TORONTO – The Toronto Blue Jays relied on their big bats in the first two games of their nine-game homestand.
The power game was minimized Friday and it proved costly in a 4-3 loss to the Los Angeles Angels that ended Toronto’s season-high five-game winning streak.
Angels leadoff man Erick Aybar tripled to open the ninth inning and scored the go-ahead run on a sacrifice fly from Raul Ibanez. Ernesto Frieri earned his fourth save to end a choppy, mistake-filled game that at times was not pretty to watch.
Toronto’s bullpen struggled after a five-inning effort from starter Dustin McGowan. Sergio Santos left the game in the seventh with the bases loaded and Steve Delabar followed by walking in a run.
Brett Cecil (0-3) was uneven in the ninth as the Blue Jays fell back to the .500 mark.
“That’s where we’ve struggled this year — throwing strikes out of the bullpen,” said Toronto manager John Gibbons. “If they beat you, make them hit it to beat you.”
Toronto (18-18) pumped out 22 runs over its two-game mini-sweep of Philadelphia leading into the opener of a four-game series against the Angels. The Blue Jays scratched out runs where they could on this night, scoring twice on wild pitches and getting another run on a Jose Reyes solo homer.
McGowan was hit and miss on the mound and did well to escape with just two earned runs allowed. Santos breezed through the sixth inning but gave up a one-out double to Aybar in the seventh.
Aybar moved to third on a groundout and after an intentional walk to Albert Pujols and another walk to Ibanez, Delabar threw four straight balls to Howie Kendrick that were well out of the zone.
“It was one of those days where I thought it was right there,” Delabar said. “When I released the ball, I thought it was in the zone but it was nowhere close.”
Mike Trout hit his seventh homer of the season for Los Angeles (17-17). Aybar, meanwhile, was 3 for 5 and is hitting .397 over his last 15 games.
“He’s swinging the bat nice, he has confidence up there,” said acting Angels manager Dino Ebel. “He’s putting good wood on it and he wants to be the guy … hats off to him getting that big triple there in the ninth inning.”
Reyes had three hits and scored twice for the Blue Jays, who were outhit 9-7 in front of 21,383 spectators under the roof at Rogers Centre.
Los Angeles starter Garrett Richards was wild at times but turned in a solid performance overall, allowing five hits, two earned runs and two walks while striking out six.
“Richards is one of the best young pitchers in the game,” Gibbons said. “He can overpower you. He shut down a pretty offence too tonight. So that was the key there.
“We were in a position to win, we just didn’t win it.”
Richards’ second wild pitch in the first inning allowed Reyes to open the scoring. Trout gave the Angels a 2-1 lead with his solo shot in the third inning but another wild pitch from Richards allowed Melky Cabrera to tie the game in the bottom half of the frame.
The Angels nearly went ahead when McGowan fired a wild pitch of his own with two outs in the fifth inning. The ball bounced back toward catcher Dioner Navarro, who tagged Ibanez’s leg as he slid at home plate.
Umpire Angel Hernandez ruled him safe but Gibbons challenged the call and the decision was reversed to end the inning.
Reliever Joe Smith (2-0) replaced Richards in the eighth and Reyes greeted him by lashing a pitch that barely cleared the wall in right field. It was the third home run of the year for the Toronto shortstop, who has struggled to find a groove after missing time with a hamstring problem last month.
“He looks back,” Gibbons said. “He’s feeling good, he’s bouncing around. He got off to a slow start with the bat but it’s coming. He can do so many things.”
The Blue Jays put the potential go-ahead run at second base later in the eighth but Juan Francisco struck out to keep the game tied.
Notes: Ebel, the Angels’ bench coach, will also serve as skipper on Saturday as regular manager Mike Scioscia is away at his daughter’s college graduation. … Toronto slugger Jose Bautista singled in the eighth inning and has now reached base safely in a club-record 36 straight games to open the season. It’s the longest season-opening on-base streak since Pujols had a 41-gamer in 2008. … The game took three hours nine minutes to play. … McGowan allowed seven hits, two walks and struck out a pair. … The Blue Jays entered play Friday with five players in the American League’s top 10 in home runs. Bautista and Colby Rasmus were tied for third spot with nine apiece. Edwin Encarnacion, Brett Lawrie of Langley, B.C., and Cabrera were tied for ninth with six homers apiece. Chicago’s Jose Abreu leads the AL with 12 homers and Pujols is next with 10. … J.A. Happ (1-0) is scheduled to start for Toronto on Saturday. Fellow left-hander Tyler Skaggs (2-1) goes for the Angels. … The challenge in the fifth inning lasted much longer than usual. The unofficial time was three minutes 20 seconds. … Toronto has hit at least one homer in all 15 home games this season. … The Blue Jays have dropped eight of their last nine games against the Angels.
© The Canadian Press, 2014