Closers save games for their teams, sure, but also for their teammates.
So Friday, after a no-drama 1-2-3 ninth inning secured a victory for Andrew Heaney, Blake Parker acknowledged feeling more than the usual sense of accomplishment.
“It was good to bounce back after Heaney’s last outing,” the Angels reliever said. “He pitched so well and we didn’t convert. It felt good to convert this one for him.”
Five days after failing to close for Heaney in what became a rough, 11-inning loss to Oakland, Parker gave Toronto nothing en route to sealing a 2-1 win at Angel Stadium.
The victory was the third in a row for the Angels after dropping three straight. It also came with minimal late squirming despite the one-run difference.
After Heaney’s seven solid innings, Cam Bedrosian set down each of the three Blue Jays he faced before Parker did the same, the bullpen as airtight as possible.
“At times, it’s been in a state of flux,” manager Mike Scioscia said of his arrangement of relievers. “We’ve had a variety of roles for each pitcher just trying to get settled. Tonight, we had it lined up.”
The game started exactly how it ended. Heaney had an 11-pitch, 1-2-3 first inning that set the tone and the standard for the night.
He never did retire the Blue Jays in order again, but the left-hander continually succeeded pitching around runners, with the help of his defense.
In the second, Heaney was aided by a Justin Upton catch crashing into the left-field fence and a Luis Valbuena stop of a smash to third.
Valbuena ended the fourth with a nifty barehanded play on a slow chopper by Randal Grichuk with a runner racing home.
“That’s just what they do,” Heaney said of the defenders behind him. “It’s not abnormal, you know. They do that all the time. We’ve got tons of guys who make plays. It’s good to have them on your side.”
Heaney finished the third all by himself, beating Justin Smoak in a nine-pitch battle that ended in a strikeout.
He allowed doubles in the fifth and sixth innings, but both came after there were already two outs.
Toronto finally scored in the seventh on a one-out double by Devon Travis, ending Heaney’s scoreless streak at Angel Stadium at 19 innings.
That stretch included a one-hitter he pitched against Kansas City on June 5. In his past six starts at home, Heaney has recorded a 0.88 ERA over 41 innings.
“I like pitching here,” he said. “It’s just a familiar place.”
Offensively, the Angels got to Toronto starter Marco Estrada early, which was a good thing since the right-hander gave up almost nothing after the first inning.
Albert Pujols doubled in one run and Luis Valbuena singled in another, making it 2-0 after only five Angels had stepped to the plate.
For Valbuena, the hit gave him four RBIs in three at-bats going back to Thursday night, after he had totaled only three RBIs in his first 53 June at-bats.
After that, though, only two Angels reached base against Estrada over the next six innings and neither advanced beyond first. Following Valbuena’s single, the Angels had one hit and one walk in their final 23 plate appearances.
Even Mike Trout, who entered Friday having reached base a ridiculous-sounding 32 times in his previous 42 plate appearances, was idled. He struck out looking his first two times up against Estrada — the latter on a pitch that replays showed to be high — and then flied out.
Still, a little offense was enough on a night when the Angels opened and closed impressively.
“It’s good to win,” Parker said. “It’s good to hold some leads and get a little momentum going.”