SAN DIEGO -- Rene Rivera couldn't have scripted a better ending to his first game back from the disabled list.
After missing three months while recovering from right knee surgery, Rivera returned to action Wednesday night and crushed a tie-breaking home run off Kirby Yates in the ninth inning to lift the Angels to a 3-2 win and complete a three-game sweep of the Padres at Petco Park.
"It feels great," Rivera said. "It's awesome to come back after three months and help the team to win a game. It feels awesome. I'm glad to be back and have the opportunity to play."
With the game tied at 2, Rivera launched a first-pitch fastball from Yates into the upper deck in left field for his fourth home run of the season. Rivera went 2-for-4 with an RBI in his first game since May 16.
"He was swinging the bat well earlier this year when he got hurt," manager Mike Scioscia said. "When he went on his rehab, it took him a couple [games], but he felt like he got his timing. He jumped right in, hit the ball hard. That's a huge home run, obviously."
Richard Parker pitched a scoreless ninth to pick up his 12th save of the season. The Angels (62-60) have won seven of their last nine games after securing their first road series victory since June 29-July 1 at Baltimore.
Rivera's late-inning heroics ensured that the Angels didn't squander an impressive start from right-hander Felix Pena, who allowed only one unearned run over a season-high-tying six innings. Pena handed a 2-1 lead over to the bullpen, but the Padres tied it after Cory Spangenberg launched a two-out solo homer off reliever Cam Bedrosian in the seventh.
A converted reliever, Pena limited the Padres to two hits -- none after the third inning -- while walking four, striking out seven and throwing a career-high 90 pitches. After being pressed into the rotation in June, Pena has consistently showed his viability as a starting option for the injury-riddled Angels, who have had to find creative ways to fill the persistent voids in their rotation this season.
Pena found himself locked in a pitchers' duel with San Diego left-hander Robbie Erlin for most of the evening. Pena and Erlin both gave up sacrifice flies in the first inning before subsequently matching each other with four scoreless innings.
The Angels briefly broke the 1-1 deadlock in the sixth. After David Fletcher and Jose Pujols singled off Erlin to put runners on the corners with one out, Andrelton Simmons delivered an RBI single to left field to put the Angels ahead, 2-1.
Travis Jankowski led off the game with a double and advanced to third on a passed ball, and William Myers walked to put runners on the corners with no outs. After Eric Hosmer struck out swinging, Pena allowed Jankowski to score on Hunter Renfroe's sacrifice fly to center field, tying the game at 1. Myers then stole second to put another runner in scoring position, but Pena coaxed a flyout from Austin Hedges to end the inning.
"I always try to attack hitters," Pena said in Spanish. "Sometimes things don't work out in the first inning, but I make adjustments after that."
Pena allowed only one more hit after that, a two-out double to Hosmer in the third. Renfroe followed by flaring a fly ball to shallow center field, but Eric Young made a nice diving catch to leave Hosmer stranded.
Pena has occasionally had trouble navigating the first inning and entered Wednesday with a 12.96 ERA over nine opening frames this season, but he managed to limit the damage against the Padres.
HE SAID IT
"It's huge. We need some more guys to step up. The fact that Felix has so much on his plate, getting through six innings is really all you can ask for. He's been pitching at that range of getting us those 16, 17, 18, 19 outs pretty consistently. For a guy who's in his first go-around as a starter, he's doing a great job." -- Scioscia
The Angels will head to Texas and kick off a four-game series against the Rangers on Thursday at 5:05 p.m. PT at Globe Life Park. Japanese rookie sensation Shohei Ohtani is expected to return to the starting lineup at designated hitter. Ohtani was limited to pinch-hitting duties during the three Interleague games in San Diego since the Angels were without the DH. Right-hander Taylor Cole (0-2, 2.95 ERA) will start a bullpen game for the Angels and fill in for injured starter Tyler Skaggs. He will be opposed by Texas right-hander Ariel Jurado (2-2, 5.66 ERA). The Angels lead the season series against the Rangers, 5-1.