TORONTO - Depending on the viewpoint, Howie Kendrick's baserunning Thursday afternoon was either a mistake-filled act that happened to end well, or a heads-up play that won the game for the Los Angeles Angels.
Regardless of the outlook you subscribe to, the speedy second baseman's unusual dash home in the ninth inning of a tie game sent the Toronto Blue Jays to a 6-5 loss, their second straight defeat and 12th in the last 15 contests.
Coming after they had fought back from a four-run deficit, the result was another one of those punch-in-the gut losses. And the prospects for bouncing back quickly with a win don't look especially promising as the nearly untouchable Zack Greinke and the Kansas City Royals arrive for the opener of a three-game set Friday night.
"Unfortunately we haven't gotten to see the fours and fives of people's rotations," said Adam Lind, who was 5-for-5 with two runs scored Thursday to match a Blue Jays record with hits in eight straight at-bats. "You've just got to grind it out.
"It's the big-leagues, you're going to have to face pitchers who are at the top of their game."
Already cut up by Jered Weaver in an 8-1 loss Wednesday and then stifled for seven innings by John Lackey, the Blue Jays (30-26) tied Thursday's game 5-5 with a three-spot in the eighth off the Angels bullpen, undoing the damage of a poor Brian Tallet start.
But Kendrick opened the ninth with a bunt single, and moved to third on Chone Figgins' base hit off Brandon League (1-2). Erick Aybar followed by hitting into a 4-6-3 double play and as shortstop Marco Scutaro relayed the ball from second to Lyle Overbay at first, Kendrick unexpectedly broke for home.
Overbay, like all his teammates surprised by Kendrick's late break, didn't immediately look to the plate and his throw home wasn't even close.
"I think the only chance we had was if Marco comes up and just throws it home," said Overbay. "I just tried but I had no shot."
Kendrick triggered the confusion by not running on contact, even though the Blue Jays were playing at double-play depth. His hesitation completely turned their focus off him until it was too late.
"You don't want to run into an out at the plate right there," said Kendrick. "I just wanted to make sure I saw Scutaro start to turn it instead of try to come home with it. Then I took off from there."
Added Angels manager Mike Scioscia: "Howie reacted and made a great read."
Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston had a different take, suggesting Kendrick was fortunate to avoid a triple play.
"He's got to go right away," he said. "I'm pretty sure if you guys go talk to Scioscia he's probably wondering what the hell that kid was doing. You want them to turn the double play. And if he starts running right away Aaron's going to second, he's at home easy.
"He made it look interesting because he didn't break right away."
Either way the Angels (27-25), who have lost six times this season when leading after seven, were happy to take it and win consecutive games for the first time in nearly two weeks.
Brian Fuentes made sure there was no second Toronto comeback in the ninth, despite a Lind double and Kevin Millar walk, closing things out for his 14th save before a disappointed crowd of 31,163.
"We did a lot of things right, we did a lot of things wrong," lamented Gaston. "But we certainly had chances to win."
Lackey was strong in his fifth start after opening the season on the disabled list with a strained right forearm, allowing just two runs on seven hits and three walks. But the 5-2 lead he left for the bullpen evaporated quickly, as Lind opened the eighth against Darren Oliver with a single. Kevin Millar followed with a base hit before Overbay made it a one-run game by scoring both runners with a double.
On came Justin Speier (2-1), who after loading the bases with none out, got Joe Inglett on a liner to second before Scutaro tied things up with a fly ball to right field. Aaron Hill then struck out with runners on second and end the inning and run his rut to 0-for-20.
"He's swinging at the pitchers' pitches right now," said Gaston.
The Angels took control early in this one, as run-scoring singles from Vladimir Guerrero and Torii Hunter plus an RBI double by Juan Rivera staked them an early 3-0 lead against Tallet.
The lanky lefty settled down after that but was touched for an RBI single in the fourth by Figgins that made it 4-0 and a solo shot by Mike Napoli in the sixth that made it 5-1.
"I wasn't able to locate fastballs, I wasn't able to locate cutters. I had one pitch today and that was a changeup," said Tallet. "All in all it was a really bad day."
That was a deep hole for his team, as Lackey cruised through his first six innings, allowing only Overbay's RBI single in the fourth, two batters after Lind doubled.
The Blue Jays had a chance at a big inning in the seventh when they loaded the bases with none out, but could do no better than Hill's run-scoring groundout that made it 5-2.
Alex Rios had an especially poor day, going 0-for-5 with five strikeouts. He's struck out in seven straight trips to the plate.
"They'll call him on his cell, that's how much they had his number," said Gaston.
Notes: CF Vernon Wells was rested for the first time this season, leaving 2B Aaron Hill and SS Marco Scutaro as the only remaining Blue Jays to have appeared in all 56 games so far this season. Both have days off coming. "I'll probably do it sometime over the weekend," said manager Cito Gaston. "These guys can't play every day, although they'd like to." ... Gaston said he's hoping the day off does Wells some good. He's in an 0-for-14 drought and is just 2-for-18 through the first six games of the current homestand. ... Former Blue Jays manager John Gibbons returns to Toronto on Friday as bench coach for the Royals. Gibbons was fired last June and replaced by Gaston. ... Lackey made his 211th career start, moving past Mark Langston for fourth on the Angels' all-time list. ... Rance Mulliniks, Paul Molitor and Tony Fernandez are the other Blue Jays with hits in eight straight at-bats.