Angels can’t hold lead in ninth, lose, 4-3, to Tigers
That didn’t take long.
Brian Fuentes turned the temperature on a brewing closer controversy from simmer to boil in his first game back from the disabled list, giving up two runs in the ninth inning and blowing the save in the Angels’ 4-3 loss to the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday night.
Fuentes, in his first appearance since his season-opening save against Minnesota on April 5, gave up a prodigious, score-tying home run on a full-count fastball to Miguel Cabrera to open the ninth and sandwiched a pair of walks around a strikeout.
The left-hander, sidelined this month by a back strain, picked off Carlos Guillen at second for the second out, but Gerald Laird, who was on first after his pinch-hit walk, alertly took second while Guillen was caught in a rundown between second and third.
Ramon Santiago flared a soft single to left, and Angels outfielder Juan Rivera made a strong one-hop throw home, but Laird beat catcher Mike Napoli’s tag with a head-first slide into the plate for a 4-3 Tigers lead.
Manager Mike Scioscia came to the mound to pull Fuentes, who was booed loudly by fans who will no doubt be clamoring for right-hander Fernando Rodney, who allowed one hit while converting five save opportunities in the previous seven days, to become the closer.
“You never want to be booed — it’s always disappointing,” said Fuentes, who led the majors with 48 saves last season. “But they’re fanatics. They cheer you when you’re good and boo you when you’re bad. That’s the way it is.”
Rodney, who closed for Detroit last season, was unavailable Wednesday because of his heavy workload this past week. When asked if Fuentes was “still his guy” at closer, Scioscia barely flinched.
“Believe me, it’s not a dilemma having someone throw the ball as well as Fernando,” Scioscia said. “Brian is going to be at the back end of the bullpen, and hopefully he’ll be throwing the ball as well as he did last year.”
Fuentes pitched a scoreless inning in a rehabilitation appearance for Class-A Rancho Cucamonga on Monday night but said he didn’t have the same command Wednesday.
“I had better control in my rehab stint,” Fuentes said. “I walked two guys. ... I put myself in a big hole.”
Detroit closer Jose Valverde retired the side in order in the bottom of the ninth to help snap the Angels’ five-game win streak and render moot the latest in a string of strong efforts by Angels starters.
Jered Weaver gave up two earned runs and six hits in seven innings, striking out six and walking two. The rotation has gone 5-0 with a 1.43 earned-run average in the last six games, yielding 34 hits in 44 innings, striking out 33 and walking three.
But all Weaver had to show for it was a no-decision. He shut out Detroit on one hit through four innings but ran into trouble in the fifth, when Don Kelly hit a solo home run.
Detroit pulled to within 3-2 in the sixth when Cabrera doubled off the wall in right-center with one out and scored on Guillen’s single to right. First baseman Kendry Morales snagged Kelly’s hard liner and stepped on the bag for an inning-ending double play.
The Angels scored all of their runs in the first inning, when Bobby Abreu followed Erick Aybar’s leadoff walk and stolen base with a run-scoring single to left-center, and Morales followed Hideki Matsui’s walk with a two-run homer to right for a 3-0 lead.
Morales’ fourth homer of the season was the 50th in 295 career games, making him the fourth-fastest player in Angels history to reach 50 homers behind Tim Salmon, Mike Napoli and Wally Joyner.