ANAHEIM -- As Tuesday night rolled on, and the importance of squeaking out a win against these streaking Rangers seemingly increased, the heroic efforts began to pile up for the Angels, from Jason Vargas' resurgence to Scott Downs' perseverance to Mike Trout's defense to Dane De La Rosa's important relief innings.
And then, at the very end, there was Howie Kendrick, jumping into a dog pile at home plate, moments after his walk-off homer gave his team a hard-fought 5-4 victory at Angel Stadium.
"It's a great feeling," Kendrick said, "knowing you can leave the other team on the field."
Kendrick's second homer of the night, on a 1-1 fastball from Rangers lefty Joe Ortiz, sailed just over the center-field fence, in almost the same place where he hit one seven innings earlier off Alexi Ogando. It gave the Angels four wins in five games, snapped the Rangers' four-game winning streak and came two days after Mark Trumbo did the same against the Tigers.
"I think just the fact that we're getting wins is the biggest thing," Kendrick said after driving in four runs and notching his second career walk-off homer. "Last year, we started off real slow. This year, we started kind of slow, but it's good to see everybody swinging the bat well. It's been a different guy every other night, and that's what we need. It lets you know that every guy is kind of locked in and we're playing well as a team. These are the type of victories we need."
If not for Trout's defense two innings earlier, there may not have been a victory to enjoy.
Tied up in the top of the ninth, with Ian Kinsler on third, Ernesto Frieri on the mound and two outs, Adrian Beltre lined a ball into the left-field corner that looked primed for a tiebreaking RBI double. But Trout raced to his right and made a leaping catch on the warning track, nearly sliding headfirst into the wall, the latest in a litany of highlights in the 21-year-old's burgeoning career.
"Once it was hit, it was hooking away from me a little bit, and the only chance I thought I had was to dive a little bit and brace myself from hitting that wall," Trout said. "Once I caught it, that was the next thing on my mind was hitting that wall."
Trout did his best not to grin, but he couldn't contain himself as he jogged back to the third-base dugout amid a standing ovation.
Beltre, robbed of another extra-base hit by center fielder Peter Bourjos in the first inning, was stunned.
"I saw it," Beltre said. "I couldn't believe it, but I saw it. When I hit the ball, I saw where he was playing and I saw the ball hooking. I thought he had no chance to get to that. I was wrong. It's not fair. It's not fair for them to have three center fielders playing the outfield here."
Also not fair: The Angels' current bullpen situation.
They've called up five new arms from the Minor Leagues in the last two weeks, and for Tuesday's game, only two members of their Opening Day bullpen -- Downs and Frieri -- were available. And they were all spent.
Making his third straight appearance and coming off throwing 1 2/3 innings on Monday, Downs navigated through sloppy defense while nursing a one-run lead in the eighth. Shortstop Andrew Romine saw Nelson Cruz's grounder roll between his legs and first baseman Trumbo mistakenly threw home after fielding a grounder, allowing Beltre to retreat to third and loaded the bases with none out.
Downs induced a double play to David Murphy, tying the game, and struck out Mitch Moreland to end the threat. Frieri, also appearing in his third straight game, then kept them scoreless in the ninth with Trout's help. And De La Rosa, making his third appearance in the last four games, threw two scoreless innings.
None of them figure to be available in Wednesday's series finale, when Yu Darvish starts for the Rangers and the Angels counter with what Mike Scioscia called a "staff day," starting with rookie Michael Roth.
For a reeling bullpen, it's all hands on deck.
"Tonight it was," Scioscia said, "and tomorrow it might be, too."
Vargas came in with a 6.75 ERA, giving up a combined 34 hits and walks in 14 2/3 innings to start the season and posting a 2.32 WHIP. But the 30-year-old left-hander skated out of trouble, giving up only a sixth-inning three-run homer to Cruz and completing seven innings despite giving up seven hits and three walks.
Vargas' start spared the bullpen some work, and it was one of several components that helped the Angels capture an important win.
"It's something we needed, especially against this ballclub," Vargas said. "It sets a tone going forward. We need to have that presence and feeling of putting it away."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.