Angels bullpen collapses in 6-5 loss; playoff hopes nearly dead
The Angels bullpen suffered a complete meltdown Sunday, failing to hold a three-run lead in the ninth inning in a loss to the Oakland Athletics, 6-5, in Angel Stadium.
Closer Jordan Walden threw away a potential game-ending double-play grounder during a four-run ninth inning, and with it he may have thrown away the Angels’ playoff hopes.
Thanks to Boston’s 6-2 loss to the New York Yankees in the first game of a doubleheader Sunday, the Angels remained 2 1/2 games behind the Red Sox in the American League wild-card race with three games to play.
But Tampa Bay beat Toronto, 5-2, on Sunday to move to within a half-game of Boston, and if the Red Sox lose the nightcap, the Red Sox and Rays would be tied for the wild-card lead, and the Angels would be two games back.
The A’s scored twice in the top of the eighth off relievers Bobby Cassevah and Scott Downs on Sunday to cut the Angels’ lead to 3-2, but the Angels scored two huge insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth when Peter Bourjos dunked a two-out, two-run single into shallow right field to make it 5-2.
Walden, who got Hideki Matsui to fly out to left field to end the eighth inning, gave up a solo home run to Josh Willingham to open the ninth, only the second home run the rookie right-hander has allowed this season.
Michael Taylor struck out, but Scott Sizemore and Chris Carter both singled to put runners on first and second.
Adam Rosales followed with a hard grounder up the middle that Walden snared, but his flat-footed throw to second in an attempt to start a game-ending double play sailed wide and off the glove of shortstop Erick Aybar for an error.
Sizemore scored on the miscue to make it 5-4, and Carter took third. Kurt Suzuki, who entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the eighth, flared a double to right field to score Miller for a 5-5 tie and put runners on second and third with one out.
Jemile Weeks was walked intentionally to load the bases, and Manager Mike Scioscia summoned left-hander Hisanori Takahashi, who gave up a sacrifice fly to Coco Crisp that gave Oakland a 6-5 lead and retired Matsui on a fly to the wall in right to end the inning.
Howie Kendrick reached on a two-out walk in the bottom of the ninth off A’s closer Andrew Bailey, but Bobby Abreu popped out to second to end the inning.
Wasted was a superb start by Angels right-hander Joel Pineiro, who allowed three hits in 6 1/3 shutout innings, striking out four and walking one, and home runs by Abreu in the third inning and Vernon Wells in the sixth.
-- Mike DiGiovanna
Photo: Starting pitcher Joel Pineiro and shortstop Erick Aybar after Pineiro made an out at first on ending the sixth inning during thier game against the Athletics in Anaheim. Credit: Alex Gallardo / Reuters