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Angels close first half with familiar near-miss

Marte hits game-tying homer off Kershaw, but 'pen stumbles
MLB.com @mi_guardado

LOS ANGELES -- Many of the shortcomings that hindered the Angels over their disappointing first half cropped up again in Sunday afternoon's 5-3 loss to the Dodgers in their Freeway Series finale at Dodger Stadium.

They tied the game in the fourth inning when Jefry Marte belted a three-run home run off ace left-hander Clayton Kershaw, but the Angels squandered two bases-loaded opportunities and finished 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position. Left with little margin for error, the bullpen subsequently stumbled, as Taylor Cole yielded a go-ahead home run to Kiké Hernandez in the seventh that propelled the Dodgers in the first-half finale.

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LOS ANGELES -- Many of the shortcomings that hindered the Angels over their disappointing first half cropped up again in Sunday afternoon's 5-3 loss to the Dodgers in their Freeway Series finale at Dodger Stadium.

They tied the game in the fourth inning when Jefry Marte belted a three-run home run off ace left-hander Clayton Kershaw, but the Angels squandered two bases-loaded opportunities and finished 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position. Left with little margin for error, the bullpen subsequently stumbled, as Taylor Cole yielded a go-ahead home run to Kiké Hernandez in the seventh that propelled the Dodgers in the first-half finale.

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"Obviously, he is one of the best pitchers in the game," right fielder Kole Calhoun said of Kershaw. "I know he's four or five starts off the DL, but he's still the same guy. To battle back down three against him, it's definitely pretty nice. We gave ourselves a shot, we just couldn't get that big hit after Marte tied it up."

By dropping two of three to their crosstown rivals, the Angels will now head into the All-Star break at 49-48, nine games behind the Mariners for the second American League Wild Card spot. They also trail the surging A's by six games, making the deficit all the more daunting.

It's a precarious position for the Angels, who have gone 36-45 following their franchise-best 13-3 start to the season. A little bit of everything has gone wrong over that stretch. Their offense has been inconsistent, their bullpen has been susceptible to lapses after shouldering a heavy early season workload and their rotation has been ravaged by injuries.

"There are definitely some things that we've been talking about for the last six weeks or so that we need to do better that we're working very hard at," manager Mike Scioscia said. "Hopefully we'll get more continuity as we get some guys back in our rotation. Some guys can swing the bats a little bit better. We feel we have the same optimism about reaching our goal, but we know that there are some things we need to do better. That's what we're going to focus on."

The Angels forced Kershaw to throw 29 pitches in the first inning, but they couldn't capitalize on a bases-loaded scoring opportunity. Rookie David Fletcher opened the game by lining a 2-0 fastball from Kershaw to left field for a leadoff double. Andrelton Simmons then attempted to lay down a bunt, but he popped it up to catcher Yasmani Grandal for the first out.

Kershaw then issued walks to Mike Trout and Ian Kinsler to load the bases with two outs. That brought up Marte, who worked a nine-pitch at-bat before striking out swinging on a slider to end the inning. In a show of frustration, Marte emphatically broke his bat over his knee, reducing it to splintered wood.

Marte breaks bat over knee, then homers

Video: LAA@LAD: Marte snaps bat after being K'd by Kershaw

"Clayton's one of the best," Scioscia said. "Even when, sometimes, he looks like he's a little bit on the edge, he finds a way to come back and get outs, and he did it this afternoon."

The Dodgers got on the board in the second after Grandal launched a solo home run off Deck McGuire, who started Sunday in place of the injured Garrett Richards. Andrew Toles then beat out a softly hit ground ball for an infield single, advanced to third on Chris Taylor's single and scored on Hernandez's sacrifice fly. Kershaw followed by punching a two-out single to right field to plate Taylor and extend the Dodgers' lead to 3-0.

The Angels equalized in the fourth after Justin Upton and Kinsler led off the inning with back-to-back singles, setting up Marte's three-run shot to center field. It was the first homer Kershaw had allowed in 28 innings since returning from the disabled list.

"Jefry's last 50 at-bats have been a little bit soft as far as production, but he got a big hit for us this afternoon and tied the ballgame up," Scioscia said. "It's good to see him swing the bat."

The Angels came back to test Kershaw in the seventh, as Luis Valbuena drew a leadoff walk before advancing to second on Fletcher's sacrifice bunt. Kershaw struck out Simmons for the second out, but he then walked Trout on his 108th and final pitch of the afternoon. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts brought in Kenta Maeda, who hit Upton to load the bases before striking out Kinsler swinging to end the inning.

After Hernandez homered to give the Dodgers a 4-3 lead, Toles added an insurance run with an RBI single off Oliver Drake in the eighth.

Pinch-hitter Shohei Ohtani led off the ninth against Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen and struck out swinging on three consecutive cutters. Jansen subsequently coaxed a lineout from Fletcher and a groundout from Simmons to end the game.

Video: LAA@LAD: Jansen strikes out Ohtani to begin the 9th

SOUND SMART
Perhaps it felt like every game of the Freeway Series this season was close. That's because it was, with the Dodgers and Angels each winning two of three at home to split the season series. The average margin of victory across the six contests was 1.3 runs, with the Dodgers outscoring the Angels, 20-18.

MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Toles scored in L.A.'s three-run second, but it took a pair of reviews going the Dodgers' way to keep him on base. The speedy outfielder hit a high-chopper to first baseman Marte and dove headfirst into first, arriving just as McGuire arrived at the bag to receive the toss. Tole was ruled out, but a challenge led to the call being overturned, as replays showed Toles' hand arrived just in time to get stepped on by McGuire's right foot.

Video: LAA@LAD: Dodgers challenge out at first in the 2nd

Moments later, McGuire tried to pick off Toles at first. Toles was ruled safe on a close play. The Angels challenged the call, believing replay showed that Marte tagged Toles before he got back

The call was allowed to stand, but Scioscia strongly felt that Toles should have been called out.

Video: LAA@LAD: Toles safe at first base, call stands in 2nd

UP NEXT
The Angels open the second half with a matchup against the Astros on Friday at 7:07 p.m. PT at Angel Stadium. Houston will call on Dallas Keuchel. The Halos have not announced a starting pitcher.

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

Los Angeles Angels, Jefry Marte