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LAA@TB: Conger's solo shot gives Angels a run

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Angels should have had a distinct advantage over the competition Sunday afternoon.

When ace Jered Weaver was scratched from his start with a stomach virus, though, the playing field evened out a whole lot more than they'd hoped. Still, rookie fill-in Tyler Chatwood managed to rebound quickly from a disastrous first inning on the mound to keep things interesting.

It wasn't Chatwood that had fans talking after the series finale. Instead it was Vernon Wells, who won the game without registering a hit during in a 6-5 win over the Rays that handed the team its seventh series win in eight tries.

"I think there's little things you have to do when other things aren't working," said Wells, who went 0-for-3. "There's plenty of [other] ways to help this team win than just swinging a bat."

He found the best way Sunday given the situation when, as a runner on first, he did nothing at all. The score was tied at 5 in the eighth inning when Wells drew a walk. Angels catcher Hank Conger then hit a chopper to second baseman Ben Zobrist, but the ball's path took Zobrist far enough from Wells that he couldn't easily tag the Angels left fielder.

Wells froze, which appeared to throw Zobrist off for a moment before he chased Wells toward first base, eventually throwing to the bag to get Conger out.

"I had to charge the ball because it was hit off the end of the bat, and my thought is it's going to be a tough play to try and turn," Zobrist said. "[Wells] was right in front of me, so if he takes another step, I've got a chance to tag him and throw to first. He made a good running play. Stopped before I could tag him."

Wells broke toward second at the same instant, initiating a rundown that lasted just long enough for Torii Hunter to sneak home from third base with the decisive run.

In order for Wells' heads-up move to transpire, the Angels had to prove early on that they wanted to win. Several things went awry for Chatwood almost immediately: Sam Fuld's leadoff double broke an 0-for-18 slump. A B.J. Upton single brought Fuld home, and Upton advanced to second on the throw. When Upton stole third, the throw down was on target, but third baseman Alberto Callaspo dropped the ball, allowing Upton to reach safely.

The snowball grew as it headed down the mountain, and a 1-0 deficit quickly expanded with it. Soon enough, the Angels were in a 5-0 hole, the Rays had batted around, and, with seven hits already credited to his start, there was some doubt that Chatwood would survive the first inning.

"It happened quick," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "They jumped out and we ... couldn't put them away."

Chatwood did rally to fan Reid Brignac next, and was helped a moment later when Conger caught fellow catcher John Jaso stealing second to end the frame, but the damage was already done.

"I just went [back] out there and knew I had to try to keep it right there, and try to do some damage control to keep us in the game," Chatwood said.

At that point things looked bleak for the team that had managed a single run in 10 innings Saturday, but the Angels had something working for them: Rays starter Alex Cobb was making his Major League debut.

Conger was the first to capitalize on this, blasting his third homer of the season on a 2-2 pitch in the top of the second inning. The score sat at 5-1 until the fifth, when the Angels plated four to tie the game at 5.

Cobb, who never really seemed to settle in during his 4 1/3 innings, earned one out before walking consecutive hitters in the fifth. Even more rattled after a coaching visit to the mound, the 23-year-old righty hung a 3-1 pitch to Bobby Abreu, which he sent to right to score a run.

Abreu's single marked the end of Cobb's night. His replacement, Andy Sonnanstine, didn't fare much better, allowing a single, a sacrifice fly and a walk before escaping the frame.

By then, the score was tied. Chatwood rebounded to throw three scoreless frames and a bullpen mix of Scott Downs (two innings), and Rich Thompson, Fernando Rodney and Jordan Walden (one each) held firm over five innings to give the Angels their best chance.

"They went from five runs in the first to zero the rest of the game; you've got to give them credit for that," Rays manager Joe Maddon said.

This time around, Wells and his teammates would not be denied, and the team went on to win its AL-leading 10th road game.

"I think that's the biggest thing: Always concentrating, always pushing to do something to help," Wells said. "And luckily, I was able to do that on the basepaths." Comments