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Angels Take Game 1 of Freeway Series in Bizarre Ending

That’s one way to beat the heat.

The Los Angeles Dodgers were one strike away from winning their fifth consecutive game and starting off their seven-game all Southern California road trip with a win…

And then the wheels fell off. 

Ian Kinsler hit a single to right field and David Fletcher scored the game-winning run from first base when Yasiel Puig’s throw bounced to the backstop, and the Angels defeated the Dodgers, 3-2, in walk-off fashion on Friday night in Anaheim.

“It’s always fun to win games like that,” said Kinsler who recorded his ninth career walk-off plate appearance. “When you’re down in the ninth against a really good closer, it’s definitely special. It was a really good win for us.”

After recording the first two outs of the bottom of the ninth, Dodgers’ closer Kenley Jansen, got ahead of Shohei Ohtani 0-2, before throwing four straight balls to give him a free trip to first base. 

“Its unacceptable to lose him there,” said Jansen after the game. “I feel like I almost lost my feel on that fastball up in the zone. I couldn’t get it where I wanted it to and that walk really irritated me.”

One pitch later, Ohtani stole second and Yasmani Grandal’s throw went into centerfield, allowing the Japanese star to advance to third base. 

“In that situation, with a one-run lead, I tried to be quick,” continued Jansen. “I don’t have no room for error there. I gotta make sure I make a quality pitch, because if even if you run, I can’t leave something in the middle, that could hurt. So, I just tried to make a quality pitch, but I made five straight balls that I didn’t execute the way I wanted it to and that cost me today.”

Ohtani would tie the game on a single from Fletcher, before the wild, walk-off drama ensued. 

“I faced him once in spring training,” Fletcher said of his first career hit off Jansen. “He’s one of the tougher guys to hit in the league. The experience was good and when you can see a pitcher more than once it can help you. I struck out against him the first time, so it was nice to break through there.”

Matt Kemp knocked in both runs for the Dodgers in defeat. 

“It was a little weird,” Kemp said of the fnish of this game. “You just have to turn the page and get ready tomorrow, it’s as simple as that.”

Following a three-game sweep of the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Dodgers moved into a first place tie in the National League West with the Arizona Diamondbacks on their off day, after the Snakes lost to the San Diego Padres on Thursday.

Temperatures across the Southland reached triple-digits throughout the day, so both teams limited batting practice and other pregame outdoor activities.

The temperature at first pitch was a scorching 108 degrees, the hottest game-time start in Angels franchise history.

Nobody was hotter than Dodgers’ starter Kenta Maeda, as he scorched the Angels in a marquee matchup of Japanese imports.

“I didn’t expect the heat to effect Kenta,” said Dodgers’ manager Dave Roberts. “He’s accustomed to the heat and it just comes down to execution.”

The highly anticipated showdown between former Nippon Professional Baseball League stars Ohtani and Maeda, had the sellout crowd of 44,323 on the edge of their seat early, but it turned out to be a one-sided affair.

“I’m sure the Japanese fans were very excited to see this kind of matchup,” Maeda said of facing Ohtani. “I didn’t really have too many opportunities to face him in Japan, but I noticed he’s getting better every year and I think he’s a really good hitter.” 

Maeda won both head-to-head battles with Ohtani, punching out his countryman in the second inning and inducing him into a routine infield fly out to the shortstop in the fifth.

“He was on top of his game,” Ohtani said of facing Maeda. “He kept our lineup pretty quiet.” 

Maeda was in line for the win, but he did not factor in the decision, allowing just one run on three hits, with two walks and nine strikeouts in 5 and 2/3 innings of work. In his last eight starts, Maeda is (3-2) with a 2.04 ERA with 52 strikeouts.

“I knew that there were a lot of good hitters in the lineup and I was able to execute all my pitches and did well,” said Maeda of his start. 

Maed is 5-1 with a 2.36 ERA in interleague play in his career.

Starting in the DH spot for the first time this season, Matt Kemp knocked in both runs for the Dodgers and improved his batting average with runners in scoring position to an MLB-best .438.

Kemp kick-started the scoring with an RBI single in the top of the fourth inning that brought home Cody Bellinger, who reached base on a two-out double, one play prior.

Kemp knocked in another run in the top of the sixth as the Dodgers jumped out to an early 2-0 lead against their Southern California rivals.

“It just wasn’t enough today,” Kemp said of the two runs the Dodgers scored. “Next time he [Maeda] pitches hopefully we can get him more run support. These are the games you want to win, but it’s unfortunate and now we have to get ready tomorrow.”

The Halos loaded the bases twice in the bottom of the sixth, and scored their first run on a balk by Maeda.

“I tried to do a quick pitch, and it ended up being a balk.”

Ian Kinsler pretended to steal home, sprinting down the third-base line, forcing Maeda to make a rushed throw to the plate that was ruled a balk by home plate umpire Chad Whitson.

“I was going to steal home,” admitted Kinsler. “I saw that he sped up his windup and so I shut it down and tried to get back and they called the balk. It happened so fast, I didn’t really notice. That’s just the way I play the game. There was an opportunity to score a run there.” 

Scott Alexander entered the game in relief and struck out Albert Pujols with the bases loaded to end the inning.

Since returning from a demotion to the minor leagues in early May, Alexander has a 2.54 ERA with 25 strikeouts and just 10 walks in 27 appearances.

Jansen was one strike away from his 24th save of the season, but instead was responsible for his first blown save since April 17.

“I take all the blame. This is on me today,” said Jansen of the loss. “I got to be backing up home plate. Like I said, I take all the blame on me today. I take this loss on me today.”

After the heartbreaking loss, the Dodgers fall back into second place in the N.L. West after Arizona defeated San Diego earlier in the evening.

Since May 17, the Dodgers are in first place in every major offensive statistical category (Win pct., Runs/game, HR/Game, SLG, OPS) on the road.

The Halos were 1-for-35 when trailing entering the ninth inning, and recorded their fourth walk-off victory of the season. 

Meanwhile, the Dodgers lost for just the second time when leading entering the ninth, and fall to 41-2 on the year.

Up Next:

RHP Ross Stripling toes the rubber in what is expected to be extreme heat conditions on Saturday opposite RHP Deck McGuire for the Angels. First pitch is an earlier 4:15PM PST start. 

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Photo Credit: Victor Decolongon/Getty Images
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Source: NBC Los Angeles

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