Two poorly thrown sliders by one of the Angels’ most reliable relievers ruined the team’s chances at a four-game series sweep over the Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday at Rogers Centre. The Angels lost 7-5 in 10 innings.
Reliever Ty Buttrey served up an 0-and-1 breaking ball to Randal Grichuk, who sliced it into left field for a leadoff hit in the 10th. Two pitches later, pinch-hitter Billy McKinney hit a hanging slider 405 feet for a walk-off home run.
“It just kind of popped up a little bit,” Buttrey said. “Both the first base hit and the home run, two bad sliders trying to locate down in the zone. Trying to execute a pitch and both those guys recognized it early and they capitalized.”
The Angels bullpen had done a fine job of containing Toronto’s threats. Luis Garcia put runners on first and second after the Angels tied the score in the top of the seventh inning, but he got two groundballs to escape a jam. When Garcia issued a leadoff walk and Toronto’s Freddy Galvis laid down a bunt hit to start the eighth, Cam Bedrosian entered and struck out the third batter of the inning. He walked Eric Sogard to load the bases but got Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to hit a ball sharply to third baseman David Fletcher, who turned an inning-ending double play.
The Angels (38-38) left Toronto with a series victory. Their three-game winning streak allowed them to gain a half game in the wild card race, where they are now three games behind second-place Boston.
“It’s great to get three of four,” Buttrey said. “Too bad we couldn’t get the sweep but sometimes that’s how things go.”
Another double was smacked before Suarez retired the eighth batter of the inning for the final out. But the Blue Jays did not stop swatting Suarez around until he settled down in the third inning. Suarez focused on channeling some of the success from his last start — a 5 2/3-inning outing in which he gave up three runs to the formidable Tampa Bay Rays — into his final three innings on Thursday.
“I tried to make my adjustments,” Suarez said in Spanish. “I tried to keep competing despite the three runs they scored at the beginning.”
Suarez was charged five earned runs on five hits, three of them home runs.
Mike Trout helped tie the score 5-5 in the seventh, doubling to lead off the inning, stealing third base and scoring on Albert Pujols’ sacrifice fly.
The Angels never got closer to scoring. They only reached base three times in the final three innings. Trout stranded Dustin Garneau and David Fletcher in the eighth inning. After Tommy La Stella opened the 10th inning with a single, Luis Rengifo, who homered on a career-best three-hit night, grounded into a double play.
Out came Buttrey, the rookie who has hardly pitched like one this season. He entered the night with a 2.02 ERA, the third-lowest among rookie relievers with more than 20 innings, and an impressive 28% strikeout rate.
The Blue Jays got the better of him.
“He’s been as rock as solid as we have so something like this is bound to happen to everybody once in a while,” Ausmus said. “I guess the silver lining was that it happened quick and it wasn’t a lot of pitches thrown.”