ANAHEIM, Calif. – Casey Kotchman grounded a tiebreaking, two-run single through a drawn-in infield in the eighth inning, and the Los Angeles Angels beat the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 7-5 Friday night to increase their AL West lead to four games over second-place Oakland.

The Angels took advantage of three Devil Rays’ errors and extended their winning streak to seven.

With the score 5-all, Joe Borowski (1-5) walked Juan Rivera with one out in the eighth and Bengie Molina doubled over a leaping Alex Gonzalez at third. Kotchman batted for Robb Quinlan and got his first pinch hit of the season.

Scot Shields (9-11) pitched a perfect eighth, and Francisco Rodriguez had a 1-2-3 ninth for his 41st save in 46 attempts.

Tampa Bay starter Casey Fossum came away with his fourth straight no-decision, allowing five runs – four earned – and five hits in 6 1-3 innings. He left with a 5-4 lead after Gonzalez misplayed a routine grounder by Jose Molina.

One out later, Chone Figgins singled pinch-runner Zach Sorensen to third, and Sorensen continued home after first baseman Travis Lee misplayed the relay from right fielder Aubrey Huff for the Devil Rays’ 120th error, the most in the majors.

Angels starter Paul Byrd gave up five runs – four earned – and 10 hits in 4 1-3 innings.

Huff drove in a first-inning run with the first of his three hits, but the Angels took a 2-1 lead in the bottom half on Orlando Cabrera’s RBI triple and Vladimir Guerrero’s run-scoring groundout.

Halls singled home another run in the second and Tampa Bay went ahead 4-2 in the third on Jorge Cantu’s run-scoring double, which increased his club-record RBIs total to 111, and Jonny Gomes’ sacrifice fly.

Cabrera drove in another run in the third with a groundout, but Huff made it 5-3 in the fifth with his first homer since Aug. 28, reaching 20 homers for the fourth straight season.

Darin Erstad homered in the seventh to pull the Angels within a run.

Notes: Angels hitting coach Mickey Hatcher, who received a one-game suspension on Friday as a result of his ejection from a game at Boston on Sept. 8, will sit out Saturday’s contest. … For the first time since 1993, there are co-winners of the Gene Autry Trophy as Angels MVP – Figgins and 20-game winner Bartolo Colon.

AP-ES-09-24-05 0105EDT


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