Angels stung by Rays in the ninth, 4-3
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — It’s a postgame scene the Angels have grown far too familiar with: dead silence in the clubhouse, grim looks as players shuffle past each other, the room filled with dejection.
Add a veteran consoling a kid reliever by putting both hands on his shoulders and whispering in his ear, and you’ll feel what the Angels felt after their stunning 4-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays in Tropicana Field on Thursday.
Two outs away from a well-played and much-needed victory, closer Jordan Walden, in only his second save opportunity this season, gave up a single to B.J. Upton and a walk-off, two-run home run to pinch-hitter Brandon Allen, who was claimed off waivers from Oakland last week.
Instead of celebrating a superb start by Jerome Williams, who gave up two runs and five hits in seven innings, and some clutch bat work by Mark Trumbo, who hit a solo homer in the fifth and a run-scoring double in a two-run sixth, the Angels were swept by the Rays and lost their fourth game in a row.
“When it rains, it pours,” Angels right fielder Torii Hunter said, “and it’s pouring down today.”
Instead of gaining a half-game on Texas in the American League West, the Angels lost for the seventh time in nine games to fall to 6-13, matching their worst 19-game start in franchise history. They are nine games back of the Rangers.
Catcher Bobby Wilson, while disappointed with the outcome, saw some signs of hope.
“We want to be in here with the music playing, smiling, having a good time, but today was a step in the right direction,” Wilson said. “I tell you what, when we start rolling, you don’t want to be the club in our way, because we’re going to start getting after it.”
Albert Pujols extended his homerless streak to 76 at-bats over 19 games, but he ended a career-long 0-for-21 skid with a single to center in the sixth inning.
Though Pujols was thrown out at second trying to stretch the hit to a double, the effort seemed to spark an offense that has been stagnant for most of the season.
Hunter singled, and Trumbo, whose solo homer tied the score, 1-1, in the fifth, doubled to right-center to score Hunter and give the Angels their first lead in 26 innings. Trumbo took third on a throwing error and scored on Vernon Wells’ infield single for a 3-1 lead.
“To see Albert trying to take that base, I think it fired a lot of guys up, and I think guys played a little harder today,” Wilson said. “That’s Angels baseball.”
The Rays trimmed the lead to 3-2 in the bottom of the sixth when Luke Scott walked with two out and scored on Matt Joyce’s triple to right-center.
Williams retired the side in order in the seventh, left-hander Scott Downs threw a scoreless eighth and got Joyce to ground out to start the ninth, and Scioscia turned to Walden, the hard-throwing right-hander who led the league with 10 blown saves last season.
Upton flicked his bat at a 97-mph fastball, grounding a single to right field, and Allen crushed another 97-mph fastball for his first homer of the season and his first career walk-off hit.
“I let the team down,” Walden said. “It was a hard-fought game that came down to one bad pitch. I can’t second-guess myself. That was my best pitch.”
That was the message Hunter passed to Walden during a private moment afterward.
“Keep your head up, don’t let this get in your head and start second-guessing yourself,” Hunter said. “You’ve got to block that out because any doubt, any fear will choke you. You might get the ball tomorrow, and you have to be ready to go.”
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