Angels knocked back to .500
The Angels are a .500 team yet again, a record that does not breed confidence among fans.
Or among players, at least on nights they must face a dominant pitcher. The Angels did not distinguish themselves in a 6-4 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre on Tuesday, their fifth defeat in seven games. They scored four runs in one inning against arguably the best pitcher in baseball and still managed to sabotage themselves.
There is no shame in losing to Roy Halladay, certainly not on a night when the Toronto ace set a career high with 14 strikeouts. Halladay became baseball’s first nine-game winner, scattering seven hits and completing the game on a career-high 133 pitches.
There ought to be remorse, however, in botching a rare chance to beat him, in Howie Kendrick getting doubled off first base, in Gary Matthews Jr. overrunning a fly ball in left field for an error, in first baseman Kendry Morales dropping a throw for another error.
“I thought we played a little tentative and scared,” Angels starter Joe Saunders said, “because of who was on the mound.
“We go into it thinking this guy is, like, the best pitcher in baseball, and we’re going to score one run if we’re lucky.”
Saunders began the game ranked among the American League leaders in earned-run average.
He left after giving up six runs and nine hits in 5 1/3 innings.
Saunders made the All-Star team last season, yet he sensed he was among the affected in the visiting dugout.
“No one says it,” he said. “You just get that feeling: I’m facing Roy Halladay and, if I give up a run, I might lose. . . .
“I put added pressure on myself. I’m sure [the hitters] put added pressure on themselves.”
Chone Figgins singled to start the game, and the Blue Jays promptly threw him out trying to steal.
Halladay, the five-time All-Star with the nickname “Doc,” then retired the next 13 hitters, striking out six of them.
“He was a doctor today,” Angels outfielder Torii Hunter said. “He had surgery on all of us.
Of Halladay’s 14 strikeouts, six were looking, with no protest from Angels Manager Mike Scioscia.
“We checked a couple on video,” Scioscia said. “Those pitches were put right where he wanted them.”
Said Hunter: “He’s the best there is in the game right now.”
The Angels did not get a runner past first base in the first six innings. In the seventh, however, they loaded the bases with none out.
Morales singled home one run, and Halladay gave the Angels one more with a wild pitch.
Maicer Izturis and Mike Napoli then hit back-to-back sacrifice flies, and the Angels had narrowed a 6-0 deficit to 6-4.
Halladay went out for the eighth and struck out two.
He went out for the ninth, to a warm ovation, already having thrown 116 pitches, and he struck out the side.
The Angels, the defending AL West champions, have had a winning record this late in the season in five of the last seven years.
The exceptions are 2003 and 2006, the only non-playoff seasons among the seven.
However, given that the first two months included the death of pitcher Nick Adenhart and injuries to slugger Vladimir Guerrero and starters John Lackey, Ervin Santana and Kelvim Escobar, the Angels aren’t ready to abandon ship.
“It’s just like spring training for some of those guys,” Saunders said. “I’m not worried about where we’re going. I’m just worried about how we’re going to finish.”