was just as frustrating through seven innings.

But in the eighth inning Matt Kemp got on base on a 40-foot swinging bunt with two outs. Kemp stole second base and tied the game on Juan Rivera’s single. For that moment, the “Beat L.A.” chants quieted. But they started back up when Lincecum struck Jerry Sands out to end the inning.

Like the Angels, once the Dodgers got into the bullpen they did their jobs. Rod Barajas singled off of Santiago Casilla to lead off the ninth. With Eugenio Velez replacing Barajas on first, Justin Sellers laid down a sacrifice bunt. And Jamey Carroll came in to pinch hit for Kershaw with one out. Casilla’s wild pitch sent Velez to third base. Then it was Carroll’s turn to make the play.

Carroll hit a grounder to second baseman Jeff Keppinger. Velez made a break for home plate, Keppinger threw the ball to catcher Eli Whiteside. However Velez had touched the plate before Whiteside could tag Velez, and the Dodgers for the first time in the game had the lead.

Javy Guerra retired the side in the ninth inning for his 17th save in 18 chances.

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These series are important for the Angels and the Dodgers. For the Angels, it gives them a chance to prove to the world and to themselves that they can defeat playoff teams if they do happen to make it to the postseason.

For the Dodgers, it’s another step towards respectability whereas a month ago the Dodgers were utterly laughable. But now not only are they 3 ½ games behind the Giants for second place in the division, but they are a game behind .500 for the first time May 13.

What was nice in watching both of these games was how compelling they were just as football has started up. Friday night proved there is still a little bit of juice left in baseball. And even if a team may not have October in their sights, the trek of respectability is still enough to provide for good games.

TONIGHT’S ACTION

Utah Utes at USC Trojans. 4:30 p.m. Versus, AM 710 KSPN.

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San Jose States Spartans at UCLA Bruins. 7:00 p.m. FSWest, AM 570 KLAC.

New York Yankees at LA Angels. 6:05 p.m. KCOP, AM 830 KLAA.

LA Dodgers at San Francisco Giants. 6:05 p.m. FS Prime Ticket, AM 790 KABC.

DC United at Chivas USA. 7:30 p.m. KDOC, KWHY, AM 690 W Radio.