ANAHEIM -- Oh, the difference a month makes. One month ago, Howard Kendrick was down in Triple-A Salt Lake, correcting the problems to his swing that plagued his average in May and June. Now, Kendrick is swinging a hot bat, capped off by a career-high five RBIs on Wednesday, allowing the Angels to rough up on the Cleveland Indians, 9-3, in front of 39,196 at Angel Stadium.
"He had a great approach at the plate today," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of Kendrick. "That is what he can do, and it is nice to see him feeling more comfortable at the plate and come back up and get some big hits, because we are going to need it." In his first go-round this year with the Angels, Kendrick struggled mightily, batting .193 in May with 16 hits in 24 games and .269 in June with seven hits in eight games before he was optioned to Salt Lake on June 13. In 17 games since being recalled on July 4, Kendrick is batting .377 with 23 hits and 14 RBIs, raising his average 35 points to .267. "No one wants to be sent down, and I was a little upset here and there when it happened," Kendrick said. "At the same time, I think it was the best thing for me looking back at it. "In turn, I have benefited from it, coming back up here and allowing me to enjoy it a lot more and just take the game for what it is and not worry about getting out." Since his return, Kendrick has tried to be patient at the plate and have consistent at-bats to make sure he gets a good pitch to hit. That philosophy was in top form on Wednesday, when Kendrick saw eight pitches before his RBI single in the first and three pitches before his two-run single in the fifth. "He is laying off some pitches or at least getting it back to a hitter's count, unlike when he was moving hitters' counts to pitchers' counts earlier in the year," Scioscia said. "He is swinging the bat much better right now." Kendrick was a part of every major Angels rally, including a two-run home run in the seventh that allowed John Lackey to win his seventh game of the season and his fourth in a row. Lackey went seven innings, gave up one run on three hits and struck out eight to move his ERA to 4.00. During his past four games, the righty has posted a 1.47 ERA, allowing only five earned runs in 30 2/3 innings pitched. "Other than a three- or four-hitter stretch there in the seventh, I felt like I was in command of all of my pitches," Lackey said. "I feel like my strength, stamina and command are all coming together." As Lackey said, the only trouble he got into was in the seventh, when he surrendered three walks, however no damage was done as he got Indians second baseman Luis Valbuena to ground into a double play. With Lackey's strong performance, the Angels bullpen got a much-needed day of rest. Bobby Mosebach, who after the game was optioned to Salt Lake, allowed two runs in the ninth. Even with such a dominating performance by Lackey, the day still belonged to Kendrick and the other Angels hitters, who totaled 10 hits during the game. Bobby Abreu had two hits and an RBI in the fifth, the Angels' biggest inning of the day. Kendry Morales chipped in an RBI double and Kendrick a two-run single as the Halos scored five runs in the inning before an out was recorded to bust the game open, 7-1. The RBI was nothing new for Abreu, who now leads the American League in average with runners in scoring position at .418. Wednesday's win also put the Angels (60-40) back at a season-high 20 games over .500 and allowed them to win their fifth straight series. "We need our whole roster with some guys out, and we are getting contributions from everyone, and that has been fun to watch," said Scioscia.
Quinn Roberts is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.