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Angels rally past Royals for 6th straight win

Kinsler's sacrifice fly caps go-ahead 2-run 8th inning
MLB.com @mi_guardado

KANSAS CITY -- The Angels had not faced a deficit in 48 innings before the Royals scored three runs off left-hander Andrew Heaney in the fourth on Friday night. It still wasn't enough to snap the club's winning streak, as the offense engineered a late rally for a 5-4 victory at Kauffman Stadium.

Down, 4-3, in the eighth, Zack Cozart and Shohei Ohtani ignited the comeback with back-to-back singles off Royals reliever Justin Grimm. Andrelton Simmons executed a sacrifice bunt and Luis Valbuena tied the game with a pinch-hit single to center field. Ian Kinsler drove in Ohtani with the go-ahead run on a sacrifice fly, helping the Angels (12-3) secure their sixth consecutive victory to match the 1979 team for the best start in franchise history.

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KANSAS CITY -- The Angels had not faced a deficit in 48 innings before the Royals scored three runs off left-hander Andrew Heaney in the fourth on Friday night. It still wasn't enough to snap the club's winning streak, as the offense engineered a late rally for a 5-4 victory at Kauffman Stadium.

Down, 4-3, in the eighth, Zack Cozart and Shohei Ohtani ignited the comeback with back-to-back singles off Royals reliever Justin Grimm. Andrelton Simmons executed a sacrifice bunt and Luis Valbuena tied the game with a pinch-hit single to center field. Ian Kinsler drove in Ohtani with the go-ahead run on a sacrifice fly, helping the Angels (12-3) secure their sixth consecutive victory to match the 1979 team for the best start in franchise history.

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Video: LAA@KC: Valbuena ties it late with a clutch single

"We're hitting well," said first baseman Albert Pujols, who homered and drove in three runs. "If one guy doesn't do the job, the next guy comes in and picks us up. It's a great lineup and we're just having fun right now and playing great."

Pujols opened the scoring with a two-run home run off right-hander Jason Hammel in the third inning, but the Royals pulled within one on Whit Merrifield's RBI single in the third. Aided by an RBI bloop single from Cam Gallagher and a throwing error by Simmons, Kansas City scored three runs in the fourth to take a 4-2 lead.

Video: LAA@KC: Pujols skies a two-run homer to open scoring

Gallagher's hit dropped between Simmons and Justin Upton in left field, and Simmons then uncorked an errant throw back into the infield that missed two cutoff men. Heaney, who allowed four runs (three earned) over five innings after missing the first two weeks of the season with left elbow inflammation, didn't back up home plate, allowing two runs to score on the play.

"That could have cost us the game," Heaney said. "That's something that's not acceptable on my part. I just got caught watching the play and not being where I was supposed to be. That really could have hurt us in the end, so that's frustrating, too."

Pujols cut the Royals' lead to 4-3 with an RBI single in the seventh. The 38-year-old slugger is now 13 hits shy of becoming the 32nd player to reach 3,000.

Ohtani, who was moved up to the No. 7 spot in the batting order on Friday, finished 2-for-4 with a double and is batting .367 (11-for-30) with five extra-base hits this season. Kinsler and Cozart each had three hits.

"It's a team win tonight," Heaney said. "Everybody did a great job. I put us in a hole early, and they came back. The offense just keeps plugging."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The Royals threatened to extend their 4-2 lead in the sixth after Lucas Duda and Paulo Orlando singled and Alcides Escobar walked to load the bases with one out against Noe Ramirez. That prompted manager Mike Scioscia to bring in left-hander Jose Alvarez, who bailed out Ramirez by striking out Gallagher looking and coaxing a groundout from Abraham Almonte to end the inning. Alvarez has now stranded all 10 of his inherited runners this season, which is tied with the Braves' Sam Freeman for the best rate in the Majors.

Video: LAA@KC: Alvarez induces groundout, escapes trouble

SOUND SMART
Heaney is the ninth starter used by the Angels this season. The last team to use nine starters through its first 15 games of the season was the 1960 Orioles.

Video: LAA@KC: Statcast™ measures Trout's speedy grab

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Angels center fielder Mike Trout made a four-star catch in the eighth inning, diving to snag a fly ball off the bat of Orlando. According to Statcast™, the play had a catch probability of 46 percent, as Trout had to cover 68 feet in 4.1 seconds.

Backup catcher Rene Rivera also impressed with his defense, throwing out Merrifield on a stolen-base attempt in the ninth to record the final out. Rivera had a pop time of 1.89 seconds and unleashed an 81-mph throw to nail Merrifield. The average pop time in MLB on stolen base attempts is 2.01 seconds.

Video: LAA@KC: Rivera gets Merrifield stealing to end game

UP NEXT
Right-hander Garrett Richards (1-0, 4.20 ERA) will make his fourth start of the season at 4:15 p.m. PT on Saturday as the Angels continue their four-game series against the Royals. Richards, who will be opposed by righty Jakob Junis (2-0, 0.00), allowed one run on four hits over 4 1/3 innings in his last start against the Rangers on Monday. He is 1-1 with a 3.38 ERA in 10 career appearances (four starts) against Kansas City.

Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Los Angeles Angels, Andrew Heaney, Ian Kinsler, Shohei Ohtani, Albert Pujols, Rene Rivera, Mike Trout, Luis Valbuena