Steve Delabar knows there’s no excuse for his relief performance in Toronto’s latest gut-wrenching defeat. Not even when the Blue Jays’ starting rotation keeps putting its overworked bullpen in prime position to fail.
Kole Calhoun punctuated his first four-hit game with his first career homer, a tiebreaking two-run shot off the All-Star reliever in the Los Angeles Angels’ 7-5 victory over the Blue Jays on Friday night.
Chris Nelson had two RBI singles for Los Angeles before his leadoff double in the eighth, and J.B. Shuck followed with a triple to right after Jose Bautista misjudged the ball. Calhoun then homered to right — and a few minutes later, Delabar had his first loss in 39 appearances since April 16.
“I threw one right over the plate, and he crushed it,” Delabar said of Calhoun’s homer. “When you give up three hits in an inning, it’s not very good, and then you throw in a balk. It just wasn’t there tonight. That’s why I feel bad. We battled back to take the lead, then I come in and make a few bad pitches, and all of a sudden it switches to the other team.”
Delabar leads the AL in strikeouts by a reliever after dominating the first half of the season, but the right-hander hasn’t been as sharp lately despite striking out the last six batters he had faced before the eighth inning at Angel Stadium.
But one night after Josh Johnson was battered by the Angels, another Toronto starter put a heavy workload on his bullpen.
Todd Redmond couldn’t get out of the fourth inning for the Blue Jays, allowing seven hits and three runs while labouring with a high pitch count. The right-hander struck out five in his sixth major league start, but couldn’t match his 10-strikeout brilliance last week against Houston — and after the game, Toronto optioned Redmond to Triple-A Buffalo, recalling right-hander Brad Lincoln.
Jose Reyes homered during a three-run rally in the sixth inning by the last-place Blue Jays, who have lost the first two games of the four-game series.
“We let the game get away, and if that continues to happen, we’re going to go nowhere and we’re going to be home in October,” Reyes said. “We had an opportunity to win this game, and we need to find a way to close them out, one way or the other. It’s tough to play the way we’ve been playing. It’s not acceptable with the kind of team that we have. We’re better than this.”
With one big play after another, Calhoun and Shuck — who had three hits — earned their teammates’ admiration and a couple of postgame shaving-cream pies in the face.
“It was awesome. It’s still going through my head,” Calhoun said. “It was like the best feeling of my life.”
Chris Iannetta had an early two-run double and threw out three Toronto base stealers for the Angels, while Shuck robbed Bautista of a homer in the fourth inning with his jaw-dropping catch. Shuck leaped at the short fence, briefly teetered on the ledge after making the catch, and tumbled backward into the stands, still holding onto the ball.
“When it started coming down, I just tried to go get it,” Shuck said. “I don’t know what really happened after that. … I watched (the replay). It looks pretty unathletic, but it’s pretty cool to see. I think that’s the first one I’ve ever brought back.”
Tommy Hanson blew another lead in his fourth straight winless start, allowing seven hits and three walks while pitching into the sixth. The Angels appeared headed to a loss before their youngsters sparked the eighth-inning rally.
Dane De La Rosa (5-1) pitched the eighth for Los Angeles, and Ernesto Frieri struck out the side in the ninth for his 26th save. The Angels’ closer bounced back from two rough outings earlier in the week in Texas, where the Angels lost three straight on game-ending homers.
Los Angeles batted around in the fourth, with Iannetta delivering a two-out double. Iannetta also threw out three Blue Jays attempting to steal second base, a first for an Angels catcher in the past decade — and a particular achievement when catching Hanson, who acknowledges being horrible at holding runners on base.
Nelson, getting a regular chance to play at third base after Alberto Callaspo’s departure for Oakland last week, delivered another run-scoring single in the fifth.
Reyes evened it with his seventh homer into the elevated right-field stands in the sixth, and the Jays went ahead when Bautista scored on Colby Rasmus’ bases-loaded grounder.