Griffin: Blue Jays brought back to earth in sloppy loss to Angels
ANAHEIM-All of the magic, all the superb Blue Jays' defence of the first two nights that had carried the team to back-to-back shutouts at the Big A disappeared on Saturday in a sloppy 6-2 loss against an Angels lineup that was minus Albert Pujols for the first time this year.
The Angels' three-run sixth inning was a microcosm of what ailed the Jays on this night as they tried for a fifth straight win on a beautiful southern California night. Perhaps Kyle Drabek, with his 87 pitches through five innings shouldn't even have gone back out for the sixth. He hadn't commanded the strike zone all night and manager John Farrell had seven relief pitchers in his bullpen that were well rested. But the young righthander stayed on.
“I just couldn't seem to find the four-seam fastball,” Drabek said. “That's what beat me today. It just needs to be fixed. That's pretty much the end of that.”
Attacking Drabek's second offering in the sixth, first baseman Mark Trumbo, playing his third position in three games, crushed a home run deep to left field for a 3-1 lead.
“It was supposed to be away, but it was right down the middle,” Drabek said.
Following the homer, Vernon Wells walked and Erick Aybar bounced an infield single to shortstop setting up more defensive slop. Angels manager Mike Scioscia is a fan of small-ball, so when catcher Bobby Wilson squared to bunt it shouldn't have surprised anyone on the field. Drabek saw the bunt and charged straight towards the plate instead of heading for the third base foul line. Third baseman Brett Lawrie doubled back to the bag anticipating a force. Drabek watched helplessly as the ball passed him and settled in the grass halfway between third base and the mound.
“I fell off too much to where I couldn't get to it,” Drabek said.
Once the ball passed Drabek on the ground, it should have become Lawrie's responsibility to get an out at first base. He didn't. With the bases loaded and 99 pitches, enter Jason Frasor. More slop.
“With the exception of the two pitches for homers that ran back to the middle of the plate, I thought Kyle had the game in check even though he kind of wiggled out of some jams early,” Jays' manager John Farrell said. “I thought the game was in control at that point.”
A long sacrifice fly by Trout left runners at the corners. Then came more slop. Frasor fielded a one-hopper back to the mound from Alberto Callaspo and, in starting a double play, fired a one-hopper into centre field for the Angels' fifth run. He escaped with no further damage. The Jays were lucky to still be in the game, but it shows how well they have played in general to still have a chance.
“Tonight Kyle didn't have his best command, or the command that he had his last outing against Texas,” Farrell said. “His pitch count was up there. Two balls leaked back over the plate, but yet he comes out in the sixth inning, 2-1 game. But the inning started to unravel for him.”
There was more. Other sloppy glove plays on this unfortunate night included a gentle grounder between the legs of Lind at first base, a second bad decision on a bunt, with Lawrie perhaps showing his inexperience, retreating to third once again as the ball rolled past Joel Carreno, resulting in another Angels hit. Then there was amazingly a repeat of the sixth inning Frasor error this time by Luis Perez on a combacker to the mound, also thrown past second base. Just write this debacle off.
“Unfortunately, defensively we didn't really take care of the ball in those middle or later innings, where we kind of contributed to a couple of those runs,” Farrell understated. “On the two bunt plays we didn't break off the mound as we typically should. It's a very simple responsibility as far as the pitcher's concerned. He's got the third base line. The one bunt by Wilson was a hard bunt that kind of got by Kyle. In Joel's situation it's instinctual where he's got that area of coverage.”
It became evident early on that it would be difficult for Drabek to duplicate the efforts of his two teammates, Brandon Morrow and Henderson Alvarez and extend the magic. The problem was the young righthander was not getting ahead consistently in the count with first pitch strikes.
In the second, Wells tomahawked a line drive double off the low fence in left, then scored on a two-out single by the catcher Wilson. It broke a streak of 23 shutout innings for Jays pitchers.
The Angels early lead did not last long. In the top of the fourth, Jays' leadoff hitter Kelly Johnson chopped a ball over the mound for an infield single, stole second and went to third on a groundball to the right side by Yunel Escobar. With the Angels' infield in and Jose Bautista at the plate, the Jays' most important player scorched a line drive over shortstop into left centre field to tie the game.
While Farrell continues to write his slumping star slugger's name into the three-hole of his lineup card every game, Scioscia took a different approach with Pujols. Homerless in his first 27 games, Scioscia sat his star first baseman Saturday and, in fact, suggested he not take batting practice to give him the full experience of a day off. He will be back on Sunday.
“They have a very good lineup, with or without Albert Pujols in there,” Farrell said. “Obviously, he's been one of the best hitters in the game, maybe the best over the last 10 years. We can't pitch just to one guy. We've got nine guys we've got to face.”
Drabek never really was able to settle in. With one out in the fifth, he allowed a long home run to centre field by the leadoff hitter Mike Trout, his first of the year to put the Angels back in front. He walked Callaspo and was not helped by a groundball error by Lind.
“We weren't sharp, I will say that,” Farrell understated.
The Jays narrowed the lead to 5-2 with a long home run by Lind off Wilson in the seventh. For his career, lefty against lefty, Lind has five hits and two homers in 10 at-bats vs. Wilson.
“The home run was probably the most aggressive swing he's taken in seven or eight days,” Farrell said of his first baseman. “It's gopod to see. Last night he gets a base hit and a walk late in the game. A chance to build on it tonight aganst a quality lefthander.”
The Angels completed the scoring on a single by Kendrys Morales in the eighth after the two more botched plays. The one redeeming aspect of the night for the Jays was adding three more double plays turned to their league-leading total.
The Jays will attempt to win their third straight series on Sunday afternoon.